Written by  :  Steve Hall (353)
Written on  :  Nov 10, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars

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Simple, fun and addictive.

The Good

Firstly, the game drives really well. It's not as simple and arcadey as the Need For Speed games, but not as realistic as proper race sims. Nicely in the middle. Good driving technique is well rewarded and it really feels great with an force feedback wheel.

The cars all handle well and are interestingly different enough from each other so you want to try them all. The lower horsepower FWD cars are a doddle to drive and provide a great way to get used to the game before you move up to the high power RWD monsters.

The graphics are very good and the cars are beautifully modelled, and the textures and lighting are excellent, assuming you can run at high enough detail levels (and you'll need a pretty hefty machine to do so). Sound effects are good enough and well detailed, with some nice subtle background touches - cheering and booing from the crowd, the pitter-patter of rain on the road, and so on.

The betting system is really neat, and a great way to make pots of extra cash, accelerating your progress through the game. Plus it adds a real incentive to the races knowing that several thousand of your own dollars are riding on the result.

The respect system seems odd and a little frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes very easy to crank up the respect of the other drivers earning you plenty of additional racing opportunities.

While there is no free-drive mode, this game is still fun just to climb in and have a blast as well as for some serious racing.

The Bad

This is a pretty good game and quite addictive, just for the fun of driving - but there are a few annoyances.

The wonderful ambient sounds are lost if you race with the in-car view, like all do because all you can hear is engine noise.

The AI of your team drivers can be really annoying. Even with maxed out skills they still spin out for no good reason, they'll often brake rather than overtake, and they treat you (their team leader) like any other driver and ram you off the road if you cross their line.

Not the greatest range of cars. Sure there's 52 to choose from, but 11 of those are Hondas. Some are even the same car: the Honda NSX is identical in every way to the Accura NSX, so why have both? Plus, this game is obviously set in the U.S., so why have a handful of European super-mini's which aren't even sold in the U.S.? Don't get me wrong, I like the cars - the 206 is an excellent starting car, but surely a Cavalier or Sunfire would be more appropriate.

The Bottom Line

In a similar vein to NFS : Underground, this game is based around street racing in highly modified domestic and import cars. You start with $40,000 dollars and a choice of just 3 cars to start with. The cars start off stock, but as you race them and do well you earn the right to buy various modifications - both performance and styling mods.

There are 8 other teams in Angel City, and you'll get to know each of there team leader's quite well. Each team have their own styles, attitudes and preferences, and they each respect different aspects of your racing and your cars.

You get to attend street races held by the other teams, or host your own races on your own racetrack. Winning races earns you cash and respect, and betting on the races can really bring in the bucks. Once you respect levels are high enough, you can host races on other gang's turfs for bigger rewards. You can also race for pinks, betting your car against another driver, for that extra incentive to win.

The cars are split into various groups based on horsepower, and you can only race against cars in the same group. This keeps the races relatively fair and means you can work your way up from 118hp Peugeot 206 to 1042hp Dodge Viper. There's lots of variations and opportunities at every level so the game can be played to suit your own abilities/preferences.

There's also an Arcade mode which provides some additional challenges, and the game can be raced both on a LAN and online, although I have not had the opportunity to do either yet.