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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Take 2 Interactive

 

Developer

Argonaut

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q1 2004

 

 

- Competitive Xbox Live gameplay, which makes it totally worth its $20US bargain price and then some
- Easy learning curve

 

 

- Mediocre trick system
- Weak single player mode has little replay value
- So-so soundtrack featuring no-name performers

 

 

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Carve

Score: 7.5 / 10

 

carve xbox review         carve xbox review

 

No way would I try and convince you that Carve, the new Xbox-exclusive watercraft racing game, is one of the systemís better overall racing titles, because it isnít. It has some score-dropping gameplay deficiencies and on top of that, you could practically breeze through the entire single-player experience of Carve in a long afternoonís gaming session. But Carve has an excellent Xbox Live multiplayer mode, and coupled with the gameís introductory budget price of $20US, makes Carve a title that racing fans with Live should consider.

Carve has you racing around the waves of four locations (USA, Europe, Pacific, and Artic) with six courses each, giving players 24 courses in all. Each location has enough of a different look and feel to keep the single-player gameplay interesting for a while, as does the easy pick-up-and-play controls of Carve. But if you are looking at Carve as strictly a single-player game, your interest will wane after a day

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or two. By far the weakest link of Carve is its short-lived single-player mode.

As in another Xbox racing title that Carve bears a striking resemblance in many ways to, Quantum Redshift, there is a feeble attempt at giving players a story to follow by having four teams of characters, two made of a female/male pairing, one comprised of two female racers, and the final with two male competitors.
 

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Each character has an extremely brief biography and a separate personality and skill set (some are better at tricks, others are faster watercraft drivers), but besides the obvious physical differences between each character, there doesnít seem to be any real reason to select one team over the other or really care to any degree for these nondescript waveracers.

And while the arcade-style action is fun, there isnít too much incentive to continue playing after youíve completed the short tournaments and unlock the tracks you just completed in the tournament. Carveís tournaments do gradually increase in difficulty, but not enough so that you wonít be able to complete the entire tournament in a day or two.

The heart of Carveís gameplay is its trick system, along the lines of every extreme sports title today. Carveís trick system, featuring such moves as the Superman, barrel roll, and bodywhip, serves only one real purpose during the race: to increase your RUSH! meter, which gives you an adrenaline-filled speed burst for each trick performed. And after a prerequisite amount of successful tricks, youíll be rewarded with a DOUBLE RUSH, and be sent flying at hyper-speed through and over the waves.

 

carve xbox review         carve xbox review


But the trick system is flawed though, making it really hard to get the DOUBLE RUSH sensation until late in the race when that speed burst may not be any useful assistance in trying to catch up and pass racers in front of you.

Again, similar to most extreme sports games, mashing a specific button pattern on the controller pulls off a specific move. Some tricks are only available on one of the few ramps laid out on each course. The problem is that the tricks donít always immediately correspond to your button mashing, and especially for ramp-oriented tricks, timing is crucial. If you donít get the simultaneous responsive reaction to your button pushing when you are on a ramp, you wonít be able to do the trick you had attempted, or even worse, you will wipe out and get unceremoniously dunked in the water. This uneven hit-or-miss nature of Carveís trick system creates many frustrating in-game moments.

Balancing that out however, is the basic gameplay of Carve. Each race requires you to complete a slalom course around buoys. Red buoys must be passed on the right-hand side, while yellow buoys are passed on the left. If you miss a buoy, you lose precious seconds off your race timer (run out of time before completing a lap, and the race is over), and if you miss five buoys during the race, you are automatically disqualified.

In games such as Project Gotham Racing 2, drafting, which takes advantage of the physics of following behind the racer directly in front of you, helps you gain speed to catch your opponent. But in Carve, the physics of water have been employed, and the opposite effect happens. If you attempt to trail closely in the path of the player in front of you, youíll get caught in the wake of his waves, and this will actually slow you down, making it that much harder to catch up.

It is of course possible to avoid using the trick system altogether and still see a relatively high level of success, but the trick system was incorporated to put some zing into Carve, and without it, takes a big chunk of the fun factor right out of the game.

Carve is redeemed, however by its Xbox Live support. Although the aforementioned Quantum Redshift was a far superior racer to Carve, its fatal flaw was a lack of Xbox Live gameplay. Carveís Xbox Live support is its saving grace, so much so that coupled with the budget price, youíll be able to forgive its single-player mode and other transgressions all in the name of a solid online multiplayer experience that causes you to crave more Carve than you might care to admit.

Like all online games, the challenge level increases dramatically when you race against other human rivals instead of playing against a gameís A.I. challengers. You can race against seven other Xbox Live gamers, and races are very competitive. I havenít encountered any connection or bug issues whatsoever that could drag down the high-flying water racing action. Since there isnít another watercraft racing game on Xbox Live, Carve offers a splashingly refreshing online change-of-pace.

Graphically, Carve is average, with the best visuals being the gameís environments, especially the Artic courses, and the water that is the very crux of Carveís entire gameplay. This isnít the best water graphics ever seen on the Xbox, but itís really good, particularly the foamy wake left behind by front-running watercrafts. Carveís characters look too plastic-shiny (similar to NBA Street Vol.2 and even Dead or Alive 3) but lacking the same level of rendered detail.

What would an extreme sports game be without an extreme music soundtrack? But Carveís soundtrack is just so-so, and features a roster full of no-name performers. Ever hear of Radio 4? Jack Ass & Mule? Slam? Percy X? These are some of the never-heard-of artists performing on Carveís soundtrack. Not bad, but easily forgettable tunage throughout. Although there isnít a big infusion of voice-acting, Carve sports some cheesy character dialogue, with the expected over-the-top stereotypical accents and annunciations.

The price is right for Carve, but only for Xbox Live gamers. This is the first watercraft Xbox Live racer, so if youíre looking for a break from the crowded car, truck and motorcycle game field, Carve is a perfect choice. Although its single-player mode is way too short and the trick controls are completely mediocre, Carve is a perfect arcade-style online racer easy to learn but hard to put down.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(April 5, 2004)

 

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