Thursday, September 8, 2011

N64 Month: Extreme-G


  • Publisher: Acclaim
  • Developer: Probe
  • Release: Nintendo 64, 25 October 1997
  • Genre: Racing
  • Players: 1-4
  • Save: Controller Pak, 9 pages
  • Rarity/Cost: Common, US$2-10
Let's take a look at Acclaim, the now-defunct American game publisher.  Their portfolio of titles, dating back to 1987, wasn't what I'd call consistently good, and it was with good reason that they filed for bankruptcy in 2004.  But they did have their share of gems here and there.  They published the home ports of some of Midway's arcade games such as Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam, and had their own well-received series such as Turok and Burnout (which were picked up by Buena Vista and EA, respectively).  Another quality title which happened to have their name on it was Extreme-G for the Nintendo 64.

As a racing game, the simplest way to describe Extreme-G is that it looks like F-Zero but plays like Mario Kart.  In a sport created in the future, players pilot all manner of armed and armoured motorcycles through series of tracks placed in all manner of locales.  Each of the game's twelve courses (plus a hidden thirteenth one) falls into one of four settings: Desert, City, Mines, and Space Station.  The tracks themselves proudly showcase all manner of jumps, loops, corkscrews, and other inversions.  Few games up to this point have been able to boast such ballsy track designs, and even fewer, if any, have done so with the frame rate performance intact.  As with the Mario Kart series, you get points based on your rank for finishing each race, and your goal is to have the most points at the end of the series.  However, you can also fail out of the circuit if you fail to meet the target score (the rank you need to beat in order to qualify is displayed at the start of each race).
Look out for many types of weapons.
Going into each race, each bike is given three single-use nitro boosts, and one of three types of weapons: the streaming Laser, single-shot Pulse, or rapid-fire Excel.  (It is my opinion that the Laser and Excel are the most effective, although they run out of ammo more quickly than the Pulse does.)  You'll do most of your blasting, however, with the weapon pickups littered around the track.  There are over a dozen different items available, including your basic rockets, mines, and shields.  More unique fare includes the Ion Side Cannons, which shoots streams of electricity on both sides of your bike to prevent others from passing, the Static Pulse, which temporarily reverses your steering and disables all weapons, and the Wally Warp, which sends anyone unfortunate enough to run into it back a few seconds.  But for all the abuse these bikes take, strangely, they can't get destroyed during races.  If a bike's shields do get depleted, its performance is hampered, so much that any other hits will knock it to a brief standstill, until it can get repaired.

Repair your shield with these pickups.
Controls in this game are fully customiseable, although the steering responsiveness could use a little fine-tuning, depending on how you play.  If you're not used to braking or slowing down for turns in racing games (darn you Mario Kart 64!), you will scrape the walls a lot due to pervasive understeer.  In a unique feature for its time, you can lean into curves and turn more sharply by holding R (by default), although this might cause you to oversteer and hit the inside wall instead. So you either have to get into the habit of slowing down for turns, or just ride the guardrails and take the damage.  Although to be fair, occasional scrapes and individual weapon hits don't take much off from your bike's shield, and a lot of paths are too narrow to avoid the walls anyway.

Apart from the three career circuits, Extreme-G throws in a good number of modes for both single and multiple players.  Soloists can play individual practice races with CPU opponents, solo time trials, and the "Shoot 'Em Up" mode, where you use waspon pickups to blast as many drone bikes as you can within the three laps provided.  Throw in two to four players, and you can hold split-screen races or engage each other in the battle mode arenas.  ...So yeah, Extreme-G takes more than a page out of the Mario Kart book, not only in the modes available, but in the basic gameplay structure.  But let's face it - they chose a good leader to follow, and if nothing else, Extreme-G plays so much better than the kiddie-karting wanna-bes that shall be forever coondemned to eat its dust.

Graphics: 3 nitros out of 5
Sound: 5 nitros out of 5
Control: 3 nitros out of 5
Design: 4 nitros out of 5
The Call: 80% (B)

Next Episode: I'm not done playing with heavy machinery just yet.  Aero Fighters Assault is next up on N64 month...  Look it up, people.

No comments:

Post a Comment