STAFF REVIEW of Pulse Racer (Xbox)

Wednesday, January 22, 2003.
by Queasy Buddy

Pulse Racer Box art Cashing in on the hottest genres, producing washed up sequels, releasing buggy titles months in advance to meet quarterly results: These are the inalienable rights of every game developer that we at Xbox addict duly recognize, and often endure. After all, it's a free market out there and if companies can successfully peddle out a game which genre has been overly used, well, who's really more to blame? But when a game as bad as Pulse Racer comes rolling through, it makes us seriously reconsider our code of tolerance (sorry but that?s the only way I can describe this game). Combining the tired old futuristic-racer concept with the equally tired world of kart racing, Pulse Racer is a strange and unhappy marriage of genre clichés. This is an Xbox game and it just looks putrid. The tracks in Pulse are uninspired and painfully lacking in visual detail. Even more laughable are the vehicles themselves, which look more like bumper cars than state-of-the-art speed demons. The characters are insipid, and so are their rides. It's all not up to par with any other game of the genre. The sound isn't that great either, particularly some of the rubbishy effects. I can forgive either of those things if the playability is good. But sadly, it's not to be. Pulse racer has flaws that make its gameplay lamer than a mule with rheumatoid arthritis on a freezing cold, wet day?(again, sorry for being so harsh but I speak of the truth).

Pulse's worst crime isn't even that it looks hideous (both technically and artistically); the real sin here is its lack of feel. There's very little gameplay to be had, even while Pulse tries to innovate with its "rubber-banding around corners" technique and a ho-hum track editor mode. (Another quandary: why would you create tracks for a game none of your friends would touch with a 10-foot pole?) There are a number of characters to select. Each drives a different kind of cart, and each has his or her own, strengths and weaknesses. There are also power-up weapons to collect that are used to blow competing riders out. Racing itself is easy. Acting as an accelerator is the player's crop. As you use the turbo, a meter will indicate how much time your player has before he flat lines. Care must be taken not to 'over-fry' your character, which causes he/she to stop briefly while the flat-line-o-meter completely settles down. Then, the caning can begin again. The landscapes and courses aren't particularly good looking or well designed either. All too often the tracks are vague, so you don't really know where you have to go. The whole pulse concept is just a bad idea and isn't well implemented it's like having a racing game where if you go too fast, the car blows up. Oh, and the weapons aren't much fun to use. So there you go. I'm sure you've got the message by now if you're after an exciting racing game, look elsewhere.

As if the disappointing gameplay isn't enough, Pulse Racer lacks any visual flare that might have been able to save it from the realm of mediocrity. The game looks like an early generation PlayStation 2 game and it's a far cry from what we've seen in recent xbox games, even smashing drive had better graphics than this racer. The framerate is solid and there are some nice animations with the different characters' attacks, but there's nothing here that'll impress anyone. Perfectly fitting for such a game, Jaleco?s Pulse Racer look is a bit on the cartoonish side, and easily fits under the "Kids" category. It's easy to see that the graphics stress the game's aim toward younger players, especially since it's filled to the brim with cute and quirky characters (I don?t think it was intended to be that way). Definitely not on the "realistic" side, the graphics are a little bit simple, but feature quite enough to get their point across. With few special effects, none that exactly will lead to a loss for words, Jaleco?s latest racer still manages to have some intriguing concepts, and rarely seems to slow down during intense moments.

Extremely average, both the sound effects and music certainly aren't anything for your ears to bleed over, and yet they're not worth soiling your undies over, either. With a music score that isn't anything new to the genre, let alone gaming at all, you probably won't even notice what kind of happy tune is playing in the background. Pulse Racer doesn't have much new in the audio department, so don't expect sound sensations that will take you aback in disbelief. The sound, similar to the music, doesn't stand out from the crowd whatsoever. With basic explosions, wacky noises, and so forth, nothing really grabs and violently shakes your attention to the point where you actually notice the sounds themselves. Like the graphics, they fit the situation perfectly and add to the cartoonish effect of the already-strange racer. Rent Pulse Racer for a chuckle if you're morbidly curious; otherwise, save yourself the hate, the anguish, the pain, and all the resultant unclean feelings.

Nice try. I would suggest paying a lot more attention to the gameplay instead of making the game look extraordinarily good. Just stick to the simple basic stuff.

Overall: 4.0 / 10
Gameplay: 3.0 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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