Review of Kinetica
Kinetica starts out innocuously enough with a rather standard FMV intro and an extremely straightforward menu set-up. Players can select from three single player modes and two dual player modes.
In single player the choices are simple; compete in a single race against 11 other computer-controlled participants, take a practice run or enter into a Season race.
The Practice mode is ideal for running around the courses trying to locate the shortcuts and familiarizing yourself with the layout without the pressure of competition.
Single Races are nice when you just want to select a particular course, get in, race, and get out.
The real meat of course though lies in the Season Mode. Here is where you compete in several series of 4 separate races. The first four tracks you race on are already unlocked at the beginning of the game, so going through these in practice mode is a good idea before beginning. Once you win the first season, the next four tracks are unlocked. Once completed, the final four tracks become unlocked for Season 3 racing.
There is a nice selection of racers right from the start with a few more unlocked as you progress in the game. Some racers have good cornering but only fair acceleration while others have a lot of mass so they don’t get bumped around…but they suck at taking turns.
Instead of using vehicles in the game, the racers are actually the mode of transport themselves. Each person wears a special Kinectic Suit that literally transforms them into a road warrior. These suits mold themselves around the person and are complete with suspension and wheels. I must say that they look really wild, especially watching the arms and legs moving about with wheels attached to the ends.
As you might imagine, this configuration offers a unique style of control when racing. Cornering is “feather” sensitive…almost too much so. I often found myself doing a 180 and ended up facing the wrong direction. In one of these races, a mistake like that can cost you big time. I will say though, once you get the hang of it the cornering system used is a nice one. Learning how to tap the brake into a turn and than double tapping the gas will get you a nice line and also a quick boost of speed.
Starting off a race is quite interesting. The racers are all bunched up at the beginning (lined up horizontally) and it is pretty much a free for all to get out in front with lots of bumping and pushing going on. This is where riders with a lot of mass will want to make good use of it and those that selected lighter racers may wish to hang back or make a line directly to the front of the pack without getting hit.
The game employs a pretty cool trick system that immediately reminded me a bit of SSX. Racers can pull off numerous moves that will net them power that is then stored in their Kenetic suits. This is then be used as a power boost at any time during the race. Pulling off long strings of tricks will enable the combo system and score you even more power. Basically the thing to remember is “the harder the trick the more juice you receive”. Of course, failing to stick a trick will get you in back of the pack quicker than you know what through a goose.
The track designs are a thing of beauty while at the same time being something that only a masochist can love to drive on. Featuring tracks in space and on land, Kinetica boasts some of the most creative track designs seen to date. Racers will be able to discover hidden pathways to shave time, suit generators that can be stored to give you a boost of speed later or used right away by just running over the strip. There is also power up crystals littered throughout the courses. Collect five of these beauties and one of six randomly generated power-ups become available to you ranging from Super Boosts to Burst Attacks.
Like I said, the tracks are wonderfully designed and quite a spectacle to behold, but finding shortcuts or learning how to negotiate some of the tighter turns will have you throwing your controller at the screen in frustration. Learning to use the skid boost (tap brake, double tap accelerator) through turns is essential if you expect to win. You will also have to be mindful of the fact that in many places (particularly where there are large drops) you can easily exit off of the track. Doing this will often drop you into the back of the pack and force you to play catch-up all over again.
Visually, Kinetica looks super sweet. The display is ultra-crisp with very little aliasing. The backgrounds are very colorful and full of animation. I particularly enjoyed the Lost City and New Vega tracks with the latter reminding me of a WipEout course.
There is always a LOT of action going on in the screen as you scream down the raceway. Hovercrafts can be observed flying about, beautiful waterfalls flowing, birds flying about, etc. The developers did a nice job in creating a living environment. The special effects are also laid out in abundance. Using the awesome lighting and particle effects that the PS2 is capable of, gamers are hammered with strobing lights, wisps of energy wafting up from the power strips and into the Kinetic suits, awesome power-up effects, etc. The game certainly ranks high in the eye candy department.
Even the character models are extremely well designed and animated, not to mention the slick Kinetic suits that often feature butt cheeks prominently displayed for your viewing pleasure. It is really cool to watch your racer grab and claw at the track with their wheel mounted hands and legs.
About the only problem with the graphics is the fact that when all twelve racers are packed up in one place I occasionally observed some slowdown. The game doesn’t appear to drop a frame though, as the track is still zipping by…the characters themselves just stutter a bit. These occurrences are few and far between though and if you maintain a lead you will never see it.
Soundwise, the game offers up so spiffy futuristic tunes that totally blend in with the onscreen action. I must admit, I don’t follow this type of music very closely so non of the artists rang a bell with me, but I thought they were all talented non-the-less.
Most impressive thing though throughout the game are the sound effects. Using a tool called SoundMAX, the games sound effects are awesome. The tool enables developers to create sound behavior routines that react uniquely to the action that is taking place on the screen. Each and every race, regardless of whether you take the same course on the same track, features distinctive sound effects to coincide with the race.
Of special note, in addition to the nicely compiled instruction manual the packaging also includes a booklet with character art for all of the contestants. I though this was an extremely nice touch and something that I would like to see continued in future game releases.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Kinetica' 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
Click here to view our 7 Kinetica in-game screenshot slideshow
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