Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: May 23, 2001
No matter how many death defying stunts and nifty techno-gadgets you throw into a film, it’s just not quite an action movie without a proper car chase. Innovators might be willing to push the boundaries a touch and swap in helicopters or boats as the vehicle of choice, but for the authentic experience you really have to stick with the realm of performance automobiles. The reasons behind this allure are fairly clear: people are familiar with cars. So familiar, in fact, that we usually take the capabilities of the internal combustion engine for granted and associate driving with the daily, dull commute. Car chases remind us that, even though we choose not to use it, we have a powerful machine at our disposal and that should we desire and not care about the extensive jail term, we could “rip this baby wide open and blow through all this traffic!” It’s an appealing thought, and it certainly explains the popularity of the genre typically called pick-up racing. Always ones to cater to the public’s desire, EA Games have brought this genre to the PS2 in full size with their release of Rumble Racing.
Rumble Racing is a far cry from the realistic action of NASCAR 2001, and the vehicles are equally removed from the typically sleek and aerodynamic chassis that grace today’s raceways. Instead, you’ll find muscle cars, roadsters, coupes, station wagons, pickups and even a Winnebago competing for space in this title’s garage. When selecting an appropriate chariot, a racer must base their decision on three statistics: acceleration, handling and trick ability. The first two determine the feel of the car on the road; some are slow to pick up, but grip the corners with marvelous skill, while others take off quickly but respond sluggishly.
Trick Ability as a statistic requires some explanation — it’s certainly not a factory option in most automobiles. The trick system relies on the L2 shoulder button to activate it, and once triggered, your vehicle will be able to rotate and spin in the air. There’s no clear explanation given as to how this is achieved, but in the name of fun we are expected to suspend disbelief for the duration of each race. With the L2 pressed down, the analog stick controls the stunts: press forward to perform a forward flip or left to barrel roll to the left. The directions may be combined, and given sufficient airtime, the vehicle can completely rotate around every axis. In addition to being visually impressive, a successfully executed stunt rewards your vehicle with a dose of Nitrous Oxide that boosts engine output by a significant degree. Those familiar with the trick-charged Boost meter in SSX will find the Nitro rewards to be familiar, though they may not be saved for use at a later time, as was the case in the snowboarding title. Obviously, the bigger the stunt, the longer the Nitro boost will last, and in a series of jumps the rewards all have a cumulative duration.
Of course, pick up racing wouldn’t live up to its name if there weren’t other rewards scattered about the courses waiting to be triggered by bumping into them. Represented by glowing diamonds, the pickups award the player with a randomly chosen bonus item, though the choice items are more likely to be awarded to those drivers in the rear of the pack. While some of the rewards are standard fare, such as the Nitro and Oil Slick, there are quite a few unique weapons and powerups at the player’s disposal. A shield confers invincibility, while a more focused version of the shield acts as a battering ram, literally sweeping other cars out of your path. Bad Gas leaves a dastardly land mine behind your car that infects the fuel system of the first vehicle it encounters, resulting in a sputtering engine and a significantly decreased top speed. For variety, the Freeze and Bomb powerups may be dropped behind or launched forward, removing steering control of all those affected or blowing them off the track, respectively. The most powerful artifact of all, however, is the Tornado, which is only available to the player and thus will never be used against you. This is a very good thing, as it summons down a massive funnel cloud that follows the course and spins any cars in its path into the air and out of control.