There hasn't been a deluge of games based on jet ski racing for fans to play, but Nintendo and Rainbow Studios showed that it can be done successfully. Argonaut have put together a decent jet ski game with one really standout feature, online play. Considering its the only jet ski game on the Xbox it has a monopoly but for those of you with multiple systems and other jet ski games, you may want to rent before carving it up with this one.
Carve offers the typical variety of game modes usually associated with a game of this nature. Modes include tournament, time trial and quick race. The quick race mode basically throws you into the game right away without giving you the option to pick either the track or rider to use and time trial tasks you with breaking the best time set on that track. Where most of your time will be spent is the tournament section. This offers multiple championships to complete and you don't have to necessarily win the tournament to move forward. Each championship has a points target, reach that target and no matter which position you finish, the next championship becomes unlocked. The further you move into the championship structure, which does get more challenging quickly, the more points are required to move on.
The gameplay is very reminiscent of titles such as Wave Race Blue Storm and Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild, which is of no surprise given the similarities of the games. You compete in a race with numerous jet skis and the aim is to get the best position possible. Considering the arcade nature of the title some people may be disappointed that you can't actual hit or knock off your opponents and rather must defeat them in a legal fashion. There are some tricks up your sleeve which can give you the edge however.
Before trying out the championship modes we recommend completing the tutorials available for the trick system present in the game. The game features a fairly in depth trick system, and they can be linked together for big scores and huge speed. After a trick is performed, the word RUSH appears on the screen. Depending on how complex the trick was, numerous letters will fill up. How many letters become filled, will determine the length of the speed boost given. Linking tricks isn't hard to do, especially because after a jump it is possible to dunk the ski into the water and fly back out for one last small trick to give you the edge. The AI riders also perform tricks, and also get speed boosts so to be victorious you really have to be constantly thinking about which trick to perform next.
The tricks include backflips, one handed, hand stands etc but nothing really over the top that you may have expected. Obviously the challenge the game provides the player is somewhat determined by how good they are at pulling tricks off. If you become a master at it, by virtue of almost having RUSH filled all the time, you should breeze through the game. However should you struggle with the tricks, the game will be significantly harder. Right off the bat linking tricks can be tough but practice makes perfect.
You get the chance to choose your rider from a bevy of babes or beefed up men. Each team consists of two riders, the AI rider gives you encouragement as you jet around opposition whilst racing to the checkered flag. The riders also differ in characteristics such as speed and strength. For instance the Tsunami team is the fastest but has the slowest boost when RUSH is enabled. Choosing the right character or team combination can be the difference between winning and losing in Carve, especially in the tournaments.
The races themselves are set in numerous different locations, with not all tracks being unlocked initially and only available once reached in certain tournaments. Sometimes you will be racing in an urban environment, whilst other times in Antarctic waters, racing around a sunken icebreaker as well as other places. The visuals of the game are quite good but they definitely could have looked better. One thing which really stands out though is the graphics used for the water which looks quite realistic. Also you can't tail an opposing rider, because getting caught in their wake slows you down. Water splashes upon the screen at times and the effect of water splashing onto the screen is used as per some other racing titles on the Xbox. Sound effects are fairly moderate with most of the chit chat coming from your team mate urging you on, whilst the craft themselves sound decent and the game has a soundtrack full of upbeat tunes.
The big feature for Carve no doubt is the Xbox Live compatibility and whilst it isn't the best game for the service, it is a nice addition to what otherwise may have been a very dull and average game. The game can also be played on the same console with up to four players split screen.
Carve is a decent game for the Xbox which is overshadowed by other racing titles for the system. It has to be said though that comparing games like that, other then the Live play is like comparing apples and oranges and anyone wanting a break from traditional racing with cars or bikes may find something they like in Carve. It's not the best game for Xbox Live, but its by far not the worst either.