Pimp My Ride: Street Racing Review
Sometimes, a game comes along designed to cater to a specific audience, but if it doesn’t deliver on the technicals and overall gameplay, than what’s the point? It’s obvious that Pimp My Ride: Street Racing is directed towards those who are fans of the hip-hop culture, but with stodgy racing physics, a repetitive and bland presentation, and a significant lack of depth that hampers the entire experience, this pseudo-sequel falls flat. Believe it or not, Activision released the first Pimp My Ride back in 2006 and apparently, it did well enough to warrant a sequel…either that, or the budget was low enough so they only had to sell about 17 copies in order to turn a profit. That same philosophy is obviously in place for Street Racing, just because this production is wholly uninspired and utterly generic. Then again, if you’re bored and are a fan of the concept, perhaps the $20 price tag will be appealing enough for you to give it a shot; there are some entertaining aspects to the game, after all. In the end, maybe it’s exactly what we should expect from a budget title.
The graphics on display are your standard PS2 fare, and this is both a positive and a negative. There aren’t any crippling visual flaws, although there is the serious issue of not being able to see your race route very clearly. Then again, this was always an ongoing problem with old hardware; it just wasn’t powerful enough, and those jaggies really got in the way. The overall detail is mediocre at best and even though there are plenty of ways to “pimp out” your ride, most of the decorations and upgrades are basic and mostly uninteresting. There are a few decently designed tracks, but there are nowhere near enough of them, and eventually, you’ll just get tired of racing the same courses (forwards and backwards). The game also appears a little dark and distorted. At first, we thought it was a visual issue with our TV, but we really couldn’t make it look right, so we have to assume it’s the game. At the very least, though, the graphics are consistent throughout; there isn’t any one particular facet that stands out from the rest as being significantly worse or better. But just don’t expect much.
One might expect that, due to the very nature of this title, the sound should be pretty good. We should have a fairly robust soundtrack, a slammin’ set of effects, and maybe even a spattering of voice acting to go along with a storyline of some sort. Well, there isn’t any storyline (and no voiceovers), the effects belong in a game that’s much older and aren’t anywhere near enough music tracks. We won’t say anything more about the soundtrack just because it’s more a matter of personal preference, but the effects are seriously lacking. The engines in the cars sound far too similar to one another, hitting obstacles or other vehicles emits a tinny-sounding thud that doesn’t resonate with the supposed intensity of street racing. The balance is off, too; the effects and music don’t gel well at all, and the entire experience suffers because of it. Really, when we first started playing, we had hoped this would be the highlight of Street Racing. Even if it had been the only highlight, it would’ve been something. Instead, this category comes up well shy of expectations and doesn’t help the game much at all…and it really should’ve.
The gameplay is about as straightforward as it gets. When you first start, you can either get a feeling for the controls by heading out for a Quick Race, but you’ll spend the vast majority of your time in Championship Mode. There includes multiple races on each course, and multiple goals for each race. However, most of the time, the goals and races are the same, and all you really have to do is finish in first, second, or third to advance. As you conquer each race, you’ll unlock a variety of upgrades, and that includes mechanical/performance pieces for your car (turbo, suspension, brakes, etc.) and cosmetic additions. You’ll also unlock whole new vehicles to pimp out, and the good news is that whenever you unlock an upgrade, you can put it on whatever ride you are currently using. Well, except for the materialistic stuff. Beyond this, there isn’t much to talk about concerning the game’s progression: you drive around, collecting “scrilla,” going off a few jumps, finding some shortcuts, and battling the somewhat loose and erratic physics.
You will unlock more depending on how well you perform in each race. Sure, you’ll unlock some stuff for winning the race, but for more cool stuff, you’ll have to collect all the gold scrilla coins scattered around the track, and complete any other challenges. You gain extra points for flying off crazy jumps, too, so at least there’s more to do than just race. But as we mentioned, there’s really not a whole lot of variety in terms of gameplay events and challenges, which means that every time you hit the course, you’ll likely be doing something you’ve done before. Yes, we realize that racing games are usually about racing, and we should be happy with the extra challenges to help spice up this particular production, but it doesn’t feel so fresh when you keep doing it dozens of times over. Furthermore, they made the game so you can’t really complete all the individual Challenges in one race. For example, collecting all the scrilla is one goal, but so is winning the race. Unfortunately, due to the placement of those gold coins – which don’t normally sit in the correct racing line – it’s pretty tough to nab them all and emerge victorious. Then there are the physics problems.
Despite the fact that each vehicle has its own set of statistics (top speed, acceleration, handling, etc.), there’s not enough distinction between them, and any vehicle will react strangely to obstacles on the track. For instance, there’s traffic on these courses, and you would think that hitting a vehicle head-on will have a serious detrimental effect. But all that really happens is you sweep the car aside as if it had no more mass than a trashcan, and for whatever reason, you suffer more of a direction/momentum change when an opponent smacks you in the side. …what sense does that make? The handbrake doesn’t work properly, either, and you’ll see some very silly animations when you crash off a jump. The vehicle will jerk and spin around until you’re magically placed back on the track, heading in the right direction. You can sustain damage, and one of the Challenges is to complete a race without taking any damage, but it doesn’t appear to have any sort of impact on your vehicle’s capability either way. At the same time, it won’t take long to master the controls, because everything is simplified and the unrealistic driving physics actually make things easier to deal with. You may laugh from time to time, though.
Pimp My Ride: Street Racing is indeed a budget title but unfortunately, it also looks and plays like one. There just isn’t enough here to keep someone playing for an extended amount of time, although we will admit to having some fun during the races. It’s just that, what with all the drawbacks, even the targeted audience may get tired with the whole thing before even one hour has passed. How many times can you drive around collecting scrilla and winning races, just to “pimp out” your ride? The entire process could’ve been more entertaining if the developers had put more effort into the game, but as it stands, it’s just…bleh.
5/14/2009 Ben Dutka