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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Namco

 

Developer

Eutechnyx

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q3 2004

 

 

- Looks pretty

- Cars handle well

- Decent track design

- Good sound effects

 

 

- No challenge

- Dull music

- No Hondas

- Girlfriend feature is lame

- Just doesn't stand out as a game

 

 

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Street Racing Syndicate

Score: 6.0/10

 

Itís blindingly obvious that street racing culture has become extremely popular over the years through movies like The Fast and the Furious, and games like Midnight Club Racing II and Need for Speed: Underground.  Now Eutechnyx has thrown their hat into the arena with Street Racing Syndicate (SRS) for the Playstation 2.  If it werenít for some half way decent track design, this title would be a total wash.  As it stand, the title suffers from weak AI, the conspicuous absence of certain car manufacturers, and the general inability to provide anything fresh or innovative enough to buy SRS instead of any number of similar, better crafted street racing games on the market.  

 

street-racing-syndicate-1.JPG (35770 bytes)          street-racing-syndicate-2.JPG (72102 bytes)

 

The game is broken down into the standard mix of play modes including an arcade mode for quick pick up and play races, multiplayer in a split-screen mode, and a career mode (called Street).  The arcade mode is nice for those who want to pick from an array of cars and get down to business, and the multiplayer is functional with playersí environments adequately displayed, and plenty of tracks and cars to hop in and go toe-to-toe with a buddy on.  However, most players will spend the majority of their time in the career mode.

 

Buying cars and unlocking new race events, vehicles, and girlfriends is what the career mode is all about.  The mode does include a story, but itís so clichťd that most people will want to skip it by halfway through the first cut scene.  Equally pointless are the various girlfriends that can be accrued.  These female companions can be unlocked through completing various Respect Challenges over the game that range from tailing another car without passing it, completing a track in a given amount of time, doing race stunts, and so forth.  Unfortunately, acquiring these girls does nothing for the player Ė I sense a pun in there somewhere...think about it a few minutes, it's there Ė other than allowing one to pick up their girl of choice after which she will be the flag girl for races, and allow the player to see extremely lame videos of the girls dancing around in various pieces of clothing.  The only things really worth doing in the career mode are buying new cars to tweak, and unlock new races and vehicles.

 

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The problem comes in that the vast majority of the time there is no challenge during the races.  The computer-controlled cars are as dumb as a post, and appear to run on very set patterns.  There is never a sense of urgency during a race unless you royally screw up.  Even if itís the first time on a new track, and you plow into a few walls, this wonít spell disaster for a race because it remains extremely easy to catch up with your opponentsí cars.

 

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This isnít to say that players can get away with driving sloppy.  The game still has a couple of mechanisms in place to encourage people to drive well: respect points and the fact that cars do take damage during races.  Respect points function similar to the Kudos points found in the Project Gotham series on the Xbox where players are rewarded for driving with style (drifting around corners, getting air on jumps, and such).  Players will need to earn these points so that they can unlock new race events, as well as the Respect Challenges mentioned earlier.  In terms of the cars taking damage, not only does this mean that your ride will show big dents in it if the thing gets knocked around, it also means youíre going to have to pay for the repairs from your own winnings.  This can get quite costly when your car is heavily modified.

 

One odd thing about the cars, though, is that Honda is nowhere to be seen.  There are plenty of vehicles to drive from Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Subura, and other major car manufacturers; however, if you want to zip around in a Civic or some such, youíre out of luck.  Most can probably live without Honda in the game, but considering how popular their cars are in street racing, itís a bit of a sin for their vehicles not to be in the game.

 

What is nice about SRS is the track design.  The way the straight-aways and corners are laid out on the courses has this silky smooth feeling to them.  Driving on the tracks is like soaring down a well-designed waterslide: the sensation is smooth, fluid, and there arenít any odd, harsh corners that will jar you from this feeling.  If you donít want to drive on this almost out of body experience, there is also the option to just cruise around town, and challenge random like-minded racers (just watch out for the police while youíre doing this).

 

Complimenting the decent track design is equally decent controls.  The button layout is very intuitive, and better yet the cars respond very well.  Drifting around corners is fairly easy to get a handle on, and there were no instances of over or under responsiveness from the cars.  My only caveat with how the cars handle is that they move exactly the same regardless of whether the track is wet or dry.  

 

street-racing-syndicate-3.jpg (14188 bytes)          street-racing-syndicate-4.jpg (13403 bytes)

 

One other area of note in SRS comes from its visuals, because it is a very pretty game.  The lighting effects are nice, but not overdone.  The animation is very smooth as well, giving a good sense of speed, especially after working over the engine of your car a bit.  What is surprising is that even the buildings around the gameís various cities have a good deal of detail also, as opposed to many other similar games where the surroundings look bland.

 

The audio, however, doesnít stack up nearly as well.  The soundtrack is very much driven (oh look, another bad pun) toward the hip-hop crowd.  When the music veers away from this itís still fairly uninteresting.  The voice acting is also decidedly poor.  The sound effects, though, are quite nice.  The noises from the carsí carious components sound very convincing, and the screeches that are heard while tearing around corners add a lot to the experience.

 

Nonetheless, there is very little reason to own this game.  There are simply much better street racing games on the market, more worthy of your money.  If you want a racing game of this ilk for your PS2, just get Midnight Club II or Need for Speed: Underground instead.

 

Jeff Nash

(September 20, 2004)

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