reviews\ Nov 5, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Jet X2O - PS2 - Review

For the past six years, watercraft racing games have slowly gained clout in the video game industry.  Much different from standard racing games, watercraft racers incorporate the laws of physics; the effects of inertia; and some of the most beautiful polygonal graphics the world has ever seen.  The stunt-heavy gameplay is another unique feature that you won't find in traditional racing games.  Furthermore, there's just something really fun about maneuvering a jet ski around enormous rocks, through tight, carefully hidden passage ways and up ramps that can launch you more than a hundred feet into the air.

With all of these appealing aspects (and the fact that this is still somewhat of a niche market), it's no surprise that Sony has finally decided to release a watercraft racing game: Jet X2O.

Developed by Killer Games, Jet X2O is essentially Splashdown meets ATV Offroad Fury.  That may sound a little odd, since both of those games are very similar, but their differences seemed to have been removed in the development of Jet X2O.  The result is a cool watercraft racing game with more splash than a giant whale.

Performing stunts is easy -- almost too easy, if you ask me.  Of course, landing them isn't easy, but once you understand how to balance your jet ski, performing a stunt combo will be a cinch.

Jet X2O uses a simple, button-holding stunt performance system where you hold down one or two buttons (any of the four shoulder buttons and the square button, which is a trick modifier) and press the left analog stick in any direction.  Most of the stunts are rather basic, but you can enhance them by combining them with a flip or a barrel roll.  Flips and barrel rolls are performed exactly the same as they are in every other watercraft racer (hold up or down, or left or right for one second and quickly press the analog stick in the opposite direction).  By flipping/rolling while performing a Double CanCan, for example, you'll be able to multiply your point total, as well as create a nice spectacle for yourself.

"Buoys are for wussies," says Kolbe Launchbaugh, producer of Jet X2O.

Jet X2O is one of the very few watercraft racing games that doesn't rely on buoys to keep gamers from veering off the path.  In fact, in Jet X2O, there is no "main path," just several one lap, fairly linear courses that allow you to travel anywhere that there is water.  Some of the courses are a bit narrow, making you feel as though you're racing down a small, pre-determined path.  There are shortcuts and multiple passages to the goal, but the game still felt cramped.  As I said, only some of the courses are narrow.  The rest are much more expansive, much better looking and a lot more fun to race.

Buoys are present in Jet X2O, but they are only used as Boost Gates.  Drive between to buoys to raise your boost gauge.  Yellow boost gates are in high abundance, providing very little boost fuel.  The harder-to-reach red gates, on the other hand, fill up four of your boost slots.  Jet X2O's boost gauge is similar to the one featured in SSX: it increases your speed, but doesn't directly enhance any tricks.  It can, however, increase the height and distance of your jumps, making it easier to perform a combination of stunts, resulting in a higher score.

The water is harsh, but not as extreme as it is in Wave Race: Blue Storm.  For the most part, the water is relatively tame, but when you jump off a ramp, perform a barrel roll and try to land, you'll see that the water isn't nearly as soft as it looks.  Landing is very difficult, whether you've performed a stunt or not, since the jet ski land in a near-perfect position.  If you land with your nose too low or two high, or if you're leaning a little too far to one side, you can the points you've just earned goodbye. 

Maneuvering your watercraft through the sometimes-treacherous water is a breeze thanks to the game's smooth controls.  There's a great deal of sensitivity inside the Dual-Shock 2's analog sticks, and Jet X2O makes good use of it.  This is especially obvious during the narrower courses, where slight movements are required to pass through the tighter areas.

The most impressive thing about Jet X2O is its graphics.  The backgrounds aren't perfect, but you won't spend much time looking at them, since your eyes will be glued to the game's eye-popping water effects.  Although pretty on its own, the water is most spectacular when it is being interacted with (i.e., by you!).  Watch your opponents for a little while and you'll notice a nice, realistic line of water created underneath their watercrafts.  It starts out big, slowly fading as the watercraft moves deeper into the lake.  This is one of Jet X2O's more subtle elements.  Unlike Splashdown's gorgeous water, which was rather solid, Jet X2O's courses are filled with clear H2O, allowing you to see all of the rocks and plants growing below.  Splashes are comprised of many polygons and cool particle effects, helping to keep the water's realism level high at all times.  Jet X2O also features amazing shadow and light effects.  They cover the water and blend together in an incredibly realistic way.  Words cannot describe it, and neither can a screenshot.  In all honesty, not a single one of Jet X2O's screenshots do its visuals justice.

Jet X2O is worth playing for many reasons.  It's easy to get into and easy to enjoy, but it is NOT easy to beat.  When compared with the original Wave Race, you may disagree with that last comment, but try beating this game on all of its difficulty levels and you'll see that this game is no piece of cake.  Fans of Splashdown, ATV Offroad Fury or Wave Race 64 will definitely want to check out Jet X2O.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8
Out of the lake and into your living room, Jet X2O comes splashing your way!  The cool (but easy) trick system, the awesome jumps, the fast watercrafts and the mountainous track designs are just some of the many reasons why you should play Jet X2O.

Graphics: 8.8 
Ever wanted to know what several thousand polygons would look like if they were meshed together into one giant pool?  Jet X2O provides the answer: an extremely attractive interactive water engine that'll really impress you.

Sound: 5.5
Aside from bad voice acting, Jet X2O's sound is made up of extremely repetitive techno music.

Difficulty: Medium
Jet X2O starts out nice and easy, but once you unlock the harder difficulty levels, you'll experience the real challenge that this game has to offer.

Concept: 6 
Jet X2O doesn't do anything that hasn't been done before in some shape or form.  However, what it does do -- old or not -- it does well.

Multiplayer: 7
The multiplayer mode is decent, but I'm disappointed by the lack of a four-player mode.  I'm almost certain that PlayStation 2 can handle a four-player watercraft racer, but we'll never know for sure unless someone proves it.

Overall: 8
Looking for a solid watercraft racing game?  Then playing Killer Games’ Jet X2O should be on your “to do” list.  The graphics alone make it worth renting, and the gameplay makes it worth coming back for more.


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