A little a month after Electronic Arts released Need For Speed Underground
back in 2003, Crave Entertainment quietly released Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3, a
budget title that feels pretty damn similar to EA's title. Which is good, because
for those people (like me) who didn't want to shell out $50 for EA's game could
pick up a game for $30 less, and feel just as competent. While NFSU probably has
a better edge over TXR3 in terms of production value and race variety, TXR3 does hold
it's own in the street racing market. I think any gamer that is a fan of racing
games, especially street racing should really give this game a look. I'll tell you
why right now.
If you're familiar with the TXR series, then you probably already know that this
game is one part street racer, one part arcade racer, and even one part fighting
game. In TXR, you cruise the highways of Tokyo and vicinity (which seem to be
pretty accurate) looking for other people to race against. If you desire to race
against someone, you get behind them and flash your headlights. Then, you prepare to
race. Winning a race is really not about who crosses a finish line first. Why?
Because there isn't one. Instead, you and your opponent will have a stamina bar,
like a fighting game. The object is to deplete the opponents stamina bar by pulling
further ahead of him, or maybe even have him hit a wall. But be careful, if you
fall behind or hit objects, your stamina bar depletes too. If you win, you'll earn credits,
to which you can buy a car or upgrades.
TXR3 is no different in terms of gameplay. But there is something different
about the cars. If you remember past TXR games, you'll probably remember that
there were no licensed cars, just knock-offs with generic names. Not anymore!
TXR3 finally includes actual licensed cars from a variety of manufacurers such as
Toyota, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Nissan, Chevrolet and more. It's nice to see that the
developers went the extra step to include licensed cars, even if it were a budget title.
And it does make the game better, since having real-world cars does make the game
seem a tad bit more realisitic. But I do have a big gripe with the licensing.
For some reason, TXR3 is missing one major player in the Japansese auto world: Honda.
There are no Honda or Acura cars in the game. It doesn't ruin the gameplay, but
it definitley shows that there's something missing in the car selection. Still,
it's nice that they even BOTHERED to include licensed cars, unlike Midnight Club II.
If you were to compare NFSU and TXR3 when it comes to car customization, TXR3 would
pretty much win hands down. While NFSU puts more emphasis on your car's looks (hell,
you're even scored on it), TXR3 actually lets you tune your car, with almost as
much options as Gran Turismo 3. For those who didn't like the lack of true mechanical
tinkering in NFSU, you may want to cross over into TXR3. And although the choices aren't
as big, you can modify the look of your car with side-skirts, spoilers, etc. in TXR3,
much like you can do in NFSU. But if you're expecting to find licensed parts, or
a large array of vinyls, you won't find that here. There is a paint shop, but it's\
a bit tricky to use.
Now when it comes to gameplay, who comes out on top, NFSU or TXR3? It's almost a draw,
depending on where you fall. NFSU clearly does have more racing modes than TXR3. TXR3
really only sticks to one thing, and that's hunting down opponents. But to me, that's
actually kind of fun. I enjoyed crusing the streets, looking for somebody to race against,
and I liked the more heated action of the racing here than NFSU. But as you might have
read in my review for NFSU,
I liked that game as well. Neither game has a broken racing model, they're just different
from each other. I do have to say when it comes to the CPU controlled street traffic, and
the variety of it, NFSU does win on that one. In TXR3, you have to deal with these stupid yellow vans
that serve nothing more as obstacles. Also, it's the only traffic on the road besides
you and your opponents.
When it comes to visuals, TXR3 suprised me. For a budget title (although it probably
wasn't budget in it's own country), this game looks awfully sharp. The textures are
pretty clean and not terribly blurry, the lighting is pretty good, the framerate is almost
always smooth (it only stutters during race introductions) and runs at 60 FPS (which
was something NFSU couldn't do), the scale of the city is great and there are some nice special
effects, such as the wet road effect we keep seeing in racing games these days. There
is quite a bit of pop-up, and it's more apparent in rainy conditions. It may bug some
people, but I can understand that this would have to be done with a city this size.
Last, I want to talk about the car models. For the most part, they are good, many
are just as good as other racing games of above averga e quality. But when it
comes to the more angular cars of the 80's (like the Lancer), they don't look so hot.
It seems like they were built off of much less polygons than the more modern cars are.
While there's only 4 or 5 cars that look like this, it is a bit disappointing to see
that they didn't get the same attention the more modern makes got. Overall, the game
has a solid, but somewhat repetitive visual package.
The sound is not so fortunate in this game. The engine noises are avergae at
best, with no total disitinction from one car or the other. The music, however, is
not good. You tend to hear the same 1 and a half minute music clip over and over,
nd this can become irritating when you spend 15 minutes or so crusing the highways looking
for an opponent. On top of that, there's no licnesed music. I think after an hour,
many of you would just turn the music off. It's cheesy and repetitive.
Many publications of the mainstream gaming press have given TXR3 average marks,
while NFSU scores higher. I think many of those people might have been blined
by the oozing presentation of NFSU to even acknowledge what this game does differently.
While it's a shade or two less competent than NFSU (the racing modes in that game
are more varied), TXR3 is still a game worth playing. The racing style is much different
and much more heated than other street racers. It's also fun to just cruise the highway
and look for someone to race against. Plus, now that TXR3 includes licensed cars, and
much more of them, it does show signs it does want to play with the major competition.
For $20, it's a game worth looking into. It may be a budget title, but it doesn't
play like one.