Playstation Developer: Curly Monsters Ltd. Publisher:InfogramesPrice: £34.99
It's not often an arcade style flight game raises my eyebrows, but N-Gen (Next Generation) Racing certainly looked promising from the previews and news articles I had seen.
The game draws its influences from a variety of sources. Most notably is that it's a bit like Wipeout, but without the futuristic elements, and borrows heavily from Gran Turismo in respect to the tournament style.
It certainly brings back memories of the old arcade classic 'Afterburner' though, which used to swallow many of my ten pence coins. Not that N-Gen Racing bears any resemblance to that old gem really. It's just me being sentimental!
Strapping myself into the cockpit (aka the Sofa), firing up the engines (aka the PSX), I took off into the colourful world of N-Gen Racing.
Chocks away chappies!
An impressive FMV sequence sets the scene, with aircraft peaking and troughing their way through hazardous terrain. It serves to whet the appetite, hoping that the actual game itself is as fast and frantic.
There are two main game modes in N-Gen Racing, 'Arcade' and 'N-Gen'. The latter is the full-blown tournament, where you begin with 12,000,000 credits, and without a plane to fly. The money you have will only just about cover a basic 'Trainer' plane, with the faster and more agile planes way out of your price range.
Once you have your plane, you still won't be able to do any competitive racing until you successfully pass a simple flight test to obtain a trainer permit. Gaining a permit is easy, simply requiring you to complete a circuit lap within a certain amount of time. Once you have the permit, you can then enter the trainer championships and start earning back the credits you have just spent.
When you are feeling more confident, you can apply for a fighter permit, which involves a tougher challenge, and much stiffer opposition in the respective championships. So it goes on until you reach the coveted X:Fighters permit, where you will be truly rocking.
The funny thing is though is that in the early stages, the whole game feels ridiculously slow paced, and you can't help wondering if it is ever going to pick up speed. Fortunately things definitely take a turn for the better later on, once you get hold of an aircraft with a little guts to it!
As you fly around the circuits, you will notice green or orange circular gates. If you fly through a green gate, this will replenish your health, with the orange giving you juice for your afterburner engines. Success is governed a pretty large amount by how many orange gates you navigate through. Miss one or two and the race may not be lost, but miss too many and you will soon be overtaken with ease.
Health is sapped by careless collisions with other craft and the scenery, but can also be down to weapon damage from another plane. Oh yes, once you get the trainer levels out of the way, you can then start waving a weapon around at the enemy too! I felt this was a needless inclusion in the game though, I would have preferred it to have remained as a pure racer.
There are fourteen circuits you'll be whizzing around, and as you'd expect they get more difficult to navigate the further you progress. To get the best performance out of your aircraft you need to fly as low as possible, and only rise up when you need to pass through a gate. Flying higher means you are more prone to air resistance, and other planes will be passing you below with no trouble.
Whether you're playing the full game or are in arcade mode, you will always get a handling choice. Arcade handling is the choice you should make if you just want to get stuck into the action. This mode won't allow you to perform rolls or loops, and will automatically correct your turns, and auto-piloting you back to the circuit should you go astray.
Pro handling is a much more difficult mode of play, and I can't recommend it to those that want to race around with no real physics involved. It is slightly faster than arcade handling, and allows you perform wild 90-degree turns, stomach churning rolls and ultimately is more satisfying to have won with.
Planes can be upgraded too, with anything from afterburner enhancements, missile radar locking devices and more subtle add-ons like stabilisers, reducing turbulence to allow faster low altitude speeds. Multiplayer hasn't been neglected with 'Head to Head' pitting you against another in split screen mode against each other. Also included is the rather splendid 'Powerball' again in split-screen, the idea being to pick up the ball, and take it to one or all four of the drones to gain points. The winner is the player with the most points.
Sound and Vision
The screenshots you see here don't do justice to how the game actually looks to be honest. Graphically the game is very nice looking, with colourful scenery and a nice variety of settings. The water effect used on some of the levels is very nicely done too.
The planes themselves are reasonably well done, but they do have an irritating tendency to become lost amongst the bright lights and scenery. It's quite common to be passed by another plane, and not to realise it until you see your position in the race has changed.
Sound is pretty average, and for a game based around a group of noisy fighter planes blasting their engines, this seems a little bit odd. There's no big sound of a plane overtaking you, and the engine noise coming from your own plane is just a mere rumble.
One thing in the game's favour though is the soundtrack, which is techno based. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a selling point, but in the absence of any decent spot effects, a thumping set of mindless techno tunes is quite welcome!
Despite the game getting much more frantic as you reached the fighter stage and above, I found myself getting very bored and far too quickly. It's certainly a good game to look at, but a combination of uninspired audio and repetitive gameplay gradually ebbed away at my patience levels.
The Powerball multiplayer mode certainly gives you something to go back to, but as far as the single player experience is concerned, it just hasn't got that 'grab you' factor.
N-Gen Racing isn't a truly bad game by any means, and I would certainly be interested to see what the developers could do with a sequel if there was one. For me though, this game simply fails to take off.
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