There are three types of racing games on the market today. Those who want to try and simulate real cars and tracks etc, arcade racers and futuristic racers. XGRA definitely falls into the latter category featuring insane speeds and some twisting and windy tracks. With already a few other futuristic racers on the market to compete with can XGRA rise above them all?
XGRA features two main game modes; Season 2080 and Arcade mode. In Arcade mode you can set most of the options for the race such as weather, laps, bikes used, weapons ability and which track. The options available are determined by what you have unlocked in the season mode which is where most of your time will probably be spent with this game.
Season 2080 tasks you with taking one of nine persona’s and working your way through numerous tournaments to become the XGRA champion. At first you will have to prove yourself to win a ride with a professional team and then you’re in the big leagues. To unlock the next class you must acquire enough points over the tournaments from that class to qualify. Also each race has a contract attached to it. The contracts can range from destroying a competitor, beating a certain character, reaching a certain speed and others. The contracts don’t seem to affect the game at all because we were still able to progress even in one tournament when we failed all the contracts available.
The gameplay XGRA gives you is what you would expect from a typical futuristic racer; fast speeds, fast cars and tough handling. The handling of the bikes do take time to become accustomed to and it isn’t possible to just hold the throttle down and race because you will hit the wall and incur damage. Not much damage is incurred so whilst braking should be used, you aren’t punished to much for making a mistake especially because the damage metre regenerates over time.
The bikes featured in XGRA are futuristic motorbikes. The characters lean forward, bend and twist with the bike to turn corners at high speeds. Should you happen to crash when your damage metre is critical, your bike will be destroyed and the race will be over. You will not continue racing and will register a did not finish, to many of these and you won’t acquire enough points to unlock the next class.
In some races weapons will be unlocked and you’re contract may be to destroy some competitors. By default your bike is equipped with a laser which is quite weak, but you can pick up weapons along the track such as mines. The weapons are both proactive and reactive. Some weapons such as the shield will defend you from enemy attacks whilst others are more neutral such as the acceleration powerup which will give you a boost for a set period of time.
Some people may be disappointed by the sense of speed shown by the game. There are three views to choose from with the HUD changing depending on which view is chosen. The best view to use for speed is bumper cam but it is fast with lots of windy sections. Another problem of the game is that it does become repetitive after a while. The weapons negate this somewhat for a period of time but it does become same old same old a bit to soon. The other problem is the lighting used throughout the game. Whilst it looks great and is impressive adding some real atmosphere to the tracks, at times it is dark in areas where turns are making it hard to know exactly where the track is going. There are lights on the track which helps with this issue but it still can be a small problem.
Obviously with you having weapons, so do the AI and they aren’t afraid to choose them. You will find that the characters in the game are made up from the nine persona’s you can choose in career mode and will give you trash talk throughout the race via your HUD. The AI slowly becomes harder as the tournaments progress. There isn’t a point where the AI goes from incredibly easy to insanely hard and the transitions are done well offering more of a challenge as you progress. You may find yourself in last place on the first lap, only to come back and win on the final lap.
The tracks are varied and offer quite a challenge, even right off the bat. As mentioned before it takes time to become accustomed to the handling of the bike and the windy tracks doesn’t help this one bit. The tracks are huge and are highly detailed featuring large buildings, cheering crowds, a waterfall which is impressive and looks great amongst other things. Some of the tracks are also multi-tiered offering different ways to complete each track on different laps. The AI will take different paths and won’t follow each other everywhere. On the tracks you will find the typical things in racing games speed pads and powerups littered about the place to aid you.
To compare XGRA with a PSone game in the graphics department would be harsh but it is not one of the best looking games on the system. To its credit it maintains a stable framerate even at the high speeds with lots of AI characters around but this has obviously come at the cost of high quality graphics. There are three soundtracks available in the game; rock, dance and mixed. The dance soundtrack suits the game well and we found ourselves turning the engine sounds down to listen to it, it’s not often you do that in a video game. Commentary is provided in the form of an introduction to each race and the bikes sound quite good, albeit a bit to much like a lawnmower or whippersnipper.
XGRA is a decent futuristic racer which fans of the genre will probably enjoy. It does become a bit repetitive for casual gamers and perhaps they should look for this at a lower price in a few months time, but if you’re waiting for the next big Wipeout or other futuristic racer, then XGRA may fill that time in quite well.
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