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Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero
Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Crave
Developer: Genki
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
If the opening intro of Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero doesn't impress you with it's awe-inspiring sights and sounds, then nothing on television in this day and age will either. Once into the game, the cars you race in and against are strikingly realistic. Although the car names aren't displayed, anyone remotely familiar with Japanese cars can tell what the respective cars are due to the lush models. The lighting and reflection effects do the streetlights and horizon adequate justice, with shadows being where they should, and fluorescents glaring on and off your car at a meager 180 mph. Probably the greatest credit in the graphics department is when you customize your car, you see it, and boy does it look good! Genki spared no expense in making the cars look like butter. From spoilers to ground effects, TXRZ is beautiful, right on down to the lustrous chrome rims. The only flaw graphically, and I say -flaw- because it initially hinders gameplay, is the fact that the backgrounds blend in with the road up ahead. This makes it very difficult in a few stages to see the curve in the road. Mix that with the really blurry tail lights of cars up ahead, and you'll find yourself tasting muffler. You get used to the background blend pretty quick, although those blurry brake lights still haunt me to this day. Still it's not enough to impede overall gameplay, and I think I've only lost a couple of races due to this phenomenon.

The sound in TXRZ is like it should be in every racing game. The tires squeal and leave burnt rubber tracks to prove it. The engines roar, or whine depending on their size, and hitting the wall produces a thud that lets you know, you did something wrong. The music is a techno-type, but I found it unmotivating, especially for this type of game. A game of this caliber needs riveting music, with lots of guitar. I could even live with some good pumping kind of techno, but this music is more ambient and spacey. Nothing I would associate with a racing game. Don't get me wrong, there are some good songs (you can choose which ones you want playing while you race), but most of them are suited to 'chilling-out' or roasting marshmallows, rather than being Xtreme Racing tunes.

Genki kept this one real simple. In Quest Mode you are a tuned machine, racing the realistic freeways of Tokyo. Of course, you're doing this at 3 a.m. because you're part of an illegal racing club. To race someone, you find where the 'Rival' is at on a map, and follow the map to meet them. Once behind the Rival, you flash your lights at them (courtesy of the R2 button), which translates into: 'Hey you, yeah you with the other big engine, let's race!' Races consist of Speed points which decrease while you're behind, or when you hit something. When you run out of these precious Speed points, you are dubbed the loser, and are given a laughable cash reward. Yet, if you can get out in front, and decrease the enemy's Speed points, you are given a substantial amount of 'cash' to which you can take back to the garage, and invest in more tune-up parts. Everything from engines, to mufflers, and anything aerodynamic can be added to your car. Ultimately, you want your car, lighter, and more powerful, which in turn results in you becoming the bad man on the roads. With over 400 rivals to race, and over 125 cars to supe up, Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero has more than enough challenge and diverseness to keep your palette wet.

Customization is always a plus in racing games, and TXRZ is no exception. You can even paint the car any color you want, and showcase stickers of fallen enemies on your car's windshield. There is also a Free Mode, which lets you drive around the freeways of Tokyo with no rivals, and there is the always-existent 2-Player Mode. Perhaps the most difficult is the Time Trial, which has you pitted against 100 rivals in a row, without gaining any of your Speed Points back. It is very difficult to be remotely successful in this mode, as I have usually lost most of my Speed Points by the end of the second race. Finally, as a consumer 'dandy', the DVD disc has a wonderful, (even educational) documentary on the illegal racing of Tokyo. There is also a full trailer for the movie The Fast and the Furious.

If you think that driving at 180 mph, while navigating treacherous curves is difficult, well it is. TXRZ is realistic, and its goals are accomplishable. You start out racing easier cars that can only do 120 or so. (I say this last statement so gingerly, only wishing my Pinto could do half of that!) As you get better, and customize your car to be faster, well, the competition beefs up as well so to speak. Still though, TXRZ seems to let the computer cars crash just as much as you do. That's the neat thing; the AI is realistic. If you are losing to someone time and time again, yet are persistent enough to keep racing them, sooner or later, they're going to wreck and you'll win. With winnings comes earnings, and with earnings come fame, fortune, girls and the Tooth Fairy. Okay, so I made up the Tooth Fairy part. The controls in no wise make it more difficult. They add to the beauty and ease of the game. Genki did a wonderful job at smoothing out the controls so it feels like the real cars. If you drop 550 horses into a Mazda RX-7, you'd better believe your rear end is going to slip. Drop the same amount into a much heavier Viper (The only American muscle car in the game by the way), and your rear end will respond the way it's supposed to. In all reality, the game takes a little patience to get started, but once you figure out the basics of driving Tokyo's freeways, then you've got smooth sailing the whole way out.

Game Mechanics:
The load time for such a vast, shiny game is oddly enough, extremely short. You pop in Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero , watch the stunning intro, and BAM it's loaded faster than you can say Ambesol. The controls are top notch, being a bit on the arcade side, as far as the car's physics are concerned. The vehicles do act like their real-life counterparts though, which makes for a unique driving challenge with every new car that you get. Simply put, TXRZ is a masterpiece in the Mechanics Dept.

Riot Rundown: Yes, I've sung the praises of Genki and Crave ! Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero is a fresh game that breathes a wonderful breath over the PS2;. It's addictive and when you strip away all it's options, etc, TXRZ is just downright FUN. The only knocks against it are the 'blending' background, and the lack of any helpful information in the manual. The manual is as decipherable as some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and it doesn't go into detail on anything it seems. So, if manuals have ever stopped you from buying a game, then add Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero to your list. But, if you want an awesome game, in all sense of the word, then snuggle up by the fire with TXRZ, and let Genki put their loving arms around you.

-Sydney Riot, GameVortex Communications
AKA Will Grigoratos

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