Driving Emotion Type-S Review
Barely five months of age in the US, the Playstation 2 is already overflowing with racing software including Ridge Racer V, Midnight Club: Street Racing, Smuggler's Run, Wild Wild Racing, Moto GP, Nascar 2001, F1 Championship Season 2000, Top Gear Dare Devil, and it seems that the list is only getting longer and longer. With Gran Turismo 3 still a few months away from release, it looks like it's up to SquareSoft to deliver the goods and make the anticipation easier on us with their Driving Emotion title. Announced late 1999, around the revelation of the PS2, gamers were anxious to test drive Square's racing offer called Driving Emotion Type-S. Apparently this game would re-create the physics of an actual vehicle and feature an in-dash camera view that is not only based on the car you are inside, but also looks so real that you would swear you're in it. Released on March 30 of year 2000, just days after the PS2's debut in Japan, Square was in shock when they saw Type-S was hit hard by the critical press because of its annoying oversteering. Square was planning on releasing Type-S in the US before the year's end, but because of this bump in the road the company decided to tighten up the physics and release a more enjoyable product in the beginning of 2001. Does Square succeed in bringing out a successful racer that can compete with the big boys, or are they way over their heads?
The Japanese version of Type-S suffered from the common jaggies, much like all of the very first PS2 games did, but Escape (developer) made the appearance of aliasing look less noticeable by smoothing out the car models so you won't be treated to a Ridge Racer-esque look. For the most part, all jaggies aside, Driving Emotion is a great looking game, with cars consisting of high polygon counts. It certainly isn't Gran Turismo 3, but Square's racer holds its own spot. First of all the car models look sleek, Type-S offers cars from Toyota, Porsche, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, etc., all of which look remarkably detailed and feature a divine realistic look that no other racer on the market could touch. The vehicles are composed of roughly 2,000-3,000 polygons each, in contrast of the 6,000-7,000 polygon car models in GT3, but I like the numbers in Type-S as well. Square and their developers are already doing wonders on the PS2 hardware, with The Bouncer currently being the best looking videogame on the market, it is obvious that Square has already dug-in to the PS2's power and has knowledge of using it. Overall the car definition is superb in Driving Emotion Type-S, these models are yet to be matched by any racer on any platform, the only game that comes to mind is Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed, running on a high end PC.
Besides car definition, Escape did a nice job on the environmental detail such as office buildings, trees, bridges and pretty much everything else you see around your racing atmosphere. The backgrounds are noticeably showing jaggies, they don't exactly stick out right at you or harm your race in any way, they are just there. Some of the tracks in Type-S are based on real courses, such as the Suzuka Circuit found in Moto GP can also be raced on in Type-S, and the transformation from life to game is excellent, it looks as if the track was photo captured, every little detailed was filled out. The game engine maintains perfect at all time, the action smooth at a crisp 60 frames per second, and no pop-up or draw-in distances of any kind to be seen, which is a really big plus. The lighting effects in Type-S look amazingly real, the lens flare effect is almost reminiscent of that one found in Gran Turismo 3, that earns the game another plus. Escape built an incredibly tight racing engine that should be used in the upcoming years, but refined improvements such as anti-aliasing would lend a hand to the already florescent looking visuals. Sharp car models that look just like their real life brethrens, landscape detail that is only hampered by a lack of anti-aliasing, but constant frame rate and a pop-up free engine make Driving Emotion Type-S one of the most prettiest PS2 games available.
We all want to know the burning question, 'how have the physics changed'? I'm very happy to report that while SquareSoft didn't completely revamp the handling, they tightened up the maneuvering physics so that the gamer is actually able to manipulate the vehicle without constantly oversteering. The 'hitting the analog stick back and forth' problem has also vanished, now that Driving Emotion has been fixed up for better performance, all you need to do is devote roughly an hours worth of time playing time trials with the available cars and tracks, getting to know the game and after setting off into races for prizes such as new tracks and automobiles. Driving Emotion in the beginning may seem like a complex game to get into, but take my word on this; this is by far the most rewarding racing game or videogame I have played since GT2. First of all with Square signing car manufacturers such as Porsche and Ferrari, you know that this game already has something over the whole GT series. With nearly 50 licensed cars and a little over 10 tracks, Driving Emotion Type-S offers a whole lot of variety to keep you going for a long time.
