Arcade racers - love them or leave them, they are here to stay. Suzuki Alstare Racing is the latest in a long line of fast paced and easy on the realism racers, complete with it's very own lens flare rendition.
Don't get me wrong though, I like a little arcade racing now and again, as long as it is a challenge, and not something that will be played a couple of times only to be car boot sold the next week.
If you happen to be a fan of Superbike racing, then you will be pleased to hear that you are racing against none other than the Suzuki Alstare racing team themselves. Fancy your chances against Pierfrancesco Chili then? This is your chance to prove you have what it takes.
So what does Suzuki have to offer us in the way of originality? Does it take the genre by the scruff of the neck, shake it around and come up with something enlightening? Or is it a pure case of the same old same old? Read on...
Suzuki concentrates on getting you onto a bike and racing with the minimum of fuss. Rather than dazzle you with a snazzy video sequence and animated menus, you are simply dropped at a straightforward menu page.
There are three main modes of play, and you will probably have an idea what these are already - single race, split-screen two player, and tournament mode, which you begin with a humble Suzuki GSX-R600 standard roadbike. Fortunately for you though, your opponents are not exactly blessed with ninja bikes themselves, so at least the race is balanced and fair. You race a set of three to five groups of circuits per championship, with the idea being to finish top of the table for each.
As you win each championship new bikes and circuits become available, until you have all six bikes and all twelve circuits at your disposal. Each group stage will introduce you to at least one new map, but also mixes in the ones you have already raced on. There are three skill bands that you must get through to become part of the Suzuki team - novice, reserve and team. Once you are in the team you will be introduced to the most powerful bike in the game, the GSX-R Superbike.
There are no qualifying sessions for the races, and instead you are dumped to the back of the grid for every single race. Initially this is very annoying, as the computer controlled bikes speed off. But even if you get off to a bad start, your bike at top speed is far more powerful than all of the others, and you will soon be back battling for pole position.
If you are after something a little more realistic, then your best option is to fire up the two player split screen mode, or if you have no friends the game can be played over the internet, where up to eight players can scrap it out utilising UbiSoft's Game Service.
I've Won Again!
Controlling the bike is simple, with the only other feature to worry about being the turbo drive. As you drive around circuits, you have a set amount of time to reach each checkpoint, and passing them grants you more fuel for the turbo drive. Not that you will need this, as it is perfectly feasible to win each race on maximum acceleration alone. Miss a checkpoint and you will be out of the race though.
This was my first sitting with Alstare Racing, and within three hours I had completed it, having only lost one race in the entire nine championships. I only just lost that single race too, thanks to me trying to find a shortcut! Yes folks, once again an arcade racer that is just too damn easy to beat.
The action is blisteringly fast paced though, with the scenery hurtling past and making for some really quite amazing tests of reflexes - it's a bit like Screamer on drugs! Unfortunately regardless of whether you are racing around snowy mountains or a tropical beach, there is absolutely no dynamics involved whatsoever - snow and ice means hazardous road conditions, but sadly none of this is represented in the game.
The other disappointing factor is that there is virtually no effect if your bike makes contact with another, making it ridiculously easy to pass other bikes on even the tightest of bends. If you do happen to make contact, then the length of time between crash and returning to the race is overly long compared to that of the computer's in the same situation. That's hardly fair now, is it?
Graphics and Sound
The visuals whiz past at such a fast rate that you often don't appreciate the scenery you are riding through. Graphically the game looks very nice indeed, with some beautiful backdrops and detailed roadside scenery. The result is a very solid looking game, with enough variation from track to track to keep you interested in seeing those newer tracks later on.
Bike models are also impressive, although they do look a little cartoon-like against the slick moving scenery. The bikes pivot realistically into corners, and riders react with realism to speeding up, slowing down, and coming to a complete halt.
The engine sound is suitably beefy for all of the bikes, and there is something satisfying about your bike's ignition kick upon the start of each race. As you would expect though, there isn't a great deal else in the spot effects department, except for the sounds of passing or being passed by other bikes, and the screech of brakes.
Music is the usual instantly forgettable techno mixed with a heavy rock style, which drones on in the background. Strange though - you would miss it if it wasn't there, but pay it no mind when you are playing!
There's nothing drastically wrong with Suzuki Alstare Racing, in fact it is a fairly enjoyable experience for the short time it takes to complete it. Alas, the total lack of realism coupled with how quick and easy it is to win simply dent any chance of this game being something you will keep coming back to.
The main problem is that there is simply nothing new on show here. How long will it be before developers realise that we need a bit more of a challenge for our money? Suzuki's version of furthering the game once completed is to offer you all the same tracks again, but in reverse! Hardly imaginative. How about a stiff increase in difficulty, along with another five or six evil circuits to get stuck into?
I'm not after a hardcore simulation, I just want to play one of these arcade racers and get mad when I can't win. That to me is what a game is all about, but instead you will be yawning all the way to the finish line.
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