First off, I'd like to disagree with Mike's assertions about the original Extreme G releases. Though we can both agree that Part 2 did more harm than good to the Extreme G name, I definitely think the original was quite a big deal—and deservedly so. Its headbanging soundtrack, neo-futuristic setting, high-resolution (for its time) graphics and high-octane gameplay came together to mold a game that was well outside the norm of what people had come to expect from the N64 game publishers. The fact that it was a WipeOut clone was not viewed as a negative at all since it gave Nintendo loyalists some ammunition with which to defend their system to their PlayStation-owning friends.
For all of its technical achievement though—made all the more impressive coming from a developer with as shaky a reputation as Acclaim—inconsistent framerates, slowdown and a lack of standout gameplay took some of the steam out of the sails of Extreme G fans. As the WipeOut series flourished over the years, many remarked that had Acclaim the power at its disposal, it would be able to do the series justice and set it apart from the competition. Now the latest in the Extreme G series has been released on the powerful PlayStation2 console. And though technically sound, it still proves that WipeOut will always be the standard-bearer.
Mike and I are in agreement for the most part on Extreme G III. The graphics have been improved nicely over the Nintendo 64 versions. Draw distances have been extended, polygon counts have been increased dramatically and the framerates are consistent. We also agree on the combat-racing element of the game. As far as this genre goes, it is actually well-balanced and makes for heated exchanges between racers during the course of a race. Acclaim deserves some praise for the inventive use of turbo and shields. The turbo and shields are one and the same—use too much of one and you deplete the other. This requires strategic management of resources, especially when jockeying for position in the middle of the pack. Riding the turbo may help you get to the front of the pack, but a well-placed rocket by an opposing driver could render all of your efforts moot.
One underrated element of the game that Mike mentions is the cooperative two-player mode. It is such a rarity these days that my last memory of such a feature is Super Mario Kart on the Super NES system. A racing game such as this one was begging for one so the developer should get credit for the making the effort.
When the novelty of the new features wear off, Extreme G III shows the chinks in its armor. Although vast, the environments in the game are rather plain and in many areas, they are downright barren. Admittedly this probably responsible for the silky smooth framerates we praised it for, but more variety in the surroundings would have gone a long way toward giving this game some personality. The futuristic cities, looking like something out of the movie Blade Runner or Fifth Element are nice touches, but they are the exception. Extreme G III is also marred by the fact that Acclaim forces players to race the same tracks no less than three different times as you advance through the ranks. Again, with little to distinguish the tracks from one another, boredom can easily set in rather quickly. Without more diversity lesser arcade racers like Sony's Kinetica outshine the game.
Extreme G III does just enough to make for a fun time while playing, but there is nothing here that is even the least bit groundbreaking. As Mike said, the game is well designed, but the sense of déjà vu is overpowering. Extreme G III is the nice release for fans of the original series, but it won't make arcade racing fans pine any less for WipeOut: Fusion.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.