Recently we've seen an absolute truckload of street racing games based on the illegal scene. Some are impressive, some not so impressive but if there seems to be a guarantee in gaming right now its a street racing game and a World War II game. Codemasters are known for their racing games so it's of no surprise they enlisted Eurotechnyx to do the European version of the game which comes months after its US counterpart. The irony being the game was developed in the UK for America. However it's finally here and despite the fact it's competing with a lot more games now, it has a lot to offer but it also has a lot of frivolous, pointless gameplay aspects as well.
Street Racing Syndicate as a whole tasks you with building the best car around and winning races. Nothing new and it does feel quite generic when compared to other street racers on the market, especially the upcoming Juiced. So basically you begin with no cash, get a loan of a car, win money and from there build up your car, take on the best and gain credibility in a fictional depiction of real world cities.
The game is very much like NFS Underground 2 which is very much like Midnight Club 2 and 3. You begin in the city and can cruise around anywhere you wish but to progress in the game certain races must be won and credibility gained. There is respect featured in the game but it is no where near as realized as it is in the upcoming Juiced with it being used to allow or deny entry to certain events along with the power of the car and parts. This is where one surprise did show up in SRS and that is it is very easy to get started in. Basically once you win the first race, you not only have enough to buy a car most people can hardly afford after a year's salary let alone one race, but also mod the car up to the max.
The problem with this is that the game has not balanced this one iota. You start with a hot car so you would expect the AI to have some rather hot wheels as well but you will find stock cars and poor drivers racing you for a while into the game. Now this makes you keep playing because progress is quite quickly made, but it also doesn't offer a challenge or give incentive to try and find that extra percentage with the dynamometer either. There are two types of races in the city; sanctioned and illegal. The sanctioned races are run at deserted canals with big money on offer while the illegal racers take place in the streets and the long arm of the law can and will chase you sometimes. Finally someone has seen fit to put police chases into a street racing game, shame the rest of the game doesn't stack up to a must buy title.
The other unique feature of this game is girlfriends. Basically if you have a hot set of wheels one of many real world females will ask you to be their girlfriend but first you must pass a test such as doing a lap of the city in record time or just keeping up with another car. The girlfriend section of the game is quite pointless but it does unlock some features on the real world women and their biographies if you're interested. Gameplay wise it's there to extend the game somewhat, but having or not having a girlfriend does not affect the chances of winning one bit.
The fact you can drive around anywhere gives the game a bit more playability as you can cruise, test drive your cars and also challenge random cars placed in the streets to a bit of one on one racing. One big disappointment is the lack of drag racing down long straights and really when it comes to racing, circuit and time attack is really all you find in this game which again leaves it far behind the competitors. The physics are a bit overdone as well. The game can't really decide whether it's a simulation or an arcade game. Unmodified cars handle really poorly while modified ones handle extremely well even at high speed, even if you haven't really done much to improve handling such as buying specialized tyres.
Visually the game is a mixed bag. The cars look quite hot and the draw distance is impressive but overall it has a very washed and watercolour look to it rather than a realistic perspective. Modifying the cars is easy but there are limitations to what you can do such as only being able to use included vinyls and colours to paint the cars. The sound effects are rather bland, so much so we hardly noticed them, but the soundtrack was quite suitable for the game with dance/techno tracks blaring out.
Street Racing Syndicate was first to market in the US but almost last to market here. It really is a game that had much going for it, but other games have taken it over before release. If you simply can't get enough of street racing games then SRS will suffice, but for those owners of other games of this nature, there is nothing new on offer here.