Earlier today, during a meeting with representatives from Vivendi Universal Games and Radical Entertainment, we had an opportunity to check out the latest PlayStation 2 and Xbox builds of Crash Tag Team Racing. Currently scheduled for release in October, Crash Tag Team Racing is a surprisingly innovative combat racing game that incorporates traditional Crash Bandicoot platforming elements and numerous minigames into its colorful mix.
Crash Tag Team Racing's most innovative new gameplay feature is a racing mechanic known as "clashing," which has the potential to make races far more strategic affairs than those in any other kart racer to date. You'll start each race behind the steering wheel of a one-man kart with limited weaponry specific to your character, but clashing will let you temporarily team up with any other driver on the circuit for mutual benefits. When you initiate a clash with another racer (by driving close to the other racer and hitting your clash button), your two vehicles will merge to form a larger vehicle, and while your opponent continues to man the steering wheel, you'll take the controls of a rear-mounted turret weapon that can be rotated a full 360 degrees. As the gunner, you'll be able to switch between the weapons of both characters, and you'll also get to trigger any special weapons (such as falling grand pianos) that your driver manages to collect.
If you're playing Crash Tag Team Racing solo, you'll have the option to switch between the driver and gunner positions when you're clashed with another character, but the game promises to be even more fun when played with friends. Crash Tag Team Racing will feature split-screen support for two players on the PS2 and up to four players on the Xbox and GameCube, as well as system link play. The twist in multiplayer games is that when you're merged with another player's vehicle, whichever one of you chooses to separate (which can be done at any time) will end up directly in front of the other. That's great if you're just about to cross the finish line, of course, but not so great if there's still a way to go and the player you end up in front of is armed to the teeth.
In addition to "regular" races, Crash Tag Team Racing's 15 tracks will play host to a number of other vehicular gameplay modes, with names like run and gun, rolling thunder, crashinator, and fast lap. The game will also feature destruction-derby-style events, which take place in specially designed battle arenas, and stunt events, which task you with performing jumps and tricks in arenas filled with ramps and such. In order to gain access to all of the different events in Crash Tag Team Racing you'll have to explore the game's sizable hub area, which takes