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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Sega

 

Developer

Sega

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q1 2003

 

-  Overall kitsch of the game is enough to elicit pleasurable laughter

-   Racing big rigs is an interesting idea

-  Decent music

 

 

- Controls can be frustratingly unresponsive

- AI is brutal

- Despite five different modes of gameplay this game is BORING!!

 

 

Review: F355 Challenge (Playstation 2)

Review: Ridge Racer V (Playstation 2)

Review: Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec (Playstation 2)

 

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The King of Route 66

Score: 4.6 / 10

Having spent my fair-share of time cruising across North American in a ‘Big Rig’ I can vouch for the sheer excitement of cruising hour upon dastardly hour down long stretches of monotonous asphalt. If not for the copious amounts of methamphetamines, furtive sexual encounters at every second truck stop and the all out fun of CB radio, trucking would suck.

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To the credit of The King of Route 66’s Sega developers, life in a video-game eighteen-wheeler is not as disagreeable as a life lived constantly on the road. Route 66 attempts to satisfy nearly every gamers urge to race large machines at high speeds while destroying all sorts of real estate, private property and human flesh. Boasting five different modes: a straight forward port of the original arcade ‘story mode’, a more in-depth ‘story mode’ (creatively titled ‘Queen of Route 66’ mode) which allows you to slowly upgrade your vehicle after successful races, a variety of mini-games (ie. smash into x number of cars before the time runs out), a ‘chase mode’ where the player must track down and beat a CPU-controlled opponent to the finish line.

 

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Upon first glance and after the first few plays, Route 66 is a decent game. Shaped by a sort of agreeable charm that only a Japanese perspective on an American sub-culture can produce, Route 66 will give the first-time player a few good chuckles. The standard playable drivers, for example, are glorious stereotypes: Texas Hawk is the Texas-born (shocking!) trucker good-guy, Iron Bull is the tough Native American who is, according to the game’s manual, “a man of few words”. Soul Man, an 

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afro-haired disco-loving trucker, and Ichiban (yes, Ichiban) is the Japanese citizen transplanted into the vicious world of American big-rig racing. Plain old silliness permeates this game. In one of the ‘Queen of the Road’ mode scenarios, the player is asked by a mewling Beauty Queen to recover her stolen jewels – this task is accomplished by driving through gigantic representations of diamonds, rubies and emeralds scattered around a few convoluted city blocks. This sort of set-up took me right back to the good ole days of gaming when collecting mushrooms made me grow so much bigger and flowers made me shoot fire from the palms of my hands.

Unfortunately for Route 66, charm alone cannot save this game from its more serious drawbacks. To the game’s great DIScredit, Route 66 is not able to disassociate itself from the negative qualities of real-life trucking. Indeed, once the novelty of racing big rigs wears off, the whole game becomes dangerously monotonous and the game’s failings override any and all of its superficial charms.

Route 66, in fact, fails on the most basic levels of gameplay. The graphics are marginal. Environments are not terrible but lack any detail or distinctiveness. Clarity, especially in two-player mode, is occasionally an issue. The AI is also problematic. Computer opponents are extremely predictable, racing using the same general tactics and style, but are also extremely difficult to overcome: make one mistake against a CPU opponent and you might as well restart the race (frustration levels run high in this game). The controls, while perhaps a simulation of what it is like to drive a real big rig, but who really wants to race a slow-to-accelerate, extremely sensitive mass of steel?  Controls are extremely touchy and often imprecise. Your big rig will often not be able to execute the required turns. This lack of refinement, especially after one is forced to endlessly repeat a very basic and boring race, certainly hurts one’s enjoyment of the game.

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Route 66 also lacks depth. While it does have 5 different modes, the style of gameplay hardly changes throughout the game. Boredom quickly sets in while playing Route 66.  The two principle story modes, ‘King of Route 66 mode’ and ‘Queen of Route 66’ mode are essentially the same. The only difference between the two is that in the ‘Queen of Route 66’ mode the player can upgrade his/her big rig with a variety of parts intended to enhance the performance of your truck. That is quite literally the only difference (beyond each mode’s distinct but utterly cheeseball plot) between these modes. Furthermore, the significance of said upgrades is not sufficient to make ‘Queen of Route 66’ mode any more enjoyable than ‘King of Route 66’ mode. The general lameness of these two modes is echoed throughout the rest of the game’s options. The mini-games are fun and elicit interest upon seeing the set-up (‘Convoy Golf’ was my favorite) are not that fun and don’t really offer anything more than tests of precision driving. Chase mode is stupid as hell; it is essentially a ‘vs. mode’ against the computer. You race against a bad guy to the finish line. He bumps you. You bump him. Get there first you win. If this concept sounds familiar, just play any of the game’s other modes and you’ll see why.

The two-player mode also stinks. The track layouts are too small and monotonous (just picture an oval – there you go! that’s what it looks like) to either allow any serious bashing (which is obviously one of the attractions of racing such large vehicles) or tight racing. Route 66’s two player races rarely engender excitement. The player is given the option of allowing obstacles on the track (like piles of wood and hazard markers) but the big rigs do not really react to hitting them. The point of it all is beyond me. I convinced a group of my friends to try out Route 66 in two player mode; ten minutes in, voices screaming “This sucks!” were ringing out. The most fun we had playing Route 66 was when one of my friends rammed the track against a wall on the aforementioned oval track and found himself driving across a barren black Glitchland. When the hilarity of glitches is the best thing a game has going for it, you know you should not be spending your hard-earned money on the disc.

The King of Route 66 is not a good game. It does have a certain degree of kitschy charm but, sadly, a pretty face can only take you so far (just ask AE’s resident heartthrob Mr. Nash).  This game is a subpar attempt at adding a new mode of transportation, and absolutely nothing more, to the racing genre. Worth perhaps a drunken rental, certainly no more, The King of Route 66 was a justifiably minor release.  A night spent goofing off on the good ole CB is much much more satisfying.

- Curtis Andrews

(May 11, 2003)

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