Saturday, July 22, 2017

XBOX Review: The Thing (2002)

Unfortunately, The Thing is more like a subpar Freedom Fighters than a truly engaging "sequel" to the 1982 film. It has the requisite squad tactics and some neat ideas governing emotional responses from your teammates, but those ideas are poorly realized and unfulfilled, and in some cases downright misleading.

The Thing is somewhere between a sequel and a loose remake of its parent film, set sometime after those events but essentially telling a remarkably similar story, at least at first. An alien race has surfaced in an Antarctic military research base, with the alien infection often taking the form of your human allies. As you investigate what happened to your colleagues, you must maintain their trust, in addition to watching your own back for lurking thing-creatures, which emerge out of your pals in a particularly gruesome fashion.

This is a fairly standard third-person action game with the exception of a neat trust/fear mechanic for your squad. It's neat-o in theory, anyway. Your squad (of up to four) get all a-scared by the alien creatures, as well as by gore, darkness, being alone, and so on. They'll hunker down and won't be helpful to you if they get too scared, so you settle them down by forking over firearms or health. You also never know when one of them will morph into A Thing, which you can check by drawing blood from them at any time. A cool idea, for sure, except that it doesn't work at all: a guy who tests positive for Human will turn around a minute later and reveal himself to be Thing the next, seemingly only because you're moving on to the next level and your squad can't carry over across the loading screen.

The Thing has more problems, unfortunately. Not only do the squad tactics barely function, but the enemy AI is generally incompetent and behaves strangely most of the time. The terrifying threat of aliens is rendered not so terrifying when they can barely navigate most doorways. Additionally, this game has some incredibly frustrating missions later on, only because the checkpoint and save systems are so poorly implemented. There's a whole lot of backtracking, repetition, and memorization depending on when you can find a save point, and how well you were doing when you found this save point.

In general, The Thing is not a good game. It's a decent quick fix for anyone desiring of a Freedom Fighters-style squad shooter, but it gets old quickly and does follow through on many of its promises.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Singular Van Dammage: Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)

The Van Dammage is back! I watched another Jean-Claude Van Damme film yesterday morning, for the first time in a long time, and now I'm here to tell you about it because this is actually a pretty good one. More Van Damme to come, so stay tuned to Code Redd Net.

Van Damme really isn't in this one a whole lot, but still. He plays Master Durand, who lives in Thailand and trains fighters for underground muay thai combat. Very much like the original Kickboxer, an idiot kickboxing champion takes up a sketchy offer to fight the legendary Tong Po, and his idiot brother lets him. When our reigning champion is killed by Tong Po, his brother, Kurt Sloane, vows revenge and you know the deal. Durand-Van Damme agrees to train him in his idiosyncratic manner for mortal kombat with Tong Po. This involves lots of stretching, as you'd expect.

This is basically a remake of the original film, with Van Damme playing his trainer and a new actor, Alain Moussi, playing Van Damme's role, although there are all kinds of allusions to the previous film which make Kickboxer: Vengeance seem like an alternate universe. This is a fantastic action movie, right up there with recent classics like Mechanic: Resurrection (2016) and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (2017). In fact, I'd say this probably better than the original Kickboxer, and one of the most effective martial arts films in recent memory. This is a lean action film, with well-choreographed fight scenes, a goofy plot, and plenty of training montages. It just gets the job done in a way that old-fashioned hard genre films should, and, suitably, it builds nicely to the final fight between Sloane and Tong Po, which delivers. I also think Van Damme does an excellent job in his role, playing an effective secondary character who doesn't have to carry the film by, you know, talking a whole lot, which is certainly not his strong suit.

There are some problems, however. For the most part, Kickboxer: Vengeance looks and sounds cheap, and while I sometimes find low production values charmingly nostalgic in action films, in this case they were too bad to even be funny. In particular, many of JCVD's lines are clearly redone hastily with some ADR, with the actor performing the lines doing a horrible burlesque of Van Damme's accent. Nevertheless, KV is a perfect, stupid Sunday afternoon movie. It's rough around the edges, but it definitely delivers the goods in ways that most action films don't anymore.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Xbox Review: Breakdown (2004)

Breakdown is a neat idea. It's mostly a first-person beat-'em-up, but also a first-person shooter, and even occasionally a first-person burger-eating and puking simulator. Everything unfolds for you through the eyes of Derrick, who wakes up in a lab just in time for war to break out between humans and some strangely buff aliens. There you meet Alex, your emo girl companion for the bulk of the game. The two of you then set off to unravel the mystery of these aliens, and your identity a la Jackie Chan's Who Am I? (1998), through some incredibly elliptical writing and absolutely maddening combat sequences.

