I know what youre thinking - you just cant find a street racing game these days. If only somebody could fill this glaring hole in the gaming world! Ok, so maybe not... With Need for Speed Underground 1 & 2, Street Racing Syndicate, Midnight Club 2, and the soon to be released Midnight Club 3 and Juiced, weve seen a ton of street racing games lately. You can add another to that list with the newly released Top Gear RPM tuning.
Those who are not familiar with Kemcos Top Gear racing series, may think that this is a new entry into the racing world. Others - like myself - were spending the better part of 1992 decked out in flannel and racing the nights away with Top Gear on the Super Nintendo. Top Gear was a terrific racer for its time, and was well received with fans and critics. It spawned nearly 10 sequels on a variety of consoles in the 13 years that followed. Its hardly a newcomer to the racing game scene.
Unfortunately time has passed the series by. This might have been a good game if it had been released five years ago, but now it looks incredibly dated, and pales in comparison to any other game in the genre.
At the heart of Top Gear is the Adventure Mode. In this mode, you assume the identity of Vince Riker. Vince infiltrates the street racing underground and meets characters who send him on missions and challenge him to races. Along the way you earn fame, money, and vehicles. The story is very unoriginal, and has been done much better in other games. The characters you meet are very annoying, and it all becomes boring very quickly. Youll be eyeing your other Xbox games in no time at all.
Unfortunately, there isnt much to Top Gear other than the Adventure Mode. There is a Quick Race mode in which you can use the vehicles and races that you unlocked in the Adventure Mode. There is not much to get excited about in the multiplayer area, as there is only a 2 player split screen mode, and no Xbox Live support.
Top Gear features a paltry selection of 8 unlicensed vehicles. On the plus side, you have the option to rename your ride. You can add some realism by simply labeling your 4 cylinder hatchback a Dodge Viper. One of the few bright spots of the game is the sheer number of options available to you for tuning or modding the vehicles. If you enjoy modding, you can spend countless hours painting your vehicle, affixing stickers, and upgrading every part inside and out of the vehicle. As soon as you take it out of the garage, thats when the problems start.
During races, there is very little sense of speed. Firing up the turbo doesnt help, as it does not have any noticeable effect on the speed of the vehicle. The vehicle handling is sluggish, and it often feels like your trying to steer a dump truck filled with cement. Crashes are also very unimpressive...striking a utility poll at 150+ mph merely results in a dull thud and your vehicle coming to a slow stop as if it struck a wall of marshmallows.
Thats the big problem with Top Gear. There is simply no facet of this game that is remarkable, or hasnt been done much better by other games in its genre. While there is nothing completely broken in Top Gear, it is dull, lifeless, and there is simply no reason to play this game over the other far superior street-racing games.
To put it mildly, Top Gear was beaten senseless with the ugly stick. It is one of the ugliest racing games to hit the Xbox. The visuals are grainy, there are frame rate issues, and blocky graphics. At times it is difficult to distinguish the road from a wall, which leads to obvious problems.
The game looks like the ugly brother of Need for Speed Underground. It is set in a single nameless town. You always race at night, and there is plenty of neon on all of the buildings. They attempted to do a trippy color effect when you hit the turbo, but it just does not work as good as it did in NFSU and does not succeed in giving you a real sense of speed.
One nice thing to note about the visuals, is that the vehicles show damage. The damage does not effect the performance, but it was nice to see a street racing game that included this feature. Unfortunately, with very unspectacular crashes, this really takes away any excitement from the damage effects.
Im not exaggerating when I say there is merely one generic techno song that repeats over and over during the races. Eventually you will stab sharp objects into your ears just to get it to stop. If ever there was a game that needed custom soundtracks, this would be it. Unfortunately that is not an option available to you, so hopefully you will really like the one song that plays repeatedly.
The sound effect for the turbo, is easily one of the all time worst sound effects I have ever heard in a game. It sounds exactly like a dentists drill. For those with first hand experience of the dentist\'s drill, using the turbo will likely cause your teeth to hurt.
Other sound effects are very poor. Crashes are dull thuds, the engines sound very generic, and the braking noises are almost non-existent.
Suggestions: With other bargain street racing titles out there, such as Need For Speed Underground and Midnight Club 2, there is simply no reason for Top Gear to exist - even at it\'s cheap price tag of under $20. Unless you are a fanatic of tuning and modding vehicles, steer clear of this mess.