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Game Over Online ~ Excessive Speed

GameOver Game Reviews - Excessive Speed (c) Iridon Interactive, Reviewed by - FKrueger

Game & Publisher Excessive Speed (c) Iridon Interactive
System Requirements P166, 32MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 90%
Date Published Saturday, December 12th, 1998 at 10:29 AM

Divider Left By: FKrueger Divider Right

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 long-distance!

Fun Factor:
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!

Overall Impressions:
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!


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