- 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
- 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
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Score: 7.8 / 10
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
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
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.
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?