HSX: Hypersonic Xtreme
HSX: Hypersonic Xtreme images
Review of HSX: Hypersonic Xtreme
To start things off, the reader should now that HSX has a retail price of $9.99. That’s right, a sub $10 game that is brand spanking new. Of course, just coming in at a bargain basement price does not automatically qualify a game for purchase. It still has to show some playability or some enjoyment for the user or the 10 clams would be better off spent on a six pack of some exotic imported beer or something.
Surprisingly HSX has quite a bit to offer. There is a Cup race that has gamers competing in a series of races…three arcade (lapped) races and 2 slalom tracks (point A to B races, as I like to call them). At first only the first series in each are available, but as you progress additional series and courses are unlocked. There are also 3 difficulty levels to choose from and 9 other racers to go up against. Each Cup race, whether it is arcade (circuit) or Slalom (point to point) consists of 6 sequential races in which the highest point total of all the races claims a victory. Finishing in the top three will unlock the next series of races. There is also a two-player mode that splits the screen vertically and has you and a friend competing against 8 other racers.
The other mode is Time Trial, which has gamers competing for the best lap times on each course. Pretty much what one would expect of a Time Trial contest.
Finally and most surprisingly of all, HSX includes a Track Editor! That’s right…gamers can jump in and create their very own courses, save them to a memory card and compete on them, just like the courses that are included. What makes things even more amazing is the fact that the track editor is a damn good one. I mean DAMN good! There is an accompanying tutorial that will guide players through each and every aspect of building their own ultimate racetracks. To further add reply value, additional course creation variables are opened as cup races are won. So, right from the beginning players can certainly go in and start building a track of their own, but if they want to add some neat stuff like invisible track segments, special paint, corkscrews, etc. they are gonna have to win some races. Again, kudos to the track editor programmers for making the course editor so extremely user friendly. I was literally able to lay own some outrageous tracks in a very short amount of time.
So now that we have the various modes out of the way, how does the actual game play out? Well, it certainly isn’t WipEout caliber gameplay here, but it is far from sucking the big one at the other end of the spectrum. The hovercraft style vehicles cruise just above the actual track and have side thrusters to assist them in maneuvering around tight bends and curves. The crafts themselves handle quite well and do a good job in portraying a “floaty” feel to them. Depending on which racer you select, the craft they drive have a number of attributes that go along with them. They are; grip, re-heat (how quickly the craft uses up boast), shield, acceleration and weight. Since there are no direct weapons to use in the game, shields and weight play a big part in the success of your racer. The shields are important because as the ship scrapes the sides of the tracks it will take damage and eventually explode into a fireball. Weight is important because it is basically your only means of offense against another driver. If you have a heavier vehicle, chances are good that you can smack them into walls and out of your way much easier.
The opponent AI is virtually non-existent in the game. About the only thing the other drivers are good for is getting in your way or being used as placeholders in your climb to the top spot. The other racers will vie for position and try to get out in front, but they do so in a very non-aggressive manner. Since there are no weapons involved, basically all you have to do is get out in front and stay there without any worry about getting shot at from behind.
Of course staying out in front is anything but easy. The tracks are the real enemy in this game and can really play havoc with the ship. In addition to having to deal with all of the curves, bends, twists, corkscrews, loops and the like, the tracks also expand and narrow at all the wrong times. Now keep in mind, each time the ship scrapes the side the shield deteriorates more and more. Careful application of the thrusters is a must and some players may have to actually use (gasp!) the brakes! The tracks also have varying terrain from sand (that slows the ship down), ice (loss of control) and water. Don’t ask me how these things have an affect on the ships considering the fact that they are floating above the ground…but they do. Finally, there are two other things on the track to contend with. The first is the breaks, or gaps in the track itself. As your ship is cruising along, the track will all of a sudden end and then pick up again miles down the road. If your vehicle doesn’t have enough speed or momentum built up, it’s noise dive time. Lastly, are the walls…or lack there of. At many places on the course walls have been removed so if the ship isn’t kept steady it’s off the side you go! Like I said, the tracks are the real nemesis here…not the other drivers.
What this all amounts to is a quite challenging race where memorizing the courses helps infinitely. The tracks themselves are highly creative and contain some drops that will surely have your stomach up in your throat…but it really isn’t anything that we haven’t seen before. In fact, this game reminded very much of an old PSOne title that I had reviewed years ago called Star Winder…which I enjoyed very much as well. So there you have it…a very competent racer that will challenge and add some thrills and spills along the way, but how does it look?
Well, HSX has some good points going for it in the graphical arena to be sure. The frame rate is almost a constant 60FPS except for those times when the course is crowded with other vehicles, special effects (like the soon to be mentioned raindrops) and background objects that converse at once. This causes a drop that doesn’t affect the control, but is quite noticeable on the screen.
The vehicles are all modeled quite well, with good reflections and a decent polygon count. There are also nice exhaust effects to really light up the screen. The rest of the package though is hit or miss. The track design, while being quite inventive and at times nausea inducing, appears rather bland and average. The backgrounds are also so-so with mild texturing and somewhat bland environments. The buildings for instance are kind of dull in appearance and plain in their modeling. There is also very little going on in the background. Besides the occasional aircraft that can be seen buzzing about, the backgrounds are lifeless. I am sure all of this is done to keep the frame rate high, which is really what matters in a fast paced game of this type anyway.
Some notable special effects are the rain droplets on the windshields and the splashing effects when your ship passes through watery areas of the course. There are also snow courses complete with icy tracks and snow swirling about the screen. While these effects do look swell, the rain droplet effect gets annoying after awhile, but the splashing effect never ceased to amuse me. Vehicles explosions are rather simple, as they blow up into round balls of fire and then there are the sparks that fly all over the place as your craft side swipes the walls. Graphically, this is certainly not a showcase title but they get the job done just fine. There is a pretty good particle engine being used in the game to be sure.
The music in HSX is a combination of new age melodies and simple orchestrated soundtracks. It is very non-intrusive and certainly won’t get the blood pumping to any level of danger. The sound effects are nice with solid booster and engine sounds, and the overall ambience of racing down the course at high speeds.
Overall, I can’t help but keep going back to the price tag. For $10 this game is a sweet deal, especially when you factor in the track editor and the unlimited amount of replay that this could potentially offer. The physics engine is a solid one, even if it is rather arcadey in execution and the races themselves are challenging and fast paced, especially in the later levels. It is just a shame that there are no weapons to use and that the opponent AI is rather straightforward and non aggressive.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'HSX: Hypersonic Xtreme' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
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