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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: April 20, 1999
Certain game companies develop a reputation for great graphics. In the area of arcade gaming, having state-of-the-art visuals is a life-and-death proposition; if this element is missing, offerings just sit destitute and unsold on retail shelves. When considering arcade shooters, firms like Rage with Incoming and Zipper Interactive with Recoil instantly became leaders by releasing products that significantly raised the bar in graphics. In turning to the realm of traditional arcade car racing, corporations like Digital Illusions with Motorhead and Electronic Arts with Need for Speed III spurted to the head the pack with their introduction of video innovation.
But what about the futuristic arcade racing scene? While many of the breakthrough offerings here occurred first on the console platform, the advent of 3D video acceleration opened the gates to a flood of PC products. Ubi Soft broke new ground in 1997 when it released the stunning POD, as did Psygnosis when that same year it unleashed the classic Wipeout XL on eager fans. In 1998, Beam Software’s Dethkarz and Ubi Soft’s S.C.A.R.S. improved significantly the standard here. Now in 1999, Acclaim’s Extreme-G 2 has taken this genre to new heights.
Designed by Probe, a British development studio wholly owned by Acclaim, the stunning visual nature of Extreme-G 2 does not emerge from a vacuum. Last year, Probe developed Forsaken, a breathtaking 3D action game that justifiably won The Adrenaline Vault’s award for best use of 3D accelerated graphics for 1998. In 1997, Probe had developed the original racing game Extreme G for the Nintendo 64 console platform; after its release, many called the visuals the best ever for consoles, and it sold over half a million copies. Then late last year, Acclaim released Probe’s sequel, Extreme-G 2, on the same platform to great critical acclaim (pun intended). This new version is substantially improved over the original, with more types of weapons, more realistic bike handling, a faster game engine — allowing a better frame rate and higher speed on the tracks — and reduced fogging effects so you can see further ahead. The just-released PC version of the game reviewed here is a relatively direct port of the console version, with the only enhancement being the full use of the required 3D video acceleration.
Unlike many arcade racing games, Extreme-G 2 actually has a background story. During the 21st century, in the 25 years since the original virtual Extreme-G races, the citizens of the New United Planets have grown bored. So they endeavored to build real G-bikes, and, bolstered by commercial sponsorship, a new breed of riders emerged capable of pushing the vehicles to speeds once reserved for high performance aircraft. The speed, strength and armaments of these bikes soon attracted military interest and the military took control of the races, seeing them as a source of future weapons designs and as a testing ground for battle tactics. These races thus became a central economic, social, political and military feature of this bizarre world. It is in this avant-garde context that you race.
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