Review by: Derek Williams
Published: November 26, 2001
Released a few months after the original PlayStation was first shipped, Psygnosis’ Wipeout was an impressive arcade combat racer. Aside from showing off some of the graphical possibilities of the new hardware, the game’s style was reminiscent of the Super Nintendo classic F-Zero. Because the title sold well and was widely praised, it didn’t take long for other developers to try and ride Wipeout‘s coattails. Extreme-G was one of the first decent clones to emerge in the following wake, and since it was released on the Nintendo 64 before quality futuristic racers such as Wipeout64 and Nintendo’s own F-Zero X hit the system, the title enjoyed more success than the average imitator. So, as is the norm in the console gaming market, a sequel was developed, and, as is also common, XG2 was little more than a badly done rehash. Acclaim is no stranger to weak sales, however, so despite the follow-up’s poor reception, they decided to continue the franchise on the PlayStation 2 platform. XGIII Extreme G Racing is the result, and it represents Acclaim’s attempt to prove their futuristic racing series doesn’t deserve to be tossed to the wayside like a typical clone.
XGIII deviates little from the style of its predecessors: It’s the 28th century, and you’re a racer in the Extreme-G Racing League, which means you participate in futuristic motorcycle races. The bikes used in these competitions stay firmly planted on the ground; in the few instances where there are ramps on the courses, the bikes do more of a drop than a jump. The racetracks are lengthy, and wind, loop, and corkscrew in all sorts of directions. It’s actually a good thing your bike can’t float too much off the track, as some of the levels have extended stretches where the course is completely vertical. You’ll find yourself racing through barren deserts, arctic tundra, and bustling cityscapes.
Before starting a game, players must choose one of 12 racers, which are evenly divided between six teams. There’s no gameplay difference between the teams, aside from the look of the bikes they use, and even there the only real variance is the color. The designs of the motorcycles closely resemble those found in movies such as “Tron” and “Akira,” with a few original twists tossed in. They’re sleek, low to the ground numbers, which requires riders to practically lie down on their stomachs to ride. Not content with being fast, the bikes also house customizable weaponry, preventing the races from being exclusively reliant on speed and course navigation. Offensive weapons include the traditional mines, rockets, and your starting mini-gun, along with the more creative rear blasters, rail guns, and mortars. There are also several tactical weapons available for purchase that briefly take away specific abilities, including weapon firing and turning, of the other bikes. To help balance things a bit, each weapon sucks up a different amount of ammunition when being used. Whereas the basic mini-gun takes a minimal amount, the rail gun chews up ammo at an incredible rate. Thankfully, this ammunition can be recharged mid-race by driving the bike through energy strips that hug the walls along certain sections of each track.
The primary hook for the series has been the speed of the races, and XGIII is no exception. Early on, your bike will be going over 300 miles per hour, and before the last track is reached, you’ll more than double that. Adjusting the balance of the motorcycle relative to the angle of the track becomes key early in the game: Holding back on the left analog stick helps maintain momentum while going uphill, and holding forward allows even greater speeds downhill. The vehicles have an energy supply that gives them the ability to turbo, but this energy is the same that’s used for each bike’s shields. Since both you and your opponents can use those aforementioned weapons to easily eliminate any rider that’s low on shield energy, the speed boost is best used strategically.