STAFF REVIEW of SRS: Street Racing Syndicate (Xbox)

Thursday, September 9, 2004.
by RichVGS

SRS: Street Racing Syndicate Box art The following is a brief discussion I had with a friend recently:

?It?s all because of that crappy Vin Diesel film,? Donavan said.

?Dude, street racing has been going on for much longer then that,? I responded. ?It?s just become more mainstream recently.?

?Whatever. The point is I?m sick of the fact it seems like a street racing game comes out every month.?

?There?s only like four street racing games on the major consoles.?

?It?s people like you that allows the racing game industry to flourish.?

I?d go further into it, but my response contains language that is inappropriate for most rational human beings. There has been a recent flood of racing games on the market, but those include professional style (NASCAR) and crash and burn style (Test Drive: Eve of Destruction and Burnout 3) in addition to street racing design. In my opinion, the reason for all these racing games is that developers have released that after hours of being stuck in gridlock and following proper traffic laws, you need something to release those urges to tear down the asphalt at over a hundred miles per hour. The question then is what style of racer are you? Do you have what it takes to run for the Daytona 500? Or do you prefer to hop into a junk car and running full blast into the side of an opponent? Neither one sound like something you?d be interested in, huh? Well how about stepping into the highly dangerous and illegal world of street racing? Want to be like Vin Diesel? If this is more your speed, then you have some options: Need for Speed Underground, Midnight Club II, or the subject of this review, SRS: Street Racing Syndicate.

Once you?ve decided to ?take it to the streets? (that freakin? song has been stuck in my head all !&%$@#* day), you have to decide how you want to play this one out. If you feel like jumping into the deep end head first, hit Street mode (career mode for those of you slightly confused). This is the meat and potatoes of the SRS world. Here you build, design and customize your rides, take challenges from all kinds of racers, participate in major events, and score points with your girlfriend by building up your reputation. Feel like your roommates need to be taken to school, then hit it hard in multiplayer mode where you can bet your crew and cause major damage to those friendships (granted things would have to be bad already in order to break down such a relationship, but hey you never know). Can?t find any friends (or you?ve pissed of your real friends and they don?t want anything to do with you or your Xbox)? Then take a chance with the other friendless wonders out there over Live. Finally, if you?re just looking for a quickie race, then check out Arcade mode. One major difference between SRS and the other street racing game on the market is that everything you do, no matter what mode you?re in, is accounted for on your profile which directly affects your career in Street mode.

Like other games in SRS?s field, there is very little story to go by. Your career begins like any other great racer?you?re the alternate when the main guy gets busted doing who knows what. So a set of keys are tossed to you with the promise of half of any winnings earned, more then enough to buy yourself a new ride, if you can take out the chumps running against you. To say the race is easy would be an insult to the word easy. If you lose this one, you deserve to have large gentlemen enter your residence and take away your Xbox and all its games because you truly are the weakest link in the video game evolutionary food chain. Once you earn your green, it?s time to buy a new car and then upgrade it so to street specs. that won?t get you laughed at. You quickly come to find that this game is about two things: money and reputation points. Money is the root of all things because you need it to do everything, from buy cars, upgrades, entering events, placing bets and repairing any damage taken during your races. Reputation points are used for two things. First, having a high reputation will mean that racers will put up more money to challenge you come race time. Second, reputation gets you girlfriends. These girlfriends can be earned by either taking on individual challenges or stealing them away from racers you school on the road.

Now that you?ve got a girlfriend, what does she do for you? Oddly enough, you have to decide if you want to hook up with her. Until you make this decision, she is kept at your warehouse along with your cars. Okay, first off, the fact that it seems like you keep your girlfriends in a warehouse is a bit serial killer sounding. You don?t see them chained up, but it definitely has a creepy dungeon feel. Once you?ve hooked up with a girl, she becomes the flag girl that signals the start of the race. After that, you can take a look at a video of each of your girls, which is nothing more then a pointless, two minute dance audition tape that Nelly rejected. In a nutshell, the girlfriend element is pretty pointless other then giving a bit of !&%$@#* appeal to the game.