Everything in Breakdown takes place in first-person view. At first blush, this is novel; you shoot, fight hand-to-hand, platform, fall out of windows, backflip, eat, puke, read, and more from Derrick's POV. This novelty quickly subsides, however, and the first-person perspective becomes alternatively disorienting, distracting, or downright difficult to handle. It's often impossible to keep track of your enemies, due partially to the game's inadequate lock-on targeting system, as well as larger problems with the first-person perspective itself. Since everything takes place in first-person, including when you get knocked down (and this happens often), recovering a proper perspective to launch a counterattack is frequently impossible when confronted with multiple enemies. Similarly, later stages in the game require a great deal of platforming, always a fun proposition from a first-person perspective. Other stages consist largely of empty hallways punctuated by frustrating enemy encounters.

The fun of recovering health by consuming stray sodas and hamburgers in a Streets of Rage fashion, or driving jeeps over caverns in first-person view, is largely overwhelmed by later levels in the game. In particular, there are two combat sequences near the conclusion of the game that are among the most aggravating I've ever played. You simply can't see the attacks coming your way, so instead you're treated to a kaleidoscope of images as your character is knocked around by mutants. Sure, perhaps this is a realistic representation of being beaten up by a crew of obscenely swoll alienmans, but it is emphatically not an enjoyable experience. I wanted to like Breakdown, and to its credit, there's very few games like it. And as it turns out, there's a pretty good reason why. Breakdown is a failed experiment; fascinating and educational in its own way, but deeply flawed.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Movie Review: The Expendables 3 (2014)

I feel as though no spoiler alert is necessary, as you should know what you’re getting from The Expendables franchise, if you ever had any interest in it, by now. There are no surprises. You’re getting a movie that tries to draw upon the nostalgia of action movies and actors from the past three decades. However, the action-hero movie genre should not be thought of as a homogeneous monolith. There are differences along a variety of margins.

Consider the original Die Hard. We see John McClane as quite vulnerable. Whereas other action movies have led us to perceive a bullet wound in an extremity as a minor annoyance, broken glass presents a real obstacle to McClane. We don’t see him taking on a million guys at once, but resorting to guerilla tactics due to his comparative weakness in force. Because of this, the drama is far more palpable and McClane seems much more heroic.

Contrast this with The Expendables 3, which contains no tension at any point. The audience is never led to feel that the protagonists are ever in any serious danger at all, despite the fact that they are routinely vastly outnumbered and outgunned. Regardless of all the “action” that occurs in the film, it makes for a rather boring experience.

Also disappointing is the missed opportunity in drawing on the potential nostalgia of the characters associated with the cast members. For example, there is a subtle reference to the character played by Antonio Banderas in Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, but why not just make up some excuse to have El Mariachi in The Expendables rather than have Banderas play some generic guy?  I mean, it’s not like it would damage the plot in terms of its plausibility or cheesiness. The payoff of seeing guitar cases filled with guns or guitar cases as guns would be totally worth it. The same goes for other beloved characters like Statham’s Frank Martin. Would a story that finds a way to bring these disparate characters together make sense? Probably not. Would anyone care? Probably not. This is The Expendables, after all.

My final grief has to do with the phenomenon of the villain having ample opportunity to dispatch the good guy(s) and for no reason choosing not to. This happens multiple times in The Expendables 3. Early in the movie, the evil Mel Gibson has Rocky Balboa in his crosshairs, but chooses to wound another guy. He is able to capture most of Rocky’s team and later sets a trap that could kill Rocky and the other guys he brings to rescue them, but instead of just blowing them up, he gives them a 45 second grace period in which to disable his bomb. Why he does this, other than keeping the movie from abruptly ending, is not explained. And, in what was supposed to be the climatic showdown between Rocky and Gibson, Gibson has the ability to shoot Rocky dead but instead decides to toss his gun away in order to have a fist fight. The reason for this can’t be to see who’s the better fighter, as Rocky eventually grabs a gun and just shoots Gibson. All of this leaves one feeling as though the villain isn’t that evil (even though we’re told he did all these bad things in the past), but rather exceptionally merciful. Needless to say, this does not make for a compelling triumph over evil.

