STAFF REVIEW of Speed Kings (Xbox)


Monday, July 14, 2003.
by

Speed Kings Box art Well so far there hasnt been much excitement in the sport bike department for the Xbox. And speed kings doesnt help out that department too much its self. However THQ did something with there ver of a crotch rocket racer that you dont usually see. They take it too the streets and add a little spice and some side saddle brawling for those of you that are Mad Max fans out there. Speed Kings delivers much of what those racing fans were looking for. A few game play issues keep the game from being a "must buy," but when you need to fulfill that arcadey fix; Speed Kings is up for the challenge.


If you have played the MotoGP titles then youre in luck because it will be a relatively easy to get the hang of the controls here since both titles share the same developers. There are a few new elements of game play introduced into the extreme racing in Speed Kings. First off, tricks can be done by holding the L trigger and pressing a quick button sequence to perform stunts like a handstand or surfing. Next up is a nifty move called powerdown which is done with a flick of the Y button which allows you to slide your bike under obstacles such as semis and fallen trees. Performing tricks and power downs increases the powerband meter, once its filled up it can be used with a press of the white button to unleash a nitrous boost to send a cycle topping speeds of 200mph. Without this you will loose trust me.
There are enough elements to distinguish Speed Kings from MotoGP. There are also a couple other gripes I have with this game engine. When I first read about having to avoid the police in Speed Kings I imagined cops on cycles chasing you down with their nightsticks much like in the Road Rash games, but what we get is just random cop cars in place and if you crash into them you get delayed five seconds in the race. Also, theres a timer in races and you have to meet all the checkpoints in time so you dont retire early. This gets quite frustrating whenever you dont get there in time, and the whole timer aspect shouldnt belong in motorcycle racing games period.


There are a decent amount of game play modes available in Speed Kings most of the good ones will require unlocking. License mode is a great tutorial which will familiarize you with the controls and get you performing tricks in no time. Theres a single race option where you can practice any course that you have unlocked. Most of the stages and bikes are unlocked in meets play where there are six meets, each one consisting of three races. There are optional goals to do in races called respect tasks which range from doing a wheelie for so many consecutive feet to not crashing at all in a race. Points are earned from completing the tasks which go towards respect bikes. Bikes can also be unlocked by getting record times on tracks in time attack mode. There is also a trick attack option where you get sets of five tricks to do in progressively decreasing time limits. Grand Prix is probably the best mode of the bunch but can only be accessed after you unlock all the bikes, its where up to four players can play in any race, but with no traffic and even more AI opponents against you.


Graphically, Speed Kings looks pretty darn good in an arcady kind of way. All the motorcycles have crisp textures and come off looking like the real deal. The wide array of stages you race on range from the snowy mountains, to the heart of London. The levels look fantastic, and so does all the traffic you interact with. Things that plague most racers such as pop-up and fog are nonexistent. The highlight of the graphics has to be the awesome crashes that occur where youll see parts of your cycle flying everywhere once you collide head-on with a vehicle. Also, whenever a power band is activated the screen does this killer blur effect to indicate your rapidly increasing speed.


Speed Kings should have been based around a hard rock style of music, but Im surprised there wasnt any licensed music included at all since it seems to be the trend in racing games as of late. Instead theres an original score of tunes which matches the type of stages the races are held in. There are fast paced rock riffs when blazing through the intense traffic of metropolitans, and laid back country tunes when youre cruising through the countryside. I dont know if the developers at Climax were teasing me or what, but the back of box boasts that Speed Kings has custom soundtracks support, but I looked high and low through every menu and couldnt find it at all in the game. It is quite odd its not here considering both MotoGP titles Climax developed supported it.


The sound effects are your usual fare, and if you played the pair of MotoGP titles, then be prepared to experience them all again here. There are a couple decent additions such as the slick effect used when activating power bands and the crashes sound marvelous as well.


Suggestions:
Do away with the arcady feel that these games have. You can get that feel for 25 cents at your local arcade in the mall. Make the sport bikes for realistic just like you would a Motocross game.


Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10

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