Wipeout, Extreme-G and F-Zero, these futuristic sci-fi racers all have one thing in common, speed! Wipeout pits you into hovercrafts that have the ability to shoot power-up projectiles. F-Zero is that as well, aside from the weaponry. Up until now, Extreme-G has been the newest breed of futuristic racing, with its sound barrier shattering bikes and vehicular combat styling. It's obvious now isn't it? A new trend has surfaced on to the videogaming front and it comes in the shape of futuristic racing. Wipeout, Extreme-G and F-Zero, let's face it, the vehicles in all three are pretty predictable and nothing really innovative in terms of design. As I've mentioned, F-Zero and Wipeout both feature hovercrafts, while XG features insanely fast moto-bikes. Here to break the mold is Sony's attempt at a futuristic racer, Kinetica. Kinetica is like nothing you've played before, and that's a guarantee.
Tracking back to May when I first saw Kinetica in action, I remembered a graphics engine that needed some emphasis on the character detail and frame rate. Now actually witnessing the final product on my TV screen, I can happily say that Sony's Santa Monica development studio did a great job with the visuals. At first glance it was easy to point out the lovely background detail in every single stage. The environments range from a city, to a jungle all the way to a tunnel in outer space. The texture detail is smooth and well defined, as the environments are high-resolution. Kinetica's graphics aren't quite as fantastic as Extreme G3's, but it does come relatively close nevertheless. Kinetica's character detail is sharp and incredibly solid. Since each racer is his/her own machine, their movements are super smooth and pulled off without any noticeable distortion. Although, on various occasions, Kinetica has its fair share of mishaps with the inconsistent frame rate that begins to jerk whenever more than 7 or 8 racers are present on screen. Kinetica, being a futuristic title and all, features nice and bright lighting effects, something I wasn't very surprised to see. As a whole, Kinetica is a solid looking racer, just struck by an inconsistent frame rate, which isn't that bad to be honest.
Unlike XGIII, Wipeout, or F-Zero, Kinetica requires actual skill in order to succeed. The primary focus of the game is racing, but just racing is boring, and ultimately would make this a tedious game. So Sony implemented a trick system into the gameplay. This isn't your ordinary Tony Hawk or SSX trick system; Kinetica's is a bit more complicated. For those of you who played Jet Grind Radio for the Dreamcast, think back to when you 'tag' and how it's done. With specific pointed out movements of the analog stick, your character spray paints a tag portion by portion. Well instead of tags, maneuvering the left analog stick while holding L1 will make the racer pull off various ground or air tricks. There are 14 tricks, all of which can be combined together for extraordinary combos, when the player is racking up some extraordinary air. (The manual shows all of the tricks and how they are done). Each character has his/her own variation of the 14 tricks, so thankfully you won't see the exact same trick done by every racer. Each rider possess a unique Kinetic suit, some are extremely agile, but at the same time light-weight, so knocking them around would be an easy task. Other characters such as Creck, Crank and Vigor are the larger of the Kinetica racers, but are still able to perform well enough to keep up with the pack. There's a total of nine playable racers, and as I mentioned, every single one has a unique Kinetic suit and ability. In addition, there's a total of 12 tracks, 4 of which are initially selectable; the rest must be unlocked through the Season mode. To help unleash your fury, power ups, such as turbo boosts and shockwaves, can be picked up and used to your advantage. Two-player compatibility is a nice addition to an already good game, but I feel that the trick system needs to be completely re-done, with more stunts in mind. I felt a sense of redundancy every now and then, and the track design had something to do with that. Overall, this is a good solid title with some addictive gameplay features. Kinetica's a great game for those who want to experience a new breed of racing.
A pretty obvious soundtrack of beats can be found in Kinetica, but who said it doesn't work well with the game? Certainly not me! There are 12 music tracks done by professional artists such as Amoeba Assassin, Hybrid, and Juno Reactor. While some tracks are reasonably un-appealing, a majority of them are pretty edgy. As far as sound effects go, there isn't much to speak of. The engine noises that the racers give off are just about all there's to mention. Pretty good sound overall, but nothing extraordinary or first-class.
As I have mentioned, pulling off tricks is done with the use of the left analog stick. By hitting the L1 button, to disable your racer's maneuverability, you do various motions with the analog and watch your character pull off stylish poses and tricks. Controlling your racer utilizes both analog sticks, one for turning and the other for accelerating/braking. The layout can be changed around, but not customized, although there are 5 settings, so at least one is bound to fit. Each and every Kinetic rider has his/her own statistics, and the Kinetic suits greatly affect that, which means each and every character has his/her own handling ability. Overall, the game controls well, but the trick system may throw some people off; give it time.
In the end, after spending much time with this game, Kinetica is a sweet arcade racer with many perks to appreciate. Its hi-res sci-fi visuals are something to be thankful for, despite a slightly jerky frame rate. The action has its sense of speed, and the gameplay itself can be a lot fun when the trick system is well learned. The soundtrack consists of good techno beats done by professional talent. If you're looking for an amusing arcade racer with futuristic style, Kinetica is your stop. Sony's tag line, "Racing has evolved," makes perfect sense now.
10/24/2001 Arnold Katayev