Gone in 6 point 0 seconds.
Acclaim and UK developer Climax blend street racing thrills with chase movie chills in their latest motorcycle racer, Speed Kings for the Nintendo GameCube.
Burnout's Sleeker Cousin
Speed Kings will no doubt draw comparisons to Acclaim's successful Burnout series. Both feature high-speed racing through street traffic while pulling off pulse-pounding feats of daring-do. You're even rewarded for driving like a maniac.
The most obvious difference is that while Burnout features a wide selection of cars and trucks (albeit fictional), Speed Kings focuses solely on motorcycles. In many ways, motorcycles have clear advantages over their bulkier, quad-wheeled brethren.
Two Wheels and an Engine
While you give up about two tons' worth of bodily protection, you gain near limitless agility. Your motorcycle can jump ramps, turn sharp corners, pop wheelies, slither between cars and slide under low-hanging obstacles.
Players can race and unlock up to 22 bikes that are modeled after real-world road rockets. Climax has carefully designed each of the real-world styled tracks to maximize two-wheeled thrills.
Racing, Your Way
For the single player, Speed Kings offers several distinct play modes -- Single Race, Meets, Time Attack, Trick Attack, Grand Prix and Head to Head. Two players can compete together in the aforementioned modes, as well as Tag mode for those who think racing is a contact sport.
Players can also opt to learn the Speed Kings basics in the License mode. This is highly recommended for first-time players.
License to Drive Dangerously
Regardless of which race mode you choose, there are two fundamental rules you should follow:
1) Traffic laws do not apply
2) The more dangerously you drive, the better
Since much of your driving takes place on the highways and crowded city streets, you should quickly familiarize yourself with the controls. The control setup is strictly arcade -- none of that manual-shifting, clutch-pushing stuff here.
During regular races, you'll be competing with five other racers. Don't hesitate to nudge one of your competitors into oncoming traffic.
They'll do the same to you if they get the chance. A well-placed kick or punch can also temporarily take one of your opponents out of the race.
Go Speed Racer
You'll also contend with unpredictable track conditions. During the course of a single race, it's not uncommon to see barrels come flying down the highway from a poorly secured 18-wheeler.
Cranes will lower log bundles onto the road and trees may keel over right in front of you. Speed Kings allows you to slide your bike underneath obstacles, even while driving at full speed. Expect to pull off wild stunts normally reserved for movies with the words "Fast" or "Furious" in the title.
Successfully executing stunts adds to your Powerband meter. Once filled, you're granted a time-limited turbo charge that will see to it that your speed jumps from eye-popping to pants-soiling in a pyrotechnic display of speed blurs and color bands.
Other ways to add to your Powerband include scraping your bike against cars (dubbed "dings"), power-sliding around corners, planting long jumps and performing bike tricks.
Speed Kings sports a predictably thumping techno soundtrack. You probably won't be humming any of the tunes after shutting your system down, but the music is appropriate to the gameplay.
It's pretty clear that the majority of the processing power is dedicated to the smooth graphics engine. Acclaim is quick to point out the crash physics, and it shows.
Anything that moves can collide with pretty much anything else in the game. While you'll mostly see motorcycles crashing into cars, the computer controlled traffic can also crash into itself without looking scripted. Car bodies crunch and deform in real-time with realistic particle and debris effects.
Climax has also paid close attention to the little details. When driving on the wrong side of the road, oncoming traffic will begin to honk and flash their high beams. When it rains, you can even see some of the raindrops splash the screen.
Acclaim hopes to follow up its Burnout success with Speed Kings. By adding a unique trick and bonus system with randomly generated obstacles, Speed Kings has enough legs ... er ... wheels to stand on its own merits.
Contributed by Evil Ryu (49941) on Mar 04, 2006.