Car manufacturers such as TVR, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Acura, BMW, JGTC, Nissan, Subaru and Mazda have all made way to Driving Emotion Type-S with their best cars attainable for racing pleasure. The two Ferrari vehicles are my personal favorites, they are the 360 Modena and the F50. The Porsches' include the 911, GT3, and the Boxster-S. Other cars such as the Toyota/Lexus IS200 (a.k.a Altezza), the 2000 Nissan Skyline, Subaru Impreza, and the Honda NSX all made the cut as the Type-S all stars, along with forty other cars. Each car of course falls into its own category such as, front wheel drive (FF), rear wheel drive (FR), four wheel drive (4WD), and mid-engine (MR), the FF vehicles are typically easier to maintain stability of, you can turn and hold down the gas button at the same time and rarely worry about a spin-out. A FR vehicle doesn't work that way, I'm guessing that most of you reading this have played Gran Turismo and know that in order to successfully turn with a FR car you need to let go of the gas, tap the brakes to a certain speed and slowly accelerate your way out of a turn without spinning out. 4WD on the other hand is built for dirt and off-road courses (which by the way Driving Emotion features), the only thing you really need to be cautious of is your speed, but turning while holding gas won't really get you into much trouble. As for the MR cars, they are commonly the hardest to control and require the most precise movement of control, you have to take what you know from FR cars and add more control over your turns.
Driving Emotion may be a turn off for those GT fans out there who like to earn all of that cash to purchase cars and upgrade them. In Type-S you are rewarded with the cars by competing in the Arcade Type-S mode. You start out with four cars in the beginning all of which have less than 200HP, a Honda Civic-2 door is your best bet for winning races, while the Toyota Celica will need a more careful driver, because the vehicle is weaker in the handling area, as opposed to the Civic's compact body which is easier to maneuver. Like I said, if you give Type-S a good hour in Time Trial mode, you will be greatly rewarded with marvelous vehicles such as three Porsches, a BMW, a TVR, and two voluptuous Ferraris. Eventually the game will get a tight grip on you and never let you go, the line training autocross courses will require you to twist and turn your car all over the place, in a certain amount of time, if you complete a course you will be rewarded with a certain amount of cars.
I also want to mention that Driving Emotion Type-S features a 1/4 mile drag race stage, something that GT2 was missing, I think the addition of a drag strip was very smart, and makes the game even more enjoyable when playing with a friend. It's sad though, if you were able to fully upgrade your vehicle like in GT games, I would have most likely given Type-S a gameplay score of 9 or above, but since you are only limited to changing aerodynamics, gear switching, and other car settings, I had no choice to give the gameplay an 8.6. But nonetheless, make note of this people, those who tell you that Driving Emotion is a bad game have most likely only played the Japanese version or played the US version for about five minutes. While it's no Gran Turismo 3, I find Driving Emotion Type-S as one of the best sim racers available on the PS2 today, with a roster that features Porsches and Ferraris, 50 cars in total and over 10 tracks to choose from, Driving Emotion Type-S is a job well done by Escape.
What can I say? I liked the jazzy/techno-ish songs, you may have seen other critics put down the sound, but I thought it fit well, and the menu music is strangely familiar to that found in GT2. I like the gameplay tunes which also consist of techno/rock/jazz types of sound, I think the mix is quite enjoyable to listen to and dare I say it builds a little excitement or adrenaline if you will. But my biggest gripe with the sound is that while your cars engine sounds great and quite realistic, Escape didn't put effort into giving you the ability to hear cars approaching from behind you. Other than that, the soundtrack is a plus, and so are the car engines, but the lack of surrounding sounds is a draw back.
I think I described the control in gameplay already, but I'll borrow from what I said up above. If you are a true racer, then you have to play Type-S as you would Gran Turismo, anticipate turns and brake at the right spots, cut cars off and try to get around them on the inside, basic racing logic folks. The handling will eventually become a part of you every time you play the game, in the beginning you may find your self struggle with the controls, but that will only be the case if you play recklessly. Play like a pro and this game will surely reward you with awesome cars that I have probably mentioned once too many times. The in-dash camera view looks spectacular, the dashboards are the dash boards taken straight from the cars themselves, just one problem though, too bad that all of the Japanese manufactured cars have steering wheels on the right side, and too bad that you can't look left and right as you drive, that would have been prime. The best way to get a feel for your car is to really pretend as if you are actually in the automobile, and remember when you are pulling off a hard turn, always move the stick back to the opposite direction of the turn, so that the car re-centers itself and you stay on track. Overall, the controls took me around an hour to get used to, but this hour was well worth it though.
In the end, despite what you may have read on online publications or print mags, make no doubt about it that Driving Emotion Type-S is an excellent game with a ton of merit inside of it. This simulation racer is probably the closest thing you'll get to GT3, and I highly suggest a purchase of the game for any sim racing fan. Not only is this an awesome racing fix, but this thing will keep you going all the way up until the release of GT3 later this Spring of 2001. With nearly 50 cars, over 10 tracks, and the Ferrari and Porsche licenses present, Driving Emotion is well deserved of an honor as being a great racing game, and Square/Escape get my kudos!
2/5/2001 Arnold Katayev