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Driving Emotion Type-S
Score: 72%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Escape Co. Ltd
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:
When I think of great graphics and gameplay, Squaresoft couldn't be further down than number 3 on my top 5. Look only as far as Final Fantasy to see some of the greatest images and music on PlayStation. Square has ventured out of straight RPG territory with games like Parasite Eve (survival horror), Bushido Blade (fighting) and Einhander (side-scrolling shooter). So, why not Racing? Well, that's exactly what Driving Emotion Type-S is about. A road-racing simulation, Emotion Type-S has loads of cars to choose from and beautifully detailed environments, like the 'Urban Highway' level full of neon and set in city streets by night. It's too bad there aren't more tracks, though. After the initial selection of 5 tracks, you'll mostly race on slight variations with more challenging corners. The music left me pretty flat, which again came as a surprise with Squaresoft's name on the box. Bouncy synth with strains of bendy electric guitar and drum machine riffin' makes me feel like I'm riding in an elevator, instead of a Porsche Boxster...

There's room to say that Emotion Type-S will please the hardcore fans of simulation racing games. EA's F1 series, MotoGP and TOCA come to mind as examples of games that would probably be called 'challenging' before they were described as 'fun.' And in theory, there's nothing wrong with that. Most days, I'm as happy playing realistic driving games as I am playing something like Demolition Derby, but there's a limit to what I'll accept in the name of realism. I mean, if I wanted real-life driving, I'd take my car to a Wal-Mart parking lot on Saturday morning... :) So, filter what I'm about to say through all you've heard so far: Driving Emotion Type-S is not a fun game. It could be described in many ways, but 'fun' is probably not one of them for most folks.

There are several competitive game modes, including a good split-screen VS Mode. Along with these, Emotion Type-S has Line Training Mode, which actually teaches you the best approach to take on corners for each course. Following an actual line drawn on the track, you try to work with the lay of the land while staying (I can't resist) in line. Although there's no commentary during this training mode, changes in how the lines are drawn show you where to brake for corners. Time Attack Mode has a Ghost Car option that helps motivate your quest for the best time on any available track, and Arcade Type-S Mode is the 'championship' we see in most other games. Starting with Division 3 cars, rated by max horsepower, you have to unlock Division 2, 1 and GT options. Setting up any of these cars shows off a nice interface, but control doesn't always reflect the changes being made. Learning to race the lines in Emotion Type-S will make all the difference between a frustrating experience and a satisfying challenge, but most people won't have the patience to weather the learning curve here.

Unless you started reading the review here, I probably don't have to beat my point into the ground. Emotion Type-S plays hard and unforgiving, with control issues that sometimes seem more related to the game engine than how you set up your car's engine. Steering (undeniably an important feature) is almost digital in how it feels lacking in degrees of control. A slight push on the analog stick gives a gradual turn, but nothing seems to be between that and 'yank-on-the-wheel' powerslide turns. Pushing harder only sends the car into a spin or makes you lose control. Some people may see this as realism and try to master it, but for the vast majority of racing fans, it will feel strange and unresponsive. The game has an 'assist' feature, but I found it only made the strange driving responses feel stranger.

Game Mechanics:
Car setup in Emotion Type-S lets the real mechanics out there tweak every ball-bearing and timing belt, but also allows broader strokes in adjustment for the less experienced. Basically, every setting - be it brakes, steering or suspension - has at least 3 presets that reflect a driving style, complete with descriptions. Under each preset are sliders that affect just how soft the soft suspension or 'over' the oversteering is. It would take some time to feel comfortable enough with the driving controls to appreciate this level of fine tuning, but as I played with the presets, my cars did handle differently. Working from a preset to make these fine adjustments is a very cool feature, but will probably only be used by the kind of person who would adjust the cant of some tailpiece fairing on an F1 car. Actual controls are kept simple, with steering in the left analog stick and acceleration, braking and reverse on the top buttons. Shifting and view changes are on the shoulder buttons by default, but most of this can be changed. I really hate not having the option to map acceleration and braking onto one of the analog sticks! Yes, I know the (X) button is analog for PS2, but it's not the same as using a stick. Other settings fall mostly into choosing a car's color, alloy wheels, in-game display, etc. You save cars to a Garage that helps lower setup time after the first few runs, and Ghost Cars can also be saved for later retrieval.

Although I felt more than a little disappointed with Driving Emotion Type S, some of it has to be my own bias. I really wanted a solid, fun racer with some interesting and innovative features. The latter could be argued for, but nothing about Emotion Type-S feels very satisfying. From the simulation side, gamers may argue about how a car feels in real life and that there's more to driving than powerslides. BTW, if you're a powerslider, don't expect to like anything about this game. If you do like a challenge and the idea of a racing game that drives like real life, Emotion Type-S may be exactly what you're looking for.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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