Fighting and Beat em' up games really died off after the SNES and Megadrive generation. Thy seemed to suit that generation quite well, possibly because of the 2D graphics of the machines and people not expecting completely interactive environments. There were a few companies however such as SEGA who tried Spikeout on the ill fated Dreamcast. The big thing about the game was that it was online, as was the Dreamcast and while ultimately it failed, it did give SEGA the chance to bring it back on a new console, the Xbox. Unfortunately it appears SEGA decided the DC version was enough, and have made hardly any change to the game.
The storyline continues on from the Dreamcast version with the characters being related to the characters which featured in the original game. The original boss is back for revenge as you find out during the opening scene but really as a whole the storyline is secondary to the action. It's also quite unlikely that you will see many cut scenes, due to the fact that you get one set of continues and really that's it, completely going against the tradition of arcade fighters.
Played from a third person perspective, Spikeout Battle Street really is a dog. Right from the outset you will feel that this is a very rushed Dreamcast port and it's quite amazing that it took one year since its announcement at E3 04 to actually come out. Poor animation, poor graphics and generally poor gameplay make up a, you guessed it, poor game. For those who want to put themselves through this shocking port then read on. You move from A to B fighting characters before taking on a boss to complete the level. Sounds simple and it is, so simple that it becomes repetitive very quickly, however to be fair the strength of this game is not its single player - multiplayer is where it's at.
This is a strength of the game and that is the fact that it is supported by Live. Jump on with a bunch of friends and play through the single player storyline, or play on the same console with up to four players. This is actually the least frustrating way to play, you can chat about the game with mates, but also you can set unlimited continues, making the game rather easy. The downside is the cut scenes are not shown so you have absolutely no idea why you are doing what you are doing. This mode can also be played in a single player mode, again without cutscenes, but at least the difficult enemies aren't as frustrating because of the unlimited continues.
The game is hard, very hard. On the lowest difficulty level with the single player mode, you're unlikely to get past the third level (not mission, level, remember that if you're playing). This is what makes the game an exercise in frustration sometimes. Also the animation of the characters is very crude and rather then flowing smoothly, you will notice very rigid movement and generally it's poor. We can understand having lower graphics due to Live support, but this really does look like a PSX game in an Xbox.
The level design is also very linear and again feels like a PSX game. Blocky industrial areas, not much variety and no interaction makes it yet another flaw with the game. Basically the variety is limited to places such as marina, factory, park and not much else. This does maintain the single city and continuous feel of the game, but does not really offer an incentive to keep playing. Neither does the visuals which are very Dreamcast era and SEGA really has not done much with them, the sound effects or much with the game other then Live and a new storyline.
If you haven't realised by now I'm not a big fan of the game and I can't see those who liked the original game being fans either, no matter how much they try. With a game relying on Live so much, neglecting the offline gameplay quality only makes matters worse because if people don't buy it there aren't people to play with online. Double edged sword Sega, learn from it.
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