Review of Shox
Some of rally’s most celebrated machinery of the last 40 years match up side by side in what can only be described as a heady cocktail of Freekstyle, SSX and Ridge Racer resulting in PS2’s answer to Sega Rally.
Everything about this game is simplicity itself. The main menu gives you options, multiplayer (up to four) and single player.
As is usual single player is where you have to do all the work.
As the game starts you get to choose which of the cars you want as your free one. There is a choice of six – now the blurb mentions BMW, but the BMW included here is the old Mini Cooper (BMW owns the licence) – disappointing as an old M1 Turbo would have been a blast!
You would expect to be given the poorest cars at the start and in the terms of horsepower you are but the likes of the Ford Escort MkII are sweet tail happy terrors. The real big guns – the RS200, 6R4, 959 etc (1980’s Group B machines) – are kept to near the end.
There are six cars in each of 4 categories – compact, sports, turbo and power – and it will come as no surprise that there are 6 races in each category either.
The surprise is that there are three environments in which two races are set in every class.
These environments are Arid (desert), Jungle and Ice (SSX reference!) and there are several difference racetracks – which all interlink – built in these environments. Each track has three sections in it called ShoxZone’s and you are timed through them for gold, silver and bronze. The higher your rating the more cash you rack up. Set a gold in each section in one race and unleash a ShoxWave. This is like a moving haze which you have to chase around the track, catching it really increases your money. Three golds also unlock the track for night racing. Get a ShoxWave in a Platinum car (different car for each track) and unlock a platinum car – there are three for each class and they are usually better than the normal cars.
The trick about getting the normal cars is you have to buy them. This is hugely expensive and it is often cheaper to gamble. This is where you bet on you against the game to unlock a car. Your rival is a good driver and gets a head start so you will need to be a great driver to win.
If you don’t win then the stake on that car halves for you next attempt. Not only that but setting three golds in a race (you don’t have to set them in one race) will also cut the stake on every car in that category in half. Yes you can get down to and gamble for nothing!
So now you have the premise it’s time to rate the game
The graphic are some of the most beautiful on the PS2 – the scenery is GT3 good and has lots of things happening in it – trains, planes, helicopters (these get so close to the ground that they rip up dirt and dust which splatters your windscreen) handgliders, waterfalls – all there to take your eye off the road for that vital split second. And then the cars can be ruined. Ok so the cars themselves aren’t GT3 perfect but there are six on the track and all can be smashed. Smashed I tells ya!
The town scenes in the Ice environment are totally gorgeous and the lighting is fantastic – the sunlight glare on the snow is blinding at times. As you go through the game you get to see these environments at dawn, day, dusk and you can unlock the night stages.
Added to this there are the crash cam – which shows you the crash you have just had, and the drama cam – this is a Matrix-style slo-mo and spin round shot of you car taking a massive jump.
This style has been over used lately – but in Shox its one hell of a way to check out the fabulous surroundings!
I did have one unusual experience though – I crashed my platinum RS200 rather heavily on a hairpin bend and the visuals just broke up on me and I had to reset– it was like having a giant bird flapping its wings against the car window – weird – but it only happened once – even though I repeated the feat several times! (They tell us poor reviewers to try to break the games!)
The sound is pure BIG – club music, fantastic engine noises – just listen to the turbo rattles of the Subaru’s and the Escort Cosworth, the squeal of the 205 and the Audi Quattro and the throaty warble of the totally nuts 6R4, its just like being near the real thing – well about 300 metres away from the 6R4 (you haven’t lived if you haven’t heard one of those things thunder through a forest!)
The game play is pure arcade. Just pick it up and let rip. The buttons and the sticks can both be used and are available in what has now become the normal driving set-ups. Not that you are going to want to use the brakes – well not once you have found the handbrake for that total tail out rally style!
The multiplayer is just the same – no let up in the action and just one less car view to choose from.
The AI cars though can be a pain in the …er…neck. If you sat and waited for half a lap on any of the 3 lap races you can pass the lead one by the end, but if you were way out in front, one tiny mistake is enough to leave you in 6th place.
The handling is sweet, even though arcade, RWD cars a twitchy and a handful, and the 4WD’s accelerate smoothly out of the corners. The Porsches and the Stratos though take a little getting used to, as they are just a bit different.
The shoxwaves can be too easy to start though (on certain tracks) and you find yourself wishing you could switch them off as it isn’t easy to drive through that blur for 2 laps. Although you can greatly boost the cash you can also rattle up the damage – and this will cost you for repairs. My worst was $29,000 in a race that only won me $20,000.
You can unlock the ShoX challenge by unlocking two platinum cars and complete it by unlocking eight cars. The Shox challenge pairs you up with the mad bugger in the 959 Paris-Dakar, who taunts you after you win the Cup in each of the 4 “mayhem arenas”, over four races (unlocked at 2, 4, 6 and 8 platinum cars). However apart from the opening series this is probably the easiest thing in the game, and it doesn’t seem to win you anything – will I couldn’t see what benefit it had been anyway.
So its fantastic to look at, wonderful to play and astonishing to listen to so what’s the catch? The catch is its just too damn short – shamefully so – you just want to keep the frantic fun up but sadly Shox just doesn’t have the legs for anything more than a wild weekend.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Shox' 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 Rory Kelly © Absolute PlayStation
Click here to view our 8 Shox in-game screenshot slideshow
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