Curse you Vin Diesel, for two reasons: one being unleashing Paul Walker on
film screens everywhere (along with Tyrese for a sequel to The Fast and The
Furious); the other one for getting game studios to try to capitalize on the
coolness of illegal street racing. Thanks to the success of the
aforementioned movie, almost every single game publisher tried to reproduce
its winning formula. Some games, while managing to capture the feeling of
speed from the movie, sold out their street cred with the number of
commercial plugs scattered through the game. Others tried to remain truer
to the scene by focusing more on the cars themselves. Which theme does
Namco's latest racer fit? Grab some cash and check your nitro, because
we're getting ready to join the Street Racing Syndicate.
There are three main game types in SRS: Arcade Mode, Multiplayer and Street
mode. We'll get to the other two modes a bit later, but for right now,
we'll focus on the Street mode, which is the primary thrust of the game.
Here, you'll start your illegal racing career thanks to a number of
unforeseen coincidences. One of your friends named Eddie gets arrested for
racing right before the finals of a major racing event, thereby leaving his
team and his friends who bet on him out in the cold. You wind up
filling in for him at the last possible second and are promised enough money
to buy your own racing machine if you succeed. Needless to say, once you
beat the competition, it's time for you to stake your own claim to become
king of the streets.
While the story of the game is largely forgettable, the primary goal
of the game remains virtually constant throughout this career feature.
You'll enter your car in one of four main types of race events: Street
challenges are scattered throughout the city at random places, with drivers
looking for any challengers willing to take them on for a sprint through the
streets. You can also take on cars cruising around for any action with Race
Me signs above them in what's known as a Roll Up Race. You'll also have
the option to enter Crew Meets, which comprise some of the largest races in
the game. However, you're not always guaranteed that you'll have the
requirements to enter these events. In this case, you may need to take on
some of the Respect Races to increase your standing on the street.
Regardless of what you choose, you'll spend a certain amount of time
haggling for the amount of money you want to bet on the outcome of the race,
because you'll need plenty of money to supplement your racing empire.
The most immediate reason you'll need money, aside from repairing any
damage your cars might sustain, is to purchase new machines or additional
parts that you can use to tune your vehicles further. SRS is truly an
import tuner's dream, with dozens of aftermarket parts that you can use to
tweak and supercharge your vehicle. Since there are around fifty or so cars
from major manufacturers, including Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi, you'll
have ample opportunity to mess around with just about every factor of your
car, from weight distribution to horsepower. You'll also be given a dyno
in your personal garage to test out the performance statistics of your newly
added equipment, so you can decide which parts give you the best advantage
and which ones won't in a particular race.
The visuals of SRS are somewhat deceiving for a number of reasons. First of
all, the car models within the game are nicely rendered, which makes driving
each machine pleasing to the eye. You'll be able to notice the number of
external changes you make to a stock car as you drive it to the line and
take off down the road with it. So, if you're dedicated enough to
spending hours getting that paint job just right on your car, you can rest
assured that it'll look great taking off when the race starts. However,
there's a couple of issues that detract from the presentation of the game.
First of all, the overall visuals could be substantially sharper than what
they are. While it's a reasonable presentation, there are some details
that look like they're muddy, regardless of the day or nighttime settings.
Secondly, the damage modeling is extremely light compared to the
amount of money you'll spend repairing your car. Windshields and bumpers
are no substitute for massive collisions or destructive impacts, although
you'll swear these cars were only lightly dinged. This isn't practical
in the slightest. Similarly, the sound for SRS is disappointing. While the
different engine growls, shifting clicks and vehicular sound effects are
decently handled, the musical presentation is so completely forgettable that
you may find yourself racing most of the game with the mute button firmly
Technical aspects aside, let's quickly return to the other two modes of
the game. First of all, there's the traditional Arcade mode, where you
pick a race, a car and take on the computer. It's pretty much standard to
other quick races. Multiplayer is somewhat more interesting than other
titles thanks to the pink slip race, which allows gamers the option to wager
their cars online. This adds much more of a higher stake to losing an
online race, because it will rip your vehicle off your memory card if you do
poorly. That aside, however, there are significant issues that harm SRS.
First of all, the game feels significantly slower than just about any other
racing title. Even if you hit nitrous during a race, you'll feel like
you're possibly going around 60 or 70 miles an hour at the
most. Considering the obscene sense of speed that other games have managed
to present, SRS feels like it's mired in molasses. Speaking of speed,
there's also a serious problem with the inclusion of a warp feature
to shuttle you from race to race. What's the point of driving around an
open ended city, or even having the inclusion of having to pay fines to
police officers who chase down street racers, if you can literally jump from
place to place? This is literally one of those features that could've
been left out entirely.
While the ability to customize the cars in the game has now become a
Street Racing genre standard, the actual manipulation of each part is
handled so haphazardly that only serious gear heads will be able to fully
understand the intricacies of the dyno itself. It'd be easier if there
was a more definitive explanation for car newbies or a basic mode for those
who don't particularly care what the parts do, but want the performance
for their cars. But perhaps the most useless (and potentially insulting)
feature is the ability to challenge for, acquire and stockpile
girlfriends. Comprised of 18 of the most popular models on the
import tuner scene, SRS gives you the option to gain the companionship of
these ladies by fulfilling specific racing tasks. However, there really
isn't any particular advantage to this, save the option to see these
scantily clad ladies dance for you in cut scenes. If you've ever seen an
import tuner video, though, you've probably seen much more of the ladies
and much less in the clothing department. In short, not really enough to
sell you on this title.
When it comes down to SRS and its street cred, it tries really hard to
be underground and illegal, but what it actually does is so poorly handled
that it's really hard to recommend for anyone outside of the most
discerning gear head. A lack of tactile speed, a complicated upgrade system
and a number of useless features makes SRS much more of a rental for
hardcore driving fans only than a must have.