Racing For Pinks
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After 3DO's bankruptcy and the eventual fire sale of all their franchises, it seems as though Street Racing Syndicate is the only franchise that has survived.
Sure, there was a post-3DO Army Men game released by budgetware publisher Global Star, but no one ever takes that series seriously. The High Heat baseball franchise, which looked promising after being picked up by Microsoft, died a quiet death when the Redmond studios closed down their sports division.
As for Jacked and Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (both which were announced at E3 2003), nothing has been heard from them since.
Street Racing Syndicate started off looking promising, being able to tweak your ride and test it out on the open streets, and even putting the pink slip on the line. There was even the strange idea of getting street racing babes as prizes and even betting them on races. The whole idea sounded promising but sadly fell a bit short of expectations.
SRS takes the concepts of all the street racing franchises and combines them into one title.
Races take place over the course of three cities: Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia. However, for the main game mode (Street Mode), most of the action takes place in LA with only select races taking place in Philadelphia and Miami.
The entire landscape of LA can be driven to locate race challenges. Stray cars that can be raced only need a flash of the headlights to initiate (similar to Tokyo Xtreme Racing), and in addition tournament racing can be located.
These tournament races consist of up to three races, and an entry fee is required as an ante. Side bets can also be made against other racers before each leg.
Races are either done in laps or point-to-point, but the checkpoint style racing found in Midnight Club is unavailable during tournaments. Not only is money on the line, but respect is counted as well. While a win can earn as much as 750 respect points, up to an additional 250 points can be added by good performance (a la Project Gotham). These Respect points will also lead to more challenging races and unlock new vehicles.
Another challenge available in this mode is the Respect Challenge, which is basically an attempt to win videos of hot street racing models for doing certain tasks. These tasks include driving a lap in time, collecting checkpoints in time, following a racer closely, or earning enough Respect points. Not only will you be rewarded with video clips, but a girlfriend will ride alongside with you and be the flag girl for each starting race.
Sadly, the racing is a little below par with other titles. I wish there was more variety in races than just laps and point to point. There are some drag races available, but they are not as unique as they were in NFS Underground.
The addition of pink slip races are a great idea for those who are online but it would have been nice to play offline as well for those who don't have Internet access.
Visually the game is impressive. Cars are highly detailed, and the street courses are vivid and shiny. Video walls animate at a brisk pace. However, there are times on the PS2 version that slowdown kicks in.
As for the audio, the cars sound realistic, but I wasn't a fan of the soundtrack. I ended up replacing it with more appropriate racing music (I favored the use of the Initial D import soundtrack), which can be used as a custom soundtrack on Xbox.
Street Racing Syndicate is a good racing title, just not a great one, and somewhat of a disappointment. The atmosphere of street racing is there (the girls, the rides, and the gambling), but it still feels a bit bland.
Hopefully if SRS 2 comes out there will be additions that will make the game more exciting, such as a variety of race styles. As of right now, it's good, just not great.
Todd Hargosh is GiN's Product Testing Manager. He enjoys any game that gets his adrenaline pumping. Todd can be contacted at : email@example.com.