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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Driving

 

Publisher

Gotham Games

 

Developer

Empire Interactive

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

September 2003

 

 

- Great sense of humor
- Narrated by Antonio Fargas (who played Huggy Bear in the Starsky & Hutch series) stories range from taking down a chop-shop owner to preventing the assassination of a senator are really top-notch
- Controls are easy to learn and use
- Auto-targeting gun works well in the majority of missions

 

 

- Although the game allows co-op play in story mode, a lack of other multiplayer options leaves the game with little replay value
- Most missions can be resolved by getting right behind the car you're chasing and hammering on the shoot button
- On the other hand, missions where you have to act as an escort and protect another car require more accurate shooting, but these episodes make you realize that auto-targeting system really has a mind of its own. It's a challenging flaw to overcome, particularly when you're forced to shoot almost every viewer rating power-up to prevent the clock from running out on these levels

 

 

Review: Grand Theft Auto 3: Vice City (Playstation 2)

Review: ToeJam and Earl III: Mission to Earth (Xbox)

 

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Starsky and Hutch

Score: 7.8 / 10

 

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I'm actually too young to remember much about the 1970s beyond my mom's poofy hair, my dad's funky moustache and the Datsun 280Z we had in the carport. Somewhere, there are photos of me as a three-year-old in plaid bell-bottoms eating the shoes off of my sister's Barbie doll one Christmas morning, but I digress.

Given that all of my 70s memories are kind of fuzzy, I was a bit surprised that Starsky & Hutch had me laughing by the first load screen, which lists two objectives: stop a speeding coupe and destroy 20 cardboard boxes. It pretty much summed up every TV car chase I had seen as a kid -- two guys driving around in a muscle car (save it, CHIPS fans), chasing some guys in another muscle car amid fantastic explosions, impossible feats of driving, frightened pedestrians with huge

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afros and, more often than not, plenty of doomed cardboard boxes.

And that pretty much sums up Empire Interactive's new title, Starsky & Hutch for Xbox and PS2. It's a fun game with a funky soundtrack, and it goes where few titles fear to tread -- successfully pulling off a campy sense of humor.

The action takes place within Bay City, a single, large environment built

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using Criterion's Renderware engine, and is limited exclusively to car chases that might best be described as Crazy Taxi with an auto-targeting handgun. With the exception of a mission late in the game in which your 1974 Gran Torino is stolen and you're forced to chase it down and blow it up yourselves, your car is completely indestructible. It endures head-on collisions, countless gunshots, crashes through storefronts, excursions through roller rinks and run-ins with freight trains, streetlights and telephone poles.

Yet while the laws of physics do not apply to your ride, your missions are prone to the whims of Nielsen households. The game's "viewer rating" system acts as a timer while paying homage to the title's television origins. The countdown begins at the start of each mission, and your performance in pursuit can either raise or lower your ratings. Apparently, viewers love to see you execute a good skid, riddle the bad guys with bullets and crash through street furniture, but are turned off when you shoot cops or run over crowds of pedestrians. Go figure.
 

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Located throughout Bay city are a variety of power ups that, when shot or driven through, can improve viewer ratings or provide temporary improvements to your weapons or your car's traction and speed. There are also "special event" power ups located at various points throughout the city, which roll a variety of well-placed, well-timed and ridiculously over-the-top cut scenes that integrate seamlessly into gameplay. They're one of the best features of the game -- ramping a car through the fifth story of an office building never seems to get old.

My primary criticism is the game's lack of multiplayer options. In story mode, the game does allow cooperative play, with one player driving while a partner uses either a light gun or another controller to shoot. But, while it's a unique innovation and it does produce a more true to life experience -- making perps and power-ups more of a challenge to hit as your partner swerves all over the road -- it struck me as more frustrating than fun.
That's a shame, because the "holy cow, did you see that" factor is critical to titles like these; the game's sense of humor and action really work best when it's played with friends. It would have been cool to have a racing mode or a split-screen cops and robbers mode, where one player is the bad guy -- either would have added significantly to the game's replay value.

Starsky & Hutch's somewhat lukewarm reception by the gaming press could be due to the fact that itís about 5 years late for 1970's retro, and about 1 year too early to benefit from hype that will probably surround next year's Starsky & Hutch movie with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Still, it's worth a look. Dig?

- Matt Enis
(October 20, 2003)

 

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