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A.P.I Review: ROLLCAGE
Developer: Attention To Detail OPTIONS: S.SHOT
SCREENSHOTS:
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Psygnosis 1-2 Player
Game Type: Arcade Racing Memory Card
Review Date: March 1999 Dual Shock/Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

First there was the Playstation. Then there was Psygnosis, a games division of Sony who provided us with a glimpse into the future with a wide range of stunning titles in the form of Wipeout, Destruction Derby, Formula 1, Colony Wars, G-Police... For almost two years the team couldn't put a foot wrong as quality title followed quality title earning them the justifiable reputation that if it was stamped by Psygnosis... it had to be good.

Sadly many of their recent ventures have been viewed as... shall we be polite and say 'a bit lame'. Pybadek... O.D.T.... This downward spiral seemed to hit rock bottom when Visual Sciences completely wrecked the reputation of Formula 1 PSX games with their trashing of the '98 version.

Thankfully it seems that what goes up, must come down, can actually go back up again as Psygnosis return to basics and with their pulsating new arcade racer. Fast and furious, armed and dangerous, Rollcage is no ordinary racing game. This is road warfare, with racers battling it out using an array of hi-tech weapons and devious driving techniques.

A new kind of racing demands a new breed of vehicle, and Rollcage obliges with a collection of high-tech, low slung mean machines, each capable of achieving incredible speeds and pulling off the most outlandish maneuvers. High G-forces enable these supercars to stick to surfaces like glue, enabling them to drive along tunnel walls and even ceilings.

Then there's their indestructible design, making death-defying flips, drops and crashes a breeze. Such extreme handling means there's no need to stick to the confines of a track or pay heed to designated route. This is three hundred and sixty degree, no rules racing!

Genre

A new breed of high-octane racing, that could prove to be the fastest, most explosive and outrageous game on wheels. Drive hard and play dirty in Rollcage from Psygnosis, the speed racer that could possibly leave other console driving games behind.

Graphics

Following the quality FMV intro and a browse through the options, the player is thrust right into the heart of the action as the six participating cars rev engines as they line up at their starting grid position, calmly awaiting the 3-2-1 countdown.

First impressions were good. Each race seemed to take place just as darkness was about to fall but thankfully the road surface could be clearly defined from the detailed, smooth polygon scenery. While you concentrate on learning the circuits and getting to grips with the vehicles you aren't going to see a great deal of the spectacular background detail so I had best take the time to describe a few of the scenic treasures.

The vast majority of the tracks have been carved through the centre of a huge mountain, sometimes to the depths where red hot molten lava slides right down the centre of the road, other times to the heights where snow has fallen. Occasionally when leaving a long winding tunnel the road splits into two directions. For example on the dock area you may risk weaving between crane stanchions and stray cargo boxes on the wide high road, or chance cutting down to the harbor where the route narrows drastically. On another occasion you may stick to the rollercoaster ride on the mountainous road, or head down to the beach for a spot of dune racing.

At this point I decided to forget about the race and take time out to examine the scenery. Usually the sea shores on arcade racers are motionless splodges of light blue coloring that disappear off into the distance horizon. Not here. Looking out over the ocean you can actually watch the giant waves rise up in the air and then crash down once more. Meanwhile the tide crawls back and forth up the beach taking the stray sand along for the ride. Up above the plain blue sky is broken with stratus clouds stained orange by the setting sun. It's all very picturesque.

The vehicles reminded me of remote controlled cars... those with the big chunky wheels that just keep on going when they spin over. A blue and red glow blasts from the rear engine of each vehicle leaving sparks trailing as the low underside makes contact with the ground. This reminded me of the effects successfully used in Formula 1. Handling is terrific as the wheels seem to firmly grip onto the road (or ceiling) which is essential at speed in excess of 500 kmp.

Power up's enticingly hover just above the road surface. In some instances slightly out of reach unless maximum speed is achieved over a hump in the road. Once collected a small flying craft swoops down and replaces it with another. Power ups include shields, lightning, homing missiles, speed ups and slow downs... in fact very little that we didn't experience in Wipeout 2097 (XL).

