It’s all about off-roading in tricked out dune buggies and 4×4’s in this fast and furious powersliding racer. The setting varies between the USA, India, Iceland, Mexico and Australia, with huge levels and tracks to choose from. Game modes include championship, quick race, time trial, and challenge modes – it’s in the challenge mode that you’ll win upgrades to your new cars, while winning championships will reward you with new challenges.
Before reviewing Wild Wild Racing, let’s get one thing out of the way: there’s nothing wrong with arcade-style, wacky fun racing games. We’ve rated games such as Ridge Racer V and Wacky Races very highly, and in fact Wild Wild Racing is almost a sort of amalgam between those two, with an added bit of off-roading zaniness thrown in. We’re not all about absolute realism here, and are always up for some mindless fun. That said, Wild Wild Racing is not fun, mindless or otherwise. Rather, it’s all the worst traits of arcade racers thrown together, exaggerated to the point of grotesqueness, and then slapped into a game that’s at best a visual mixed bag. In other words, what’s to like here?
Well, in every mixed bag there’s some good with the bad, so let’s start with the graphics and give the game the few props it deserves. The car models are highly detailed, with a nice smoke effect emanating at all times and engines that can actually be seen working. The frame rate stays solid for the most part, though it’s honestly difficult to tell if it’s 30 or 60fps (at which point you could ask, “who cares?”). The track design is pretty imaginative – in fact a little too imaginative (more on that later) – and each track is extremely long, ensuring at least a bit of replay value as it takes a while to memorize each track. On the other hand, there are never more than a few cars on screen at once, the draw distance is extremely short and world’s end visible at all times, and the scale is just all wrong. When you first pop the game in you’ll like think it’s an RC car simulation, but it’s not – everything feels miniaturized. It’s probably a mixture of things creating the effect – a lack of decent reflections on the cars, road and rock textures that are out of scale, etc. In any case, the point is that this game does have its moments visually but is not on par with some of Rage’s other titles (Expendable, for example), and is not one of the better looking PS2 launch titles.
A rubber band to the eye
Of course, if the game were a dream to play the graphics could be overlooked, but unfortunately that’s clearly not the case. There’s absolutely no grip whatsoever to these cars – take a turn without the handbrake and you’ll understeer straight into the wall every time; use the handbrake and you’ll spin out more often than not. Even if you do manage a decent powerslide (necessary to even compete on some of the game’s overly twisty, almost masochistic tracks) your car loses so much speed in the process that you’ll barely keep up with the computer opponents – who seem not to suffer from the same problems. No matter really, as the AI is of the rubber band type – the computer cars never get too far ahead or behind you no matter how you race. You can race the perfect lap up until the very end and lose based on a single mistake – if that doesn’t frustrate you, please tell us where you received your lobotomy, because it’s hard to believe a normal person would call that fun.
The bottom line is there are better arcade racing games out there for the PS2 even at this early stage. Ridge Racer V is fabulous, and even Moto GP is passable. Smuggler’s Run also offers off-roading action, if that’s your thing. Wild Wild Racing, however, is a frustrating experience with little to make playing it worthwhile.