Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing
Windows - 2000
Description of Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing
Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing brings fast motorbike racing with an emphasis on action to a PC near you. Players begin racing with the standard Suzuki GSX-R600 roadbike and progress to the full race-ready GSX-R750. Along the way players will race with and against the 4 Suzuki Team Alstare champions: Stephane Chambon, Pierfrancesco Chili, Katsuaki Fujiwara and Fabrizio Pirovano. The game includes 12 tracks from seven distinct environments and authentic sounds from real Suzuki bike.
Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing (SAER) felt immediately familiar after just one race. Why? Because I played this game a few years ago, though it was sold under a different name, . SAER was created by Criterion Studios, the same group that brought us Redline Racer, a wonderfully fun arcade-racer that sadly lacked depth. Two years later, the game has been repackaged with an exclusive license from Suzuki. Unfortunately, there have been only a few minor modifications to the game and none address the shallow shortcomings of Redline Racer.
In what must be the ultimate in repackaging, SAER contains many of the same tracks found in Redline Racer. I only raced 6 of the 12 tracks and not a single one seemed new, and if it was new, it borrowed pieces of track from Redline Racer. This isn't all bad if you haven't played Redline Racer, but is a rip-off if you already own that game. Not only does the game borrow courses from Redline Racer, the game is absolutely the same in practically every other respect - except it doesn't offer the wide variety of bikes found in Redline Racer.
Other changes to the game include online racing via UbiSoft's GameLoft matchmaking service. Because I was using an early release of the game I was unable to find competitors and cannot comment on in-game stability or other issues. It is nice that this service has been added, but I don't know if this service alone will make the game worth buying. It's already been shown by that ultra-realistic online racing doesn't sell well, so perhaps this arcade racer will prove otherwise. If you don't have a high-speed Internet connection but want multiplayer action, you'll enjoy split-screen racing.
Visually, the game is just as eye-catching as Redline Racer, and that's a real compliment. In fact, the updated environments appear much more rich, though the game engine is just barely beginning to show it's teeth. For the most part, the visuals are as good or better than other racing games, but it does lack one important feature - fogging. Without fogging, distant objects such as mountains appear to "grow" from the horizon instead of fading into view. This isn't very annoying because most of the tracks have so many twists and turns that distant objects can't be seen, but when it does happen, it is a bit distracting. I ran into a few performance problems with my GeForce 256 at high-texture detail and 1280x1024 resolution, but the game screams along quite well at 640x480. The four camera views (in-the-seat and three above-and-behind) allow players to choose their most comfortable racing style.
The game can be controlled with a keyboard or other game controller. I elected to use a gamepad over a joystick. SAER allows players to fully configure their controller for a custom fit. Along the way, players can also adjust their bike's settings for power, braking and steering. These settings are very, very basic, with any modification to one affecting the other. If you want more power, you'll have to sacrifice braking or steering. This makes bike setup very easy for the arcade-racing crowd targeted by this game. More importantly, these modifications are required for success. The high-desert tracks need power, pure and simple, while the alpine and city courses require more balance.
As with Redline Racer, players race through a variety of challenges to unlock more tracks and rides. That means the game is frustratingly limited to three tracks and one cycle at the beginning. The first challenge is fairly easy to win and this opens up two new courses and one additional bike. Later, the "reverse" course will unlock, effectively providing 24 driving experiences.
Sold on Hold
On the whole, Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing is a pretty good game, though not quite as fun as Redline Racer. Worse, if you already own Redline Racer then you will feel cheated, abused and betrayed by this blatant re-packaging. This game should have been named Redline Racer: Suzuki Textures. Before you buy this game, look for Redline Racer in the bargain bin where I've seen it for under $10.
Review By GamesDomain
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