STAFF REVIEW of Phantom Crash (Xbox)

Friday, December 20, 2002.
by Stephen Cameron

Phantom Crash Box art Tokyo has been abandoned and relocated. Air pollution and economic disaster have left it in ruins. What better way to make use of Old Tokyo than to have mechs (called scoobees here) battle it out for supremacy as a form of entertainment for the masses? In Phantom Crash, you take the role of a pilot of these hulking yet surprisingly quick and agile scoobees. Starting off with just enough cash to buy yourself one scoobee, you can start ?rumbling? in the arenas against the other pilots to win prize money and advance yourself in the ranks to become the top scoobee warrior of all time.

If you were to judge by the back cover, you?d probably assume that the game would be very dark and serious, but it actually takes a light-hearted approach in its anime style ?quest? mode. Most of the time when you enter a location, you are treated to some form of a social gathering with your scoobee friends. Actually, it?s more like you are forced to wade through a lot of irrelevant dialogue. Now, I certainly don?t mind being presented with small amounts of information every now and then in an action game of this type (and none of this is actually spoken ? it?s all just displayed as text). Just enough can provide a good sense of atmosphere especially with such a wide variety of characters. Too much, however, just starts to become irritating. Unless you?re completely hardcore about knowing all the intimate little details of everybody?s life, you?ll just wind up cycling through all the bits and pieces in order to carry on with the game.

Control defaults to a third person perspective, although you can switch it to first person if you desire. The left stick controls turning as well as backwards and forwards movement ? the right stick is used for pivoting the torso to aim. The right and left arm weapons are controlled by their respective triggers on the gamepad, and the shoulder mounted weapons are controlled by the ?Y? and ?B? buttons. ?A? is used for jumping, and ?X? for camouflage. This layout ends up working quite well ? the controls are pretty much what you?d expect and therefore end up being very intuitive.

If it?s a classic mech ?sim? that you?re hoping for then you?ll definitely want to be looking elsewhere - this game is about fast and furious action. For vehicles that weigh several tons, these scoobees certainly respond quickly. The pace is usually very frantic, and you?ll have to keep moving in order to stay alive. Once your mech has been destroyed, though, that?s it for the day. You get your prize money for your victories, and then have to pay for any repairs done to your own scoobee. Also, during a match you have the option to quit early while you?re ahead ? this will cut back on expenditures for repairs. If you return from battle with a profit, you can then use your winnings to upgrade the components on your scoobee, thereby becoming a greater threat in the arena.

Unfortunately, this all runs in a very cyclical manner. Too soon it becomes very monotonous and there is nothing much extra to really keep you coming back for more. If you truly enjoy the frantic action in the arenas, using tactics to stay alive as long as possible, then you will most likely get a lot of enjoyment out of this game. Many, however, will probably find that the overall flavour lacks spice.

: First of all, the graphics for the menu interface are pretty slick, both in their look and presentation. The images during the ?story? part of the game, however, leave quite a bit to be desired. The various characters that you meet throughout the game are composed of nothing more than a few low-res images ? each one is basically a different depiction of the mood the character is in. The CHIPs (little electronic programs which you can purchase to aid you during combat) aren?t even *that* much ? they are just one little picture of an animal. It would certainly have been nice to see some more animation put into these characters seeing as how you are forced to see an awful lot of them. If you are a fan of anime, though, you probably won?t mind the overall look. It has its charm, but it was rather lacking in detail.

The scoobees, on the other hand, have a good amount of detail put into them. There are nice little graphic touches here and there. If you fire off a missile, or quickly dodge to the side, you will see the little flames from the thrusters responding. The camouflage is the coolest effect of all, warping the view of the scoobee ? looking somewhat similar to the effect you see on a cloaking Romulan or Klingon ship on Star Trek.

I?d have to say that my biggest beef with this game aside from the excessive ?storyline? would be with the environments. First of all, there are only *four* arenas in which to play, and this includes the extremely mundane training arena. Second, they are really not all that impressive to look at. Design is not bad, and I have to give a thumbs-up to the AI in making good use of it. However, textures are very bland. There is just not enough detail to go around. Couple this with the overall monotonous nature of the gameplay, and it gets too boring too soon.

There are a good variety of sounds throughout the game. Each scoobee has its own beeps, missile alerts, and so on. The action can get so frantic at times, however, that it can often become difficult to discern the effects, and so they often don?t end up providing you with as much help as they could.

The music in Phantom Crash is rather impressive as it boasts many, many tracks that you can choose to listen to. Having a distinct Japanese anime flavour to them, there will be those who will love them, those that hate them, and those that just don?t care. However, there are just so many tunes to choose from, and they are often done so well, that it?s hard to imagine that you won?t find at least *something* enjoyable to listen to.

Many more environments, many more mech designs, and much less ?talk?. The story is too inconsequential to have this much dialogue. This could have been so much better if the amount of effort put into the music had also gone into the environments and scoobee variety.

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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