The Expendables 3 is not really satisfying in any way. It lacks creativity, plausibility, and a reason to keep watching. With Hollywood’s preference for producing tried-and-true formulas, I wouldn’t be that surprised if they tried to make another one, perhaps with an all-female cast. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Dreamcast Review: Outtrigger (2001)

Is the world craving a new review of an old Dreamcast shooter? Thrasher sure thinks so! Join him on this journey of discovery and find out the answer to the burning question: should you play Outtrigger? The answer? Ummmm, maybe. Depends.

Outtrigger is about half Crazy Taxi (or maybe half Time Crisis) and half TimeSplitters. It's a multiplayer-focused, arena-style FPS with virtually no plot and an ever-present timer at the top of the screen. Matches last about two to three minutes and the backdrop is often little more than "Collect these coins!" or "Shoot these guys!" Wikipedia's plot summary is probably too good: "The story revolves around a counterterrorism organization called Interforce, set up in response to terrorist attacks on military research facilities." I didn't get even the faintest whiff of this story, such as it is, while playing the game.

Outtrigger's two main single-player modes, Arcade and Battle, task you with completing various training exercises and eventually missions, in which you ostensibly deal with vaguely-defined threats. Really, though, there is nothing to connect the single-player exercises and missions with anything. The Arcade and Battle modes have much more in common with Crazy Taxi's "Crazy Box" or TimeSplitters' "Challenge Mode" than anything else. Though the single-player is occasionally frustrating in spots, it can be easily completed in the course of a day. And like the Crazy Box, Outtrigger's single-player experience is seemingly designed to train players for the heart of the game, which in this case is the multiplayer.

Multiplayer matches in Outtrigger play by the same rules as the "Thief" mode in TimeSplitters 2: each kill is worth one point, while another point, rendered as a coin, can be collected by any player from the kill spot. Other than a team variation on the same thing, all multiplayer matches in the game play by the same rules. This can make for a rather repetitive experience, even with Outrigger's considerable variety of weapons and maps. Given the relatively small size of the arenas in the game, deathmatches can only realistically last for about three minutes before the map in question loses what little novelty it had in the first place. And while the multiplayer mode can be played with AI bots, many of the maps feature pits, which the AI cannot successfully navigate.

In terms of controls, Outtrigger really shows its age. Dual analog control has been a standard of console first-person shooters for a long time, and returning to the single-stick controls of the Dreamcast is difficult. Although some of the options approximate dual analog controls, none of them really come that close, and I never truly felt comfortable with the pre-set schemes. The game does allow you to switch on the fly from first-person to third-person view, which is neat at the very least, but it's hardly useful.

Like many other arcade-style games for the Dreamcast, Outtrigger is enjoyable in short bursts only. Dreamcast aficionados may want to find a copy simply for the sake of curiosity, because it is a truly strange game, but everyone else can probably find something else to play.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

PS2 Review: kill.switch (2003)

I have the Wikipedia page open for kill.switch (or just Kill Switch, apparently, but I prefer the more idiotic title). I'm in need of a plot summary because the narrative of this game is opaque, and that's putting it nicely; stupid as hell is another. You play as a generic super-soldier, kind of, but not really. Actually, you play as an elusive evildoer "controlling" this super-soldier through remote neural connection telepathy or a contrivance of this kind.  You are flung about the globe on a series of random solo combat missions by your "controller" in order to create chaos and destabilize the existing global order. Between missions you are treated to a series of fantastically cheesy FMV sequences in which some lady keeps asking you to "Say my name" and eventually to save her from, I dunno, life in the simulation or the matrix or something. It's all meaningless and derivative drivel, like an undergraduate's version of Memento. And even worse, it's entirely separate and tacked on to the gameplay, and nothing you do while playing feels even remotely relevant to the narrative. You shoot things and pick up keycards and get to the exit, and that's all.