Bringing all this mayhem to life is a blazing game engine, packed with outrageous special effects and with enough power under the bonnet to paint the feature-packed environments in minute detail while remaining lightning smooth.

Let's not beat around the bush here... from the blinding explosions that erupts as your homing missile strikes the vehicle of the poor beggar in front, to the blue arrow speed up's which are embedded into the track surface slightly off the racing line... Rollcage is effectively Wipeout on wheels!

Sounds and Effects

Those of you who have experienced the Wipeout games before will instantly recognize the hollow boom and vibrating aftermath as each missile explodes on contact with it's intended victim. The engine sounds are not as noisy and throaty as I would have wished, although the squeals of burning rubber are extremely accurate.

Fatboy Slim heads up a list of influential artists as part of the multi-talent dance soundtrack for Rollcage. Tracks licensed include Love Island and Soul Surfin' from Fatboy Slim's "You've come a long way baby" album. Other artists in the game will be EZ Rollers, Aphrodite, Hoax, Ed Rush and Nico, Pressure Rise, Ashley Beedle Presents, Pascal, Freestyles, Les Rosbifs, Ratman and Dan Mass. Quality all the way!

Playability

Smooth handling and accurate control is essential in a game where you must not only win the race to the line, but also triumph in the war breaking out on the track. Each of the vehicles in Rollcage are built with speed in mind, although they must also be primed for battle with a selection of high power weaponry. Tactically you can blast a building support up ahead that will send several tones of concrete down on an opponent. Even the vehicle itself can be used as a weapon, smashing into exploding scenery, leaving buildings tumbling in their wake, and even colliding with helicopters and other vehicles for power-ups.

Rollcage has ten league tracks, which can be mirrored, and three further tracks which have been designed specifically for multiplayer gaming. There is also an alternative practice track and a variety of ultimate skill hidden tracks in four unique racing environments.

Face buttons are configured to accelerate, brake, auto correct and reverse. Shoulder buttons were used to fire weapons and adjust viewing angle. Analog or D-pad may be used to steer. I settled for the camera angle positioned slightly above/behind the vehicle rather than the in-car view because I had only recently downed my lunch and I wanted it to remain where it was intended.

The experience offered by taking a Rollcage vehicle through the motions is simply breathtaking. Each vehicle has their own range of attributes covering grip, strength, speed, acceleration. A turbo start is achieved by accelerating just as the countdown reaches 'ONE'. Right from 'the off' I guarantee the hairs will stand up on the back of your neck as your car reaches speeds of up to 500kph... and it really feels like it. Run out of road? No problem... drive up the walls! This manoeuvre is best used when speeding through one of the long twisting tunnels as you can actually stick to the roof where speed up arrows and power up's may be gained. Once the tunnel ends you simply fall straight down to ground and continue on with the race... upside down. Luckily the camera corrects itself instantly.

There are four styles of racing. For the single player there is Time Attack, Practice and a League. The league involves collecting sufficient points to qualify for the next stage. Once a season is over the more skillful drivers will be promoted onto the next difficulty mode. For two players there is split screen head-to-head racing and a rather entertaining Deathmatch mode where weapons may be used to defeat even the most skillful driver. A good leveller.

Value for Money

I'm afraid Easy mode won't last too long for those speed freaks weaned on the likes of Wipeout and 2097 (XL), while the Hard mode will require countless plays before each track is finally cracked. For beginners... half of the game will be challenging, while the second phase could prove impossible to conquer.

Opinion
MARTIN
GRAPHICS: 19/20 Rollcage is a fairly honest game, which is possibly why I find it so appealing. It doesn't pretend to be a Gran Turismo clone or a Ridge Racer beater. It's basically an Arcade Rollercoaster ride that will leave you breathless for a moderate period of time.

Psygnosis have thankfully returned to what they do best... breakneck speed futuristic arcade racers. WHOOPEEE!!!
SOUND: 9/10
PLAYABILITY: 47/50
VALUE: 15/20
OVERALL 90%

 

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