reviews\ Feb 17, 2002 at 7:00 pm

WRECKLESS: The Yakuza Missions - XB - Review

The Fast and the Furious was, without a doubt, one of the best movies of 2001. The Fast and the Furious' high-speed street racing was unprecedented. Sure, there were similar movies out there, but none of them were as fast or as exciting as TF&F. Similarly, there are several street racing video games out there, such as Midnight Club and Metropolis Street Racer. Those games were good, but they can't even begin to compare with Bunkasha's awesome new driving game, Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions. Wreckless is, in many ways, The Fast and the Furious on Xbox. The game isn't all about racing. In fact, most of the races require a little more precision than speed. But the action is non-stop. Every vehicle, even the slower ones you start out with, exceeds the speed limit of every other driving game. Games like Wipeout are faster in technical terms, but in actuality, Wreckless' vehicles are moving much, much faster. When the speedometer reads 140mph, you feel it, especially in the first-person view.

In Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions, you play as either an elite squad member or a government spy on a mission to take out Hong Kong's most dangerous criminal organization: the Yakuza. The Yakuza will stop at nothing to do their evil deeds and wreak havoc on the city. Hong Kong's police department can't keep up with the situation. That's where elite squad members Mei and Madoka come in. These two crime-fighting chicks are called to duty when a few Yakuza members attempt to rob an armored car. Your job is to make sure that doesn't happen. But Mei and Madoka can't do it alone. They'll need the help of Ho and Chang, two government spies, if they want to take out the Yakuza for good. Both Mei and Madoka, and Ho and Chang have their own set of unique missions (20 in all). The objectives vary from mission to mission. In Mei and Madoka's first mission, for example, you have to destroy three black Yakuza cars before the time runs out. To accomplish this, simply ram into them as hard as you can! When a car is damaged beyond its limit, it'll explode. In Ho and Chang's fourth mission, you're required to maneuver your vehicle around several narrow docks, avoid falling in the water and most importantly, take seven pictures of Tiger Takagi (the Yakuza's head honcho) before the time runs out.

The controls are nearly perfect. I have never played a driving game with such precise controls before. The left analog stick is extremely responsive. I never felt like I was turning too slowly or too sharply. What impressed me the most though was how the game handled on the open road. I was able to maneuver in and out of oncoming traffic, assuming my reflexes were quick enough. That sort of thing is to be expected of any driving game released these days. The realistic sense of speed really enhanced the experience. When you're flying down the highway at 130mph, you can't help but wonder what's going to happen next. You no longer have complete control of the game. The fate of the mission lies in the hands of...your hands. Will they make a mistake? Will they be able to react quickly enough to avoid an oncoming bus? More importantly, will they be able to catch the enemy? No one knows for sure -- not even you. The unpredictability of it all is one of the things that makes Wreckless so exciting. There is not one moment of boredom in this game. The Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Die Hard Trilogy and several other games have tried to create the perfect high-speed chase, however, none of them were able to capture the essence of The World's Scariest Police Chases as well as Wreckless.

Wreckless features a dynamic camera system that's sure to make the competition cry. It's the most amazing camera system that I have ever seen. Imagine yourself as a police officer participating in a high-speed chase. However, you're not the one driving -- you're the guy holding the camera. Your job is to get the best shot of the action. In Wreckless, you play both roles. Your mission is to take out the mafia, but that doesn't mean you can't stare at the sky while you slam into one of the Yakuza's loyal servants. Wreckless gives you the ability to swing the camera around and watch the action from virtually any view (except from behind). Most games try to improve on the industry's camera problems by removing the camera altogether. Wreckless, on the other hand, removed all camera problems by giving us a brand-new manual camera system.

When it comes to Wreckless' visuals, prepare to be blown away like the way you have never been blown away before. My jaw has not hung open for this long since the first time I played Gran Turismo 3. This is the very first time that I actually felt like I was controlling a computer-generated movie. There are games out there that, in some ways, look slightly more realistic than Wreckless, but CG images have a certain appearance that hasn't been recreated in a video game until now.

Wreckless has some of the most realistic car models that I have ever seen. Everything about them is incredible. The texturing is just right, giving the vehicle's paint job a nice finish. Their shadows are extremely solid, following your car up and down the busy streets of Hong Kong. All of the vehicles in Wreckless feature real-time shadows, whether you're the one driving it or not. As you crash into the vehicles, their parts go flying, sparks fill the screen, and their metal is crunched like a beer can. The detail in Wreckless is unprecedented.

The lighting effects were so good that I was unable to speak when I first saw them in action. Every light on every vehicle streaks in the opposite direction that the camera is pointed. The sun is spectacular. As you move the camera around, the picture is blurred. Words cannot describe it. Beyond that, there is an effect that is so amazing that it makes all of the other effects seem weak. When you're watching a replay of a daytime mission, look up to the left or right (whichever side is opposite the sun) and continue holding that position until the sun hits one of the buildings. This effect is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in a video game. The sun grips the building like a gamer grips a video game controller. It moves extremely realistically, changing its position as your car passes each building. The sun is reflected by every window on every building, enhancing this mind-blowing effect even more. Wreckless' visuals go above and beyond every game in its class, including Grand Theft Auto 3.

I am in utter disbelief. Bunkasha has done things on the Xbox that I didn't know were possible. Who says that we must wait a year for developers to begin taking full advantage of the Xbox's graphical capabilities? Bunkasha has already done it -- a mere four months after the system's release.

Wreckless is so goad that you may never want to take it out of your Xbox. Microsoft should purchase Bunkasha immediately to ensure that every game they make is developed exclusively for the Xbox. I honestly can't imagine playing Wreckless on any other console. Like Sony and Square, Microsoft and Bunkasha are a perfect fit. Don't even think about renting it -- Wreckless is a game that you must permanently own.

#Reviewer's Scoring Details

 Gameplay: 9.5
The only thing missing from Wreckless is boredom, something that every gamer can do without. Wreckless is a constant rush. One minute you're taking pictures of the Yakuza, the next, you're taking out the Yakuza!

Graphics: 9.6 
Can graphics get any better than this? Yes, they can, but they can't get any better on GameCube or PlayStation 2. It's almost scary to think that this is not everything the Xbox has to offer. Wreckless does not use every ounce of the system's power. Wave Race: Blue Storm, NASCAR Thunder 2002 and Grand Theft Auto 3 must bow down before Wreckless' greatness.

Sound: 5
The gameplay is unique and the visuals are stunning, but Wreckless' music is pretty average. The soundtrack consists of several repetitive, similar-sounding techno songs that fail to entertain the listener. You can't play the music stored on your harddrive either.

Difficulty: 8.5
Wreckless is a very challenging game. Although short in terms of how much there is to do, the game is considerably long when you consider how much time it will take to beat each mission. It took me over two hours just to finish B-4!

Concept: 9 
Driving games have had more innovation in the past few years than the genre it was spun off of: racing. Wreckless is more proof that there are endless possibilities for new video game concepts. Great job, Bunkasha.

Multiplayer: N/A

Overall: 9.5
If you only have enough cash to buy one Xbox game right now, then you shou-- no, you MUST get Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions. It's worth the price of admission just for the eye candy, but it's the near-perfect gameplay that makes Wreckless a must-have game. I can't wait for the sequel!


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