In terms of gameplay, though, kill.switch is alright. It's a straightforward cover shooter, long before that became a genre or sub-genre of its own. You hold L1 to hide behind pillars or crates (always plenty of crates lying around) and press up or over on the analog stick to poke your head out and fire off a few rounds. And unlike its goofy-ass predecessor, Winback, you can shoot while moving in kill.switch. You can also blind fire from behind cover, but it's too inaccurate to be useful. Though, while the levels are built generally built around the cover mechanic, there are a few frustratingly sticky situations and overall poor level designs. kill.switch is also alarmingly short, clocking in at four hours or so to complete for even the most meandering players. You earn nothing for completing it on any difficulty level, either. Hooray!

Technically, kill.switch is pretty neat for a PS2 game. It looks and animates very well, even though the art direction of the whole thing is pretty bland modern warfare stuff. And it sounds fine, too. kill.switch is mostly just a tech demo. It's fun to play and appeals to the senses, but it lacks depth or longevity. It's no Winback killer, in any event.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Movie Review: Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

I was not a big fan of the previous attempt at a film adaptation of our favorite bald and bar-coded assassin in 2007's Hitman. It felt too much as though the writers were trying to develop 47 into a character quite unlike the one seen in the games. An example of this was the scene where Timothy Olyphant's Agent 47 reads a magazine article about animal mating in order to learn something about human women. It is true that 47 is not simply a rabid killing machine totally lacking conscience; we see his attempt at living a peaceful life at the beginning of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. However, this does not mean he is also attempting to settle down and have a family. That is just not him. Neither is 47 a curious adolescent trying to learn more about human sexuality. This scene simply didn't fit with the character and was written by someone seemingly unfamiliar with the games.

Fortunately, Hitman: Agent 47 improves upon the previous movie in this respect and is enjoyable for what it is. They do not attempt to engage in much character development of 47: he is an assassin, he is very good at what he does, and he was a clone bred to be a killer. (Which reminds me of another indication that the writers of the previous movie were unfamiliar with the games: there is a fight scene between 47 and other agents who happened to be ethnically diverse, which makes no sense as they are supposed to be clones.) But the improvement is only slight. It still feels like a rather generic action movie. What I would really like to see out of a Hitman film adaptation are the distinctive aspects of the series' gameplay. In other words, fewer shootouts and more creative smuggling of weapons where they are prohibited, over-the-top disguises, and elaborate assassination plots (perhaps of morbidly obese mob bosses). Hitman is (supposedly) a stealth game after all, and the films should reflect that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Movie Review: The Transporter Refueled (2015)

My principal concern going into The Transporter Refueled was the replacement of Jason Statham with this non-Statham guy, Ed Skrein. I was right to be concerned, in a way. Skrein is truly a nothing actor. He has none of the childish charisma of Statham. Sure, things happen to him, but his reactions to them aren't particularly interesting, dramatic, or humorous. Thankfully, though, the things happening to him are much more fun than most contemporary action films. In this reboot of the series, Frank Martin (boring-ass Skrein) is busy transportin' stuff in France when his hip old man comes for a visit. Instead of bonding with his father as planned, Frank instead takes a job as a getaway driver for four mysterious women looking to rob a bank. They have plans of their own for Frank, however; his father is held hostage until Frank agrees to help them assassinate a Russian gangster.

Now, this is not a bad premise for an action film, but the first thirty minutes or so almost derail the whole thing. Most of this is attributable to the bland performance of Skrein, as he sourfaces his way through the introductory and characterization bits of Act I. It all gets much better once he is forced to take the job "offered" by the lady assassins. Refueled reminded me of the quality, middle-budget martial arts films that were staples of the Code Redd Net diet in the old Geocities days: Transporters 1 and 2, obviously, but also Jet Li's Unleashed (2005), for example. Once the exposition is finished, Refueled is blessedly short and lean, and the non-entity of Skrein is subsumed by the generally excellent fight scenes and car chases. There are several beautifully absurd action sequences in unusual spaces, such as a car chase through an airport terminal, and a precision missile dropkick delivered through a car window. The choreography is delightfully shaky-cam free, too. All this is to say that while Refueled is certainly not in the same league as Transporters 1 and 2, especially the boring stuff at the beginning, it's still a solid reminder of what action cinema can be.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

PS2 Review: The Bouncer (2001)

