reviews\ Feb 8, 2003 at 7:00 pm

HyperSonic Xtreme (HSX) - PS2 - Review

As a somewhat casual fan of racing titles, like most die-hard racing fans I’m intrigued by games that feature futuristic racing vehicles.  After all, who doesn’t want to pilot a hovering jet-racer in an extreme anti-gravity race?  In HyperSonic Xtreme, Majesco’s fast paced racing title; you get the opportunity to compete in the fastest race known to man.  The question, though, is this: Is HSX innovative enough to compete with many of the extreme racing games out there? 


At first glance the game appears to be a simple racing game set in the future and features a large collection of pretty cool jet racers complete with jet engines that fire up beautifully before each race.  But with further inspection gamers will see that there really isn’t much to this game than what you see before you.  The game offers two ways of playing the game: Race and Create Track.  Race includes two race types such as Cup (racing against a group of racers in the Arcade and Slalom tracks) and Time Trail (racing solo while trying the beat the clock).


The controls are simplistic in nature, a good thing really if you are new to the racing genre.  All the basic elements of a racer are here and the control scheme shows it be keeping things simple enough.  You accelerate, break, steer and use a boost that gives your racer an extra push.  Depending on the track you race, you will find certain elements that get in your way or aid you.  At the top speed gamers will find out that it is difficult to make sharp turns and will slam against guard rails that do damage (you have to watch your damage meter or you explode).  There are puddles the sprinkle up against the screen or ice that makes things a bit slippery, but there are also health items as well as extra boost items to help you out.


During the Cup races, selecting either the Arcade or Slalom races offer different racing series with their own tracks.  In Arcade you have the Cook, DeGama and Drake series while in Slalom there is the Columbus and Marco Polo series.  The tracks in these series take place in places like the Coast Mountains or Kintla Peak, which have their own weather patterns.  To win the particular series you must be able to attain a position of third place or higher.  The problem with this part of the game is that the races soon become a repetitive process of race the same racers over and over again until you finish a series and start anew.  There is nothing new that is thrown into the game to diversify the action.


The Create Track mode does make its presence known throughout the game from the very beginning.  The tutorial is good at giving you a quick run-through of all the track editor’s functions and from there you will find that creating your own elaborately twisted track is simple enough.  With so many things to add to your creation, gamers can get as creative as they want.  The fun part is that you can race it against AI racers or a friend.


Visually, HSX is not very impressive to look at as well.  This is highly unfortunate since the racing vehicles themselves are the games main attraction as well as the futuristic backgrounds.  Gamers will find that the vehicles look good while they’re racing across the tracks, the engines flashing with the flames of the jet-propelled engines, but when the action slows down the graphics start to show its true face.  The same can be said about the backgrounds.  They look good from afar, but when the action slow, gamers will be sorely disappointed with the lack of details and plain looking textures.


Sound-wise the game doesn’t make much of an impression.  The soundtrack is filled with thumping electronic beats that, oddly enough, do fit the game rather nicely but it would have been nice to hear a better variety of tunes to the meager play list.  The sound effects in HSX are another disappointment altogether.  Instead of showcasing loud sounds and roaring engines, the effects are somehow barely audible . . . even the explosive crashes!   


While certainly fast and furious, HyperSonic Xtreme lacks both innovation and fun that other games in this class has shown before it.  Unfortunately there is nothing here that shows any true potential, although the create your own track option was definitely a step in the right direction.  For those true racing fans searching for a futuristic racing title, there are always plenty of the older games, but at its bargain price, HSX can provide enough fun for a short while.  



#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 5.1
The simple and smooth controls handle quite nicely and this is a good thing considering the top speeds of your racer.  Without adding extra features to the mix, there is more emphasis on steering than attempting to foil your opponents with power-up items or weapons.  This is the perfect racer for those who are pretty new to the genre.  However the modes are sparse and without any original twists that sets each race apart.  Unlike the Star Wars Pod Racing games that add a sense of you’re-in-the-environment, HSX just doesn’t pull gamers into its world.


Graphics: 5.0
Not the very best looking racing game available, HSX’s graphics look decent during the races but PSOne-like when you actually slow down.  The textures are not what gamers might expect from the PS2 since you’ll find many areas in the game that look pretty bland.  When raindrops splatter the screen, the droplets themselves are oddly shaped enough that it will have gamers shaking their heads.  The special effects are not as prominent as they should be either. 


Sound: 4.5
The sound is barely noticeable with its standard electronica tunes that become repetitive throughout the races.  With no label artists, the music, unfortunately, feels canned.  The same can be said about the sound effects that don’t make enough of an impact, as it should.  The engines should have roared and the explosions should have been fiercer than a quiet whimper.


Difficulty: Medium
The game’s three difficulty levels provide a real worthwhile challenge and the opponent AI does put up quite a fight during the races.  Each track has it’s own perils such as steep jumps that can easily be missed and plenty of hazards such as puddles and ice on the tracks.  The game is also very unyielding in its mess-up-once-and-you-lose-the-race policy. 


Concept: 5.0
There is nothing unique that sets HSX apart from the other racing titles, in fact, much of what is seen here has been seen and done before in past racing games with the same futuristic twist (e.g. the Star Wars pod racing games).  Just about the only thing that makes this a somewhat interesting title is the Create Track mode that allows you go get as creative as you want . . . and it’s easy to use as well.


Multiplayer: 5.2
A multiplayer option was thankfully added to both the Race mode and the Create Track mode that’s good for up to two players.  There is also a sufficient amount of racing vehicles to choose from and race in these modes, but just like the single player mode, the action becomes just as tiresome.


Overall: 5.5
As far as racing titles go, HyperSonic Xtreme is not able to maintain the excitement of its futuristic racing theme.  The Create Track editor allows you to design your own unique tracks, making this the game’s best feature.  Unfortunately the rest of the game will disappoint even the most die-hard racing fans out there.


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