Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: July 27, 2001
We’ve all been there, sitting behind the wheel of your car, you look over at the punk with the blaring stereo rocking his car gently at the stoplight, staring at you with that look on his face. Even that calmest, safest driver on the road has felt, at least once, the urge to just tromp on the gas and blow him away with our vehicular prowess. Of course, most of us just let the urge pass, and our Dodge Caravan probably wouldn’t have held up that well in real life anyway. Still, the urge is there, and it’s hard to ignore the craving for speed whenever you’re behind the wheel of a car. Acknowledging this forbidden desire, racing games have been pandering to us for years now but none have captured the thrill of street racing with quite the same aplomb as the Tokyo Xtreme Racer series, which is unique in its use of independent battles rather than extended races. Now PlayStation 2 owners are being invited to join the elite drivers of the night with Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero, and given the chance to prove that they could surely wipe the smirk off that punk’s face, if only they had the car in which to do it.
Many potential purchasers will want to know what types of autos are showcased in Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero before they even think about purchasing it. Sadly, there are no licensed vehicles, but racing fans can rest assured that behind names like Type-07A are all the cars they’d come to expect: from the common Honda Civic models all the way up to high end Lambourghinis and Ferraris. In order to get your hands on one of these, all you need to do is head into one of the three main driving modes, pick your car from a selection of demo models and head out onto the highway. If you’re just looking to cruise the streets, Free Ride will let you try out any vehicle in the game on a joyride, but serious competitors will probably be more drawn to the Time Attack or Quick Race mode. Time Attacks are exactly the same in almost every racing title, so they bear little explanation: you simply try to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible with your chosen car.
Quick races, however, need a bit more explanation, and thus serve as an excellent introduction to the heart of Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero: the battle system. Put simply, this system measures how well you are doing as you race head to head with another car through the crowded highways of the city; and your performance is largely measured by how long you manage to stay in front of your opponent. Each vehicle has a “health” bar that shrinks so long as they are trailing their rival; the rate of that decay is determined by how far behind your car is currently sitting. Ride hard and close to the other guy’s bumper and you’ll see only the most gradual decay, but if you’re kilometers back, the bar will be out of sight as quickly as his taillights. Another all-too-easy way to lose health is to collide with the highway walls, other cars or even your opponent. Each brings you slightly closer to defeat, and a head on collision with a pillar can halt your race entirely. Obviously, the first vehicle to lose its health bar drops out of the race and concedes defeat. In the Quick Race mode, you can then elect to challenge the same car again, or bail altogether.
Things get quite a bit more interesting in the Quest mode, and it is the central mode of Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero. To begin with, you aren’t playing through a series of stages; instead you’re cruising the highways and looking for drivers you can challenge in order to gain prestige. This means that if you lose badly to one driver, you can concede the race and simply pass him, looking for the next — and hopefully more manageable — racer on the road. Finding new challengers is vital to your progress in Quest, as victory can net you a tidy sum of money, all of which will eventually go to improving your car, and thus your chances of eventually claiming your place as the best driver in the city.