It's difficult to make sense of The Bouncer. It looks like an ordinary 3D beat-'em-up, which is commendable enough given that the genre has been rendered practically obsolete since the SNES and Genesis generation. I like having games like this around, mostly because I like pulverizing proper nouns on the streets, even when the games themselves are at their most mediocre. However, in many ways The Bouncer isn't much of a beat-'em-up at all. In fact, according to the marketing this is more of a "playable action movie" than a straightforward brawler. It may be a cliche, but The Bouncer is truly neither fish nor fowl: far too vapid to be an action movie (think about that for a moment), and far too complex and involved with storytelling to be a satisfyingly mindless beat-'em-up. Simply put, The Bouncer tries to do too much and succeeds at very little.

The Bouncer has one of the most insipid "stories" I have ever played. Most beat-'em-ups, like Streets of Rage or Fighting Force, have the good taste and common decency to save you the trouble of worrying about characters and their relationships. Instead, they essentially tell you, "Some hoodlums have taken over the streets of our fair city, and they're evil, so please, go out there and beat the dog crap out of them and don't come back until you do." It does the job for me. That's all the motivation I need. But The Bouncer tries to impress you with the cinematic. From a technical standpoint, it actually succeeds. Given its age, it still looks and sounds pretty good. In terms of narrative, however, it stinks. Without looking it up, I can only recall a girl being kidnapped by oddly-dressed thugs, and our equally oddly-dressed bar bouncer heroes going out to save her from being turned into a cyborg kind of thing by some bozo running the evil Mikado corporation. There's also something in there about satellites and solar energy, I think. You spend the rest of the game getting acquainted with others who have also made numerous fashion faux pas. An idiotic premise, for sure, but that's not what gets to me.

The Fashion of The Bouncer. Good gracious.
What gets to me is the laborious way in which that story is presented. My first trip through the game took approximately an hour and a half, about an hour of which was seemingly spent on watching the cinematics. They either go on forever or they are pointlessly short, like the numerous three second clips of the characters running through doorways. Every utterance, every development in the narrative is just, like, So What? Who Cares? and also, You Left the House Dressed Like That, Do You Not Have Friends or Mirrors? The Bouncer has multiple pathways through the story depending on which character you choose and when, but none of them are exciting, even though one of them is a thoroughly bizarre "stealth" mission.

This interminable story ruins what is otherwise a decent beat-'em-up engine: deep enough to keep most fights interesting, but easy to learn (though a counter button would have been nice). Basically, you watch and then you briefly fight, level up your characters, watch then briefly fight, level up your characters, and so on. Luckily, you have the option of using characters unlocked in the Story mode to play either Survival or Versus. Survival isn't much better than Story, mostly because it quickly becomes alternatively tedious and cheap. Versus is your typical multiplayer mode, and it supports up to four players, human or CPU. It redeems the game somewhat, but not enough to recommend it for anyone other than the most starved beat-'em-up fans.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Transporter Refuelled (2015) Trailer

Pardon us while we remodel the site. In the meantime, enjoy this trailer for the rebooted Transporter franchise.

I don't know how to feel about this one. Transporter 3 was all kinds of awful, of course, but I'm not sure I would've hit the reset button so hard.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

PS1 Review: NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC (1999)

