New York Race

Preview - we take Kalisto's Fifth Element inspired sci-fi racing game for a spin

While Kalisto's first attempt at turning Luc Besson's stylish sci-fi movie The Fifth Element into a game was something of a disappointment, that hasn't discouraged the French developer from having a second bite at the cherry. The good news is that this time round all of the elements seem to have slotted into place nicely to produce an eye-candy laden racing game.

Last Call For Phloston Paradise

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Pretty in pink

NY Race throws you into a series of wild street circuit races through the skies of 23rd century New York, with the vast towering skyscrapers, outsized machinery and murky depths of the movie all faithfully recreated as you flit between the buildings and dive through the lanes of traffic in a variety of flying vehicles. Bridges and other obstacles straddle the roads at varying heights, lifts hurtle up and down the walls of the buildings on either side, and huge signs jut out into the road, advertising Phloston paradise, enlisting in the navy and of course Zorg Industries, as well as real world products like Orangina and, appropriately enough, the Seat Leon. The result is a bright colourful landscape for you to race through, with everything from sewers and narrow slum streets to sprawling parks and space ports which leave you free to pick your own path through the pillars, trees and lakes. And in keeping with the movie's famous taxi chase scene the action is fully three dimensional, allowing you to steer up and down as well as left and right. It might not be all that fast compared to the likes of Wipeout and Ballistics, but what it lacks in sheer speed it makes up for with cluttered courses and the ability to swoop through oncoming traffic and hurtle over rooftops.

The Red Button

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Even in the 23rd century New York traffic is hell

The game also includes a small selection of power-ups scattered through the air around the circuit to make things even more frantic. These can allow you to turbo boost your way past the other drivers, let rip with a giant fireball that homes in on your nearest opponent, create a bubble which slows down the first vehicle to pass through it, or temporarily shield your own car. As you work your way up through the game's four championships you will unlock a wide selection of new vehicles, including favourites from the movie such as Korben's yellow taxi and the flying police cars, along with sleek limousines and pink cadillacs. There are a dozen tracks to race around as well, with an impressive range of settings from the city's sewer system and cargo port to the sparkling skyscrapers of the business district and the narrow streets and sprawling pagoda-laden parks of China Town. There are a few minor niggles at this stage, such as the apparent inability to define your own controls, with the player forced to choose from a handful of preset configurations instead. But overall New York Race is shaping up to be another attractice and enjoyable addition to the futuristic racing genre. Throw in eight player online support for the PC and two player split-screen action in the PlayStation 2 version, and Kalisto may be on to a winner this time.

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