Although Extreme G was not an exceptional game it at least had the foundation for a competent futuristic racing game. It simply lacked polish in terms of its play mechanics. Extreme G-2 manages to fix the majority of the flaws of the first game but introduces new ones all its own that unfortunately bring down the experience. While there is still some fun to be found in its content it ultimately does not live up to the game it could have been.
There’s a massive amount of content within the confines of that little N64 cartridge, that’s for sure. The twelve tracks each have 3 variations that are different enough that they feel all new. As I’ve mentioned before most racing games of that period barely managed to come up with 3 decent tracks so the fact that you essentially have 36 here is commendable. The standard Contest Mode is complemented by an arcade mode that tasks you with shooting moving targets while trying to beat your lap times. Its fluff if you ask me, Time Trial serves the same purpose without the hassle of enemies fighting back.
Multiplayer has seen a few new additions like the Multiplayer Cup, which has a maximum of 16-players competing. The forgettable battle mode of the first game has been spruced up with the addition of tanks. These slow moving behemoths take some getting used to but once you’ve settled in the slower pace forces more confrontations. It’s an acquired taste in the long run but at least they tried.
There are over 20 weapons, a decent step up from the first game. Mortar, multiple missiles, homing missiles, rear missiles, leader missiles, static pulses, rail guns, ion side cannons, rear maxi- bolts, flame exhausts, smoke exhausts, 4-5 different mines, power shields, invulnerability, even headlights, it’s a considerable list. More importantly the game will actually announce the name of each weapon as it’s grafted to your vehicle. It’s much better than the first game in which you never knew what the hell the contraption that just attached itself to the top of your light cycle would do.
The biggest improvement however comes in the controls and track design. Those of you that played the original Extreme G will remember loose controls that were unable to keep up with the twisting and turning track design. Most races saw you smashing into walls left and right because the sense of speed was at war with the level design. All of that has been fixed for this installment, creating a much better playing game (for the most part). The controls are tight; they don’t offer the level of precision of F-Zero X but don’t need to within this game’s confines.
More importantly the tracks are more wide open and better designed. You still have the same roller coaster like spirals and loop de loops but now you can actually navigate them with relative ease. The excellent track design goes hand in hand with the game’s increased speed. The insane speed of the first game has been taken to new heights, enabling you to break the sound barrier, complete with sonic boom. It’s an impressive feat that is awesome to experience in the game for the few times you can manage to pull it off.
Unfortunately all of the game’s features are marred by technical shortcomings, namely the frame rate. There’s no polite way of saying it; it’s horrendous. During the Contest Mode with more than 3 cars on screen at the same time the frame rate will hit single digits if even one minor explosion goes off. The excessive lighting effects employed by the weapons are also another cause for concern. Most weapons cause massive explosions that blanket the screen, leaving you clueless as to what the hell is going on. It’s not uncommon to hit a mine, see white for a few seconds and end up driving in reverse and in last place. As a result Time Trial is the only time the game runs smoothly which defeats the purpose of all of the new weapons and intricate level design if there’s no reason to use/appreciate any of it.
This sucks because outside of the frame rate Extreme G2 is a phenomenal technical achievement. The excessively blurry textures of the first game are cleaner and the fog distance has been pushed back. With these improvements you can appreciate the increased trackside details a lot more and especially the new lighting effects when they aren’t screwing you over. The front end menus have also received an overhaul, with many more Wipeout style circular menus giving off a more futuristic feel.
In the end there’s still plenty of fun to be had with the tons of content in the game but the noticeable play issues bring the game down. Had Acclaim and Probe tempered their technical ambition a bit Extreme G2 might have been the best futuristic racing game that generation but instead will have to settle for above average.