What an ungainly title. NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC is another in the long line of NBA Jam derivatives, which includes Midway "sequels" like Hangtime (1997) and Hoopz (2001, and quite fun to spell, incidentally). Despite the name change, all three of these games play pretty much the same, although each introduces its own wrinkles to the core design. The NBA Jam formula just works, and for a variety of reasons, but of the tweaks or updates (outside of the annual roster update) offered by the various versions, Showtime happens to be the best of the lot. Everything is about the same as before, only smoother, more polished: you get 2 on 2 ball, most of the rules get relaxed if not removed, physics get exaggerated, and so on. Showtime introduces a foul system, however, which initially seems like an odd fit for the kind of no-holds-barred style of this or previous Jams. Basically, a foul is assessed each time you shove an opponent. Play remains uninterrupted until you earn your fifth foul, at which point your opponent is then allowed to shoot a free throw (worth three points) and retain control of the ball. This introduces a fairly subtle bit of strategy into the otherwise manic gameplay of the series. Foul your opponent for the fifth time late in the game, for instance, and you may find yourself on the wrong side of a six point swing. It's a small change, but at the same time it does quite a lot to change the dynamic of offense and defense, particularly down the stretch. As with all Jam iterations, Showtime can likewise get a bit repetitive if you play it for any significant duration, but in short bursts, and particularly with friends, it's terrific.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the more cosmetic changes of Showtime. There is something wonderfully nostalgic about the old NBA on NBC theme, especially (actually, more likely solely) for those of us who grew up with the peacock's Sunday afternoon matinees. In comparison with its arcade version, or even its Dreamcast and N64 cousins, Showtime for the PS1 clearly loses a bit in the looks department. This is particularly noticeable in the player models which, while understandably polygonal for the time, fail to accurately render most of the players' faces. They all look a bit mangled. However, player animations are almost uniformly excellent. I should also mention the generally terrible roster. This was not a particularly lively time for fans of the association. You're looking at a league post-Jordan, consumed by labor disputes, and pre-LeBron. "Slim pickings" is probably the kindest way to describe the squads available. Thankfully, you can create your own player, and although you can develop that player into a superstar by defeating every team in the league, this is no career mode. It's essentially no different from the game's other main mode, in which you run through every team in the league with only the players made available to you on a particular squad. No career mode, no season mode, nothing else. As a single-player experience, then, Showtime is lacking in longevity. As an isolated, multiplayer experience, Showtime is the best of the bunch.

Monday, April 6, 2015

PS2 Review Double Feature: Smuggler's Run (2000) and Smuggler's Run 2: Hostile Territory (2001)

Hey, why not. I'll do these together. I can't think of a particularly good reason to do them separately.

Smuggler's Run (2000)

The first Smuggler's Run was something else, especially when it was released as part of the PS2 launch. I say "was" because, as you can probably surmise, not everything about it has aged well. It doesn't look great, it doesn't always play great, and it doesn't move you with an involving narrative (it doesn't even really have one). You're a smuggler, and you smuggle things, and there's really nothing more to it than that. You have big (for the time) open worlds set on the US/Canada and US/Mexico borders in which to smuggle the goods. Now, there's a bit of plot from the menu that introduces each mission, read by an irritating narrator with an especially juvenile sense of sexuality, but essentially it means the same thing as the plot of the original TimeSplitters (2000), which is to say it means nothing, or just about. Actually, Smuggler's Run and TimeSplitters have more in common than such easy-going narratives: essentially, Smuggler's is nothing more than a series of deathmatches with cars (actually more like BagTag, for all you TS fans out there). You pick up packages and deliver them, or you and a team do the same, or you have an inexplicable checkpoint race with rival gangs. It's more like an arcade game than anything else. You pick up packages by driving over them, and you can steal or transfer them by slamming into other cars. It works quite well as mindless, almost anti-narrative horseplay, but like any arcade game, it can get more than a bit repetitive if you play it for too long. And more often than not, Smuggler's is incredibly frustrating and difficult, especially the latter half of the game (another similarity to TimeSplitters). Despite the difficulty, however, I enjoyed the way in which Smuggler's allows you to create your own route to mission completion. Smuggler's Run is a meat and potatoes kind of game. It does the job without a whole lot of panache.

Smuggler's Run 2: Hostile Territory (2001)

This is more like it. Smuggler's Run 2 is an improvement on the original in every way possible. This one not only has an actual story, but live-action cut-scenes with real actors and everything. They're silly as hell and probably not in a good way, but I appreciate the effort. You play as a guy who works for another guy who works freelance for some bad people with some bad goods to move. This takes you to Russia and then to Vietnam, then back to Russia for Winter Russia. Several things make this game much better than its predecessor: it looks fantastic, the worlds are bigger and the terrain is more varied, and the difficulty has been toned down to what I consider to be a reasonable level. There's still an annoying glitch carried over from Smuggler's 1, in which your pursuers' vehicles seem to be magnetized to your rear bumper. This can be a real drag because they more often than not spin you out of control, which is really frustrating when you're on the clock and racing to the next checkpoint (which is always the case). 2's missions are much better and more varied than the original as well. As before, 2 can get repetitive if you persist in playing it for too long, but for short bursts of fun, it really is one of the best arcade-style racing games on PS2.
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