While the story is kind of weak, Namco has found a unique element to introduce to Live play. Finally, you can put your car up for grabs in races for ownership. If you beat your online opponent, his car is downloaded to your Xbox and now can be used in street mode. But if you lose the fight, your car is deleted from your hard drive and you?ll have to start over with a new car. This is cool concept, but there is really nothing to police it. For instance, the first two races I put my car up for grabs in, my opponents disconnected from Live just before I won the race, which basically meant I got nothing. There really needs to be a rule where you forfeit your ride if you disconnect for Live play during a race. The other thing I realized early on is that there is nothing stopping you from saving to a memory card just before a race, losing the race, deleting the game from your hard drive and reloading your game with the car back onto your Xbox. I?m not sure if you could send a ghost file of the car over so that if you tried to reload it, the Xbox would not allow it. It just seems like the cost versus reward idea is lost when you could cheat the system so easily. I guess everyone is on the honor system (and if any of you pull the plug right before I win, I?ll find you and scratch up all your Metallica and Korn CDs).

For those of you new to the video game racing world, you?ll love the control scheme. It was clearly designed so that a battle harden veteran or a beginner can get the controls down in a matter of minutes. While this is a great feature for some, others will hate the simplicity of the control scheme. For instance, no matter if you have a car with no modifications or one that has been jacked up for years, you?ll be able to make ninety-degree turns going top speed with almost no chance of hitting the walls. This leads directly to another problem area which is that no matter what speed you travel at, you?ll always have complete control. Moreover, there seems to be no difference in control whether you?re traveling at fifty or one hundred and fifty miles per hour. Try driving those two speeds in a real car and see how absurd that is. Finally, and perhaps the one detail that stood out most to this reviewer is that your vehicle will drive smooth and steady whether it is at top of its game or hit ever single !&%$@#* wall it?s come with five feet of. Hey Namco designers, please drive into a few walls and tell me if your BMW Z3 still handles like it?s off the lot new.

Graphically speaking?(well I can?t get away with the whole ?if you can?t say something nice about someone, don?t say anything at all) things are a bit rough around the edges. While the cars themselves look stunning, everything else is somewhere between generic and just plain lackluster. Of course the vehicle details should be the most important design, but the track should come a close second. Thanks to a real lack in detail, the tracks are often hard to judge when there is a shift in the track. Granted that the designers added big neon signs pointing the direction of up-and-coming turns, but this isn?t really enough to make up for the tracks shortcomings. Second problem is that whether you?re traveling at fifty or two hundred miles per hour, everything moves the same. Stop looking at the MPH gage and play the guessing game as to how fast you are going (I guessed forty when I was hitting the one hundred and twenty mark at one point). Sure, things blur a bit when you hit the nitro boosters, but, again, more detail should have been given to the background when traveling at increasing speeds. Thirdly, there is no, and I must put emphasis on the word NO, variation when damage is inflicted. You could side swipe the back, left end of your car and somehow the front windshield will be destroyed. Can someone explain those physics to me please? Finally, thanks to a lack in major support, all your would be girlfriends look like ugly gutter-trash skanks. It is only when you access their videos do you really see what they?re supposed to look like, which you?ll come to find is not worth the effort in the long run.

Sounds like?like?come to think of it, I don?t remember much of the sound effects because they seemed so bland and generic. With the exception of a few tone changes, all the engines seem to sound the same as they accelerate, which if you know anything about cars is just outright wrong. The all rap soundtrack can get a bit tedious and seemed like there should have been some variety in the track listings. Thankfully, Namco gives players the hookup with the custom soundtracks feature (this automatically raises the sound score by a point every time). Finally, the voice talent is decent, but nothing to rave about. The girls sound kind of goofy and stupid, while your partner who provides the info you need to get around the city has an interesting enough voice to keep you paying attention.

Overall, SRS: Street Racing Syndicate is a bit too bland for this day and age of cutting edge racing physics. While this would be a good title for beginners, the scantily clad women and their dancing caused SRS to be rated T which eliminates a choice demographic of beginner racers. Aside from the use of authentic racing products to juice up your ride, there is nothing here for the hardcore racing fan. It seems as though Namco rushed the production of SRS so it would beat out similar titles like Juiced and Need for Speed Underground 2 to try and capture fans looking to get their street racing fix. Unfortunately this rushing took what could have a fantastic racing game and turned it into a messy and awkward basic racer. Things might have gone better if SRS sported a $19.99 price tag, but at $49.99, this makes SRS a must skip title. Sorry Namco, better luck next time.

From the Inside, Keep on Gaming!

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.6 / 10
Visuals: 4.2 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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