reviews\ Nov 22, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Shox - PS2 - Review

EA Sports has released a lot of "BIG" games.  Starting with classics like SSX and NBA Street, EA Sports BIG was created to promote a different kind of game.  Every BIG game had to be action-oriented, sacrificing realism for the sake of entertainment; they had to have great graphics; and, at the very least, be a little outrageous.  Shox meets the criteria without failure, though it isn't quite as polished as some of EA's other BIG releases.

Shox is a bit disappointing at first.  For one thing, it seems to be a very basic, (2) the controls are slightly sluggish and (3) there doesn't appear to be anything that makes it stand out from the crowd.  I don't complain too much about the fact that 70% of the racing games out there play the same, especially if they're really, really good.  At this point it may be hard to tell whether or not Shox is worth sticking out.  It manages to save itself from defenestration by intriguing the gamer enough to keep playing until it gets good, which, thankfully, does not take too long to happen.

The first thing you'll see when you load up a single-player game is the Championship mode, which features four circuits, 24 cars (most of which are unattainable at this time) and an option to buy/gamble a new car.  The buy/gamble option is pretty much off limits right now though, since you'll only be able to pick up a weak compact car that's required to get you through the game's first six races.  Within a few minutes of play, it becomes quite clear that this game is all about one thing: money.  With it, you'll have the power to buy or gamble for several hot new rides, all of which have increasing statistics of speed, steering and stability.  Without money, you'll be left in the dust by the rich, fairly skilled competition.  Even if you're faster, they always seem to have an easier time maneuvering in and out of those sharp corners, and one mistake could cost you the entire race.  As with Polyphony Digital's masterpiece, Gran Turismo, money is awarded to you whether you win the race or not, encouraging the player to continue racing the same course over and over again.  The better the position, the more cash you'll earn.  Unlike Gran Turismo, Shox's vehicles receive costly body damage.  Any damage incurred during a race will result in a loss of earnings at the end.  If you crash too many times and fail to cross the finish lien first, you could walk away with only a few thousand dollars.  Sports cars, which are needed for the following circuit, retail for an astounding $100,000+, making it extremely important to win every race and crash as little as possible.

The one (and only) thing that sets Shox apart from other racing games is the Shoxwave.  Three Shox Zones are located in every course.  When you pass through one of the zones, a Shox Bar will begin counting down the amount of time you have to hit the next gate.  It doesn't really matter if you screw up because this does not affect your ability to win the race.  But if you succeed, and reach the next gate when the bar is still "gold," then you'll get a gold Shox power-up.  If you're too slow, silver will be awarded and if you're really slow, you'll have to settle for bronze.  This increases the amount of cash that you earn, so the Shoxwave is an important part of your future success in this game.  The only way to receive a Shoxwave is by getting three gold power-ups in a row.  Then the game will automatically activate the Shoxwave -- a stunning, black hole-like invisible wall that tears through the track ahead.  Earn even more money by driving inside of the Shoxwave, and watch as the game shows off its most astonishing graphic technique.

No matter what you think of Shox, there's no denying how pretty it is.  Shox offers some of the best in polygon graphics, including: top-notch real-time reflections, nice looking backgrounds and eye-catching sunlight effects.  Every vehicle can be harmed, however, not nearly as much body damage is visible as in NASCAR Thunder.  The vehicle models themselves aren't quite as impressive as NASCAR Thunder's either, but they still look great.  At the end of each race, Shox switches to a higher-resolution, greater-detailed mode that amplifies the game's visual spectacle.

What impressed me the most about the graphics is the Shoxwave effect.  The manual describes it as a "fast-moving wall of air," but that doesn't really convey the polygon-pumping action you'll see when the Shoxwave appears.  A better description would be to call it a black hole that warps the world in front of you.  As it races down the track, everything that gets in its way is bent and stretched in the weirdest, but coolest way possible.  If you're obsessed with new graphic techniques (or you're just curious to see what else the PlayStation 2 can do), then Shox should definitely be on your "to rent" list.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7.6
Shox won't "shock" you with innovation, but it will surely consume a great deal of your time.  This is a really good time-killer, no doubt.

Graphics: 8.5 
Thousands of polygons, an endless amount of textures and loads of real-time lighting, shadow and reflection tricks add up to one very attractive game.

Sound: 5
Shox includes a small selection of repetitive techno music, generic sound effects and annoying voice-overs.  "BIG" mistake.

Difficulty: Medium
Once you've overcome the super-brief learning curve, Shox isn't too difficult to beat.

Concept: 5 
Aside from the Shoxwave, this game doesn't bring anything new to the table.

Multiplayer: 7
Finally, a reason to dust off that old multi-tap and invite more than one friend over to play a racing game.

Overall: 7.6
Shox is a good racing game that'll give you a good amount of enjoyment.  It's a bit rough around the edges, and the controls are too sluggish for today's high standards, but overall it's an entertaining game.


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