Acclaim's new futuristic racer has pinache, but is there any meat inside? j00ny takes the game for a few spins and tosses his first impressions right at your face. Think fast!
I rented the original Extreme G on N64 and thought it was pretty cool. It had an awesome sense of speed, which was a nice change of pace (pun!) from most early N64 racing games. The sequel arrived and I never did try it, but I know the general reception was lukewarm. Then I got to try XG3 on PlayStation 2 very briefly at this year's E3, and all I remember from the experience was that the control was a lot easier to use than in previous games, but the graphics looked really sparse.
So now it's finished and ported to GameCube, and the game turned out to be impressive. The sense of speed is better than ever, the control is still tight but MUCH more forgiving than on N64, and overall the graphics are superb. Oh yeah, and the soundtrack is really sweet...I'm not familiar with the techno scene, but apparently these Ministry of Sound guys are pretty well known, and all other artists on XG3 do a nice job too. The music is really fast and hard, and it flows extremely well with the action.
The gameplay itself isn't as exciting. Yeah, it's fast, and the level design seems pretty cool, but I just can't get into it. For one thing, all the bikes are spread out even at the very beginning of the race, so it ends up feeling like a gauntlet of one-on-one "battles" with you and the dude you're trying to overtake. You either use some boost, try to shoot him with your weapons, or both, and hope that once you're ahead he won't do the same thing right back to you. There are almost never more than two vehicles on the screen (including you) except at the starting line.
The combat mixes things up a bit, but I'm not sure the game is better for having weapons. They don't seem too terribly effective, but trying to use them can be VERY distracting and dangerous in a game where sharp turns and forks in the road pop up without any kind of warning. So usually it's smarter to just boost on by an opponent and hope you don't run out of shield/boost power before reaching the next pit lane.
A few miscellaneous things to note...the framerate is really solid. Game needs autosave badly, because the process of saving and loading is tedious and confusing. League mode (the primary mode) seems awfully easy, considering I beat nine of the ten tracks with my ass-sucking racing skills. Didn't get to try multiplayer, but unless the game throws in lots of bots with you and your three buddies, it seems like that would be more non-thrilling than League.
My recommendation so far: give it a rent to see if it floats your boat. XG3 should be a great purchase for speed-freaks, but those looking for a bit more action in their racing games should hold off.