These days, when people talk about racing games, you
immediately begin to have visions of the latest, sleekest, most
hardware demanding and realistic driving experiences out
there. Considering the measuring stick set down by games like
Need for Speed 3 and Motorhead, that's no surprise, but what
might be a little shocking is that back in the day the racing
genre encompassed a number of different style games, not just
the 3D simulation variety. As a matter of fact, in my early years
as a gamer, the racing titles which brought me the most
pleasure weren't the hottest graphical wonders or the exotic
offerings which let me race sports cars I could only dream of
owning, but rather the simple overhead view, kill-or-be-killed
style games such as RC Pro AM, Rock and Roll Racing, etc.
As of late, however, this style of game has gone out of
fashion, and it's easy to see why. Low-budget titles such as
Death Rally from 3D Realms, Speed Demons from Eidos, and
Nitro Racers from 3DO have done little to enhance the standing
of the genre in gamers' eyes, and as a result we've seen fewer
and fewer games of this sort coming out. Thus I was absolutely
shocked to see Excessive Speed come out of virtually nowhere
to buck the trends.
Now granted I shouldn't be surprised, considering the
success of Micro Machines 3 which was released earlier this
year, but that of course was a total change from any of the
previous titles in the series, raising the benchmark for this style
of game and setting the stage for a new era of 3DFX reliant
overhead racers. Excessive Speed has chosen to pretend as if
MM3 was never released, opting for a more traditional 2D style
of play, and the scary thing is that it actually works better than
3D visuals. I don't know if it's the fast-paced and exciting
gameplay, the sharp colors and vivid visuals, the killer variety
of powerups and weapons, or a combination of all these
factors, but I've become addicted to Excessive Speed, and I
think you will too.
The game is presented from a top-down "isometric" point of
view, and is similar in design to the Micro Machines series,
though the cars appear more toy-like and the tracks appear to
be more inspired by flights of imagination. Everything is highly
detailed and lovely, even in the lower resolutions, and the
tracks themselves are quite a spectacle to behold. From misty
mountain tops to haunted towns and a mystical fairyland, the
graphical quality of this title shines above any top-down racer
I've seen. Even more wonderful is the little additions to
atmosphere which show up on every track, ranging from
choppers and dragons which roar by overhead, to the dolphins
which playfully swim along with you on the underwater stages.
The weapon special effects are nothing fancy, but they do the
trick in a convincing manner, and you'll be quite satisfied when
a homing missile or other goodie leaves your opponent a heap
of smoking parts.
While the sound effects are nothing remarkable, the music is
quite wonderful and atmospheric. All the expected sounds will
be found in the game, including screeching tires, pounding
explosions, and the crackle of flames. Overall I was quite
pleased with the presentation of the game, as combined with
the visuals, the audio was quite effective in setting the mood
for the game.
Ah yes, the most important factor, and the area where
Excessive Speed truly shines. Gameplay is fast and furious, as
it should be in this sort of title, and never lets up for even one
second. Your number one goal is to be first to the finish line,
and if that means putting a few of the powerups you pick up
along the way to the test on your unsuspecting competition, so
be it. Just to give you a small sample of the sort of items you
can expect to acquire, there are homing missiles, rockets,
mines, tornados, turbos, shields, freeze guns, energy boosters,
jumping ability powerups, and more. The variety is absolutely
splendid and makes for a different play experience every time
you play a track alone or with friends.
Players can select from seven cars (each with different
attributes) when starting the race, and as can be expected a
number of play modes are available for your enjoyment. Track
Fighter mode allows you to compete for the right to open up
secret cars and gives you the ability to unlock extra tracks,
while Time Trial mode pits you against the clock in a mad dash
for the finish line. Players can amass wealth and fame in
Grand Prix mode, as they race through a complete circuit of 28
tracks (technically there are only 14 tracks, but they can all be
played in reverse). A truly unique race mode offered is the
"Dynamite Trial," in which your car is loaded with dynamite
and even the slightest scratch will ignite the explosives, in
which case it's game over. Obviously DT's for experts only!
Though I was a bit disappointed it had no modem, LAN, or
Internet play, several people can go head to head on the same
computer, and a friend and I had loads of fun doing this.
Hopefully an update will add these features, because I
definitely want the chance to waste some friends
I have to admit, after one hour of playing, I was ready to throw
this game out the window. It seemed way too hard, but
surprisingly enough I began to get the hang of it, and from
there everything was clear sailing. On top of that, I was
displeased to see that only 2 cars and tracks were available,
but little did I know that opening up new parts of the game was
going to keep me fanatically occupied for the next 3 hours or
so. My only other gripe was that I saw no ghost mode racing
available, but at the last minute I noticed that after you've won
time trial and dynamite races for certain tracks, a ghost mode
does indeed become available.
Honestly there's quite a bit the game does right, and that's why
I've been so hooked. Despite initial difficulties with the
challenge presented by the game, after spending a little time
with it I noticed that the AI actually seems to adjust itself to the
player's skill level, so I was able to stay near the head of the
pack with just a little bit of practice. As if that wasn't cool
enough, the tracks are also really well designed, including
shortcuts and hidden paths, and I can't say that I've seen many
overhead racers like this that don't keep you confined to a
linear path, so kudos to Iridon for spicing things up a bit.
Besides, what's not to like about a game where you only need
to use two buttons (I'll conveniently forget Sensible Soccer '98
at this point)?
There are no external computer connection options, but plenty
of modes exist for multiple players on the same PC. If you
enjoy the game in single player mode, then you're going to
love playing it with friends!
So it's not the most original game out there, who cares?
Excessive Speed gets it right in just about every department,
and roars right past the competition. It's about time someone
came up with a match for Micro Machines. Enough writing for
now...I'm going back to playing the game!