Camp EA 2002Shox impressions

We take the next EA Sports Big game out for a spin in the dirt.

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The sixth EA Sports Big game was unveiled yesterday, and it follows in the same outrageous and over-the-top vein as the likes of SSX Tricky, Freekstyle, and NBA Street. The game is called Shox, and it's basically an extremely visceral and visually impressive rally racing game, and it's currently in development at Electronic Arts UK. The game uses an enhanced version of the F1 2002 engine, of all things, and is being made for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube, though only the former version was available for play at EA's recent press event.

Like all of EA Sports Big games, Shox looks very good. The cars in the game are all modeled with a high number of polygons and feature subtle but noticeable environment-mapped paint jobs that reflect your surroundings realistically. As you plow through the dirt and mud courses of the game, the cars will get dirtier. In the first-person perspective, flying dirt from cars in front of you will speckle your windshield and interfere with your vision, though never to the point of frustration. The tracks--21 in all--look very detailed as well and always have some sort of frantic activity going on while you race. Fireworks, explosions, flashing billboards, and other reactive environments are the norm no matter what course you're driving.

Shox has three distinct track environments--desert, tundra, and jungle--and each affects your car's performance in a different manner. Obviously, the snowy tracks of the tundra courses make for slippery racing, while the soggy jungle areas will slow you down somewhat. One of the key gameplay mechanics of Shox is called the "shox zone." Each track in the game has three of these shox zones, which are denoted by bright orange letters that indicate where these zones start and end. You're timed on each of these legs during the actual race, and you're given a bronze, silver, or gold rating, depending on how fast you completed each of the three shox zones. If you earn a gold rating on all three of any track's shox zones during any given race, you'll unlock a new course.

Included in the game will be 24 licensed cars from manufacturers like Mini, Porsche, Audi, and Lancia, and each will have its own handling characteristics. While some of these cars are recognizable from other rally racing games, most of the cars in Shox are fairly unique. For example, one of the playable vehicles is the forthcoming Porsche Cayenne, which, when released, will be the world's fastest SUV. The Cayenne will be so fast, in fact, that it will be able to keep up with its 996 Turbo sibling in a 0-60 sprint. Getting these exotic cars won't be as straightforward as in some other racing games, however. You can buy cars with points that you earn for doing well in the races, but you can also get access to the game's more coveted wheels by gambling. You basically put up your points as collateral, and the other opponents do the same. If you win, you'll win all of the points in the pool. If you lose, you lose big time and will be forced to continue your racing career without any points.

Even though it was only recently announced, Shox has been in development for quite some time. In fact, the game is scheduled for release on the PlayStation 2 in October, with the GameCube version to follow a few weeks later. Both games are supposed to be identical in terms of features and visuals. We'll have more on this exciting game in the coming weeks.

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