It takes an awful lot to make me exceptionally negative towards a game. No matter how janky or awkward a game, its still someone’s work and someone may still find enjoyment in it. Street Racer Underground is a shoddily put together title wrapped in a carefully worded PR splurge that manage to avoid telling you what the game is actually about.
On the ZX Spectrum, I have a game called Enduro. It is about driving down a bendy motorway overtaking thousands of other cars in an endurance race. This game was released in the mid 1980’s and whilst its small in scope (as games were then), it got everything right. Street Racer Underground essentially remakes this game, pretending its a Need for Speed clone. Yet it gets everything wrong and becomes an infuriatingly bad experience.
You will constantly travel forward down a straight city street. The road has five lanes and you can move between them to avoid the traffic. If you leave it until the last moment, you’ll gain a boost to your boost meter which you can then fire off with a press of a button once its full. That’s it. The game is split into endless mode to get as far a possible against a timer that ticks down. Crossing a checkpoint adds 10 seconds to the clock. The points you get convert into cash that lets you buy colours for your car or buy a new one. Each car has some upgrades to make them faster, more responsive and boost harder and quicker. Limited? Yes. That isn’t the issue though.
The controls have lag built into them. You press left or right and it either doesn’t register at all, registers late, or because you’ve pressed it for more than a quick press, it will move multiple lanes like a drunk tail wag. You never quite feel in control, it’s just a hapless hope and fingers crossed each time you play. The cars are heavy and slow to move too which makes the whole boost mechanic inherently frustrating. The game is also wildly inconsistent in giving you boost or not. When you hit traffic, you’ll grind to a halt but the game then gives you boost for doing badly. Pardon? Worst still the traffic patterns often mean you have no choice after the first 90 seconds of play, to just smash into someone. It feels cheap and I felt cheated.
Worse still is the bizarre bug of the camera. For a game that doesn’t move, when you hit someone, the camera shifts in that direction a little. If you hit two cars on the same side of the road together, your camera will be off to that side so far you’ll have one more hit and the game starts to obscure the view of the other side of the road. There is no way that this can be called a feature – its a bug – and a game ending one at that. The cops are meant to be chasing you during this game too but it is nigh on impossible to trigger them. The only time I could is if I automatically bumped into the rear of a car infront of me continuously for about 15 seconds. So unless you’ve fallen asleep due to the unengaging gameplay, you’ll never trigger it. All it does is shine a red and blue light and say your busted. No – my wallet would be if I had bought it instead of requesting a review copy instead.
Put frankly – this is the worst ‘car game’ of this generation. Even the PR, if you read between the lines, says its not a racer or a driving game. Its a disastrous attempt to make a traffic weaver game that fails on every single level. Avoid at all costs.
Street Racer Underground
Broken, buggy and barebones. There is no redeeming qualities here at all.
It has a steady frame rate.
Controls are unfit for the gameplay its trying to give.
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