Street Racing Syndicate (Xbox) Impressions
Namco and Euetchnyx have made an ambitious effort to offer one of the most realistic installments based on the underground street racing culture. Featuring over 50 licensed cars and and extensive customization system, players are bound to have an enthralling experience whether they opt to go at it alone or take their skills online. Of course, one of the biggest, most appealing draws to the game retaining the essence of the street culture scene is the ability to compete for the respect and affections of some of the world's hottest models including personal favorites like Francine Dee and Tila Nguyen. Sounds like the perfect incentive to go for a drive, eh?
Well, it should. The only problem is, racing rarely feels as fast as one would expect. Yes, even with all the visual bonuses of boobage and new hotness that grace this package, it can't mask the game's unfortunate lack...of speed. I understand the developers' intention to keep the game grounded in reality, but there are a few instances where we as gamers want just a bit of those rules to be ignored. Case in point, if I am racing with at at 120MPH, I expect the game to give me the feeling that I am speeding like a bat out of hell. And it doesn't need to be quite along the lines like the warp effect in 2 Fast 2 Furious because let's face it -- that was extreme. Fun and entertaining - yes. But definitely over-the-top.
Beyond that, the game hosts a variety of single-player arcade modes, many of which I spent time with for all but about an hour or less. Truth be told, I am all about getting the hotties like Francine Dee and Tila Nguyen on my arm because let's face it - that's the closest you'll ever get to seeing them in this lifetime.
The Street Mode is the crux of the game, allowing you to experience the lifestyle of a underground street racer. You'll start out as a substitute for your boy Eddie who's gone and got his butt locked up for, what else? Well, street racing, obviously. And how convenient for you, it happened right before the finals of the LA Sanctioned Event. And that's where you come in - you'll going to have to compete in the event and win to bail Eddie out of jail. In return, you'll earn some cash to get that new pimpin' ride you've always dreamed of.
Progressing throughout the event will ultimately lead to new challenges. Some are for cash, others are for building up your street cred within the underground community. Play tough, race well, and who knows, all that hard work might just pay off. Especially if you're hoping to get one of those chicks to become your new virtual girlfriend. (Remember, grounded in reality, folks.) I haven't got around to unlocking the videos of Tila and company...perform. Obviously I need to spend more time perfecting my craft.
Admit it, THIS is why you'll play SRS.
In any event, the single player modes will offer hours of enjoyment. Of course, you should expect to spend a lot of those hours in the garage, tweaking your car with everything from anime vinyl decals to new suspensions to the hubs on your tire. It's an extensive process which can be compared to an RPG experience of its own in your quest to create the ultimate racing vehicle ever seen on four wheels. Keep in mind that you shouldn't go crazy and splurge each time you win a bit of dough. So to keep your stash from running low, make sure to travel throughout the city and compete in illegal or officially sanctioned events. It took me awhile to figure out how the illegal races worked, each time I was offered a wager, I wanted to place a side bet on my own. I suppose I should've read the book, which says you have to hit the Y button to place a side bet. Overall, the challenges were fairly easy to beat, despite the fact it took me two attempts to learn the ropes at the expense of my car getting banged up. Including realistic damages offers a much greater sense of realism and challenge. If you end up doing more than just scratching the paint on your, then you better expect to pay out of your nose to get it back in pristine condition. One painful lesson I immediately discovered is that it's more practical (and less expensive) to get your car repaired back at the garage instead of during sanctioned events.
Just to briefly comment on the racing action, sans the lack of speed, you can execute a variety of combos, much like in Project Gotham Racing 2. This is the second, most important aspect in building up your reputation (and getting those women to finally take notice of you). A more advanced tactic players can perform are Drift Moves. Executing these moves along with other tricks and techniques can net you a huge "Respect Bonus". And to score even more points, you'll endeavor to perform multiple moves in succession, triggering a combo bonus. So far, I've only managed to pull off basic moves like drafting, a vital technique that you must master in order to keep yourself competitive.
I was surprised to discover that the game lacks a custom soundtrack option. I've got nothing against rap and all, but the selection is simply too redundant and after awhile, I could only tolerate hearing so much of hearing the lyrics "I can't slow down!" from the song "Microphone Check", especially when you know...the game doesn't move all that fast to begin with. Finally, I wasn't able to experience the multiplayer options (which I'll be trying out later this week after the game officially arrives in stores). Hopefully by the time everyone gets a copy, my abilities will have improve and then I can test whether or not my skills can hang with the competition.
So far, SRS has proven to be a fairly enjoyable alternative amongst the crop of available street racing games on the market. We'll be back to report what else the game's got under the hood with a more in-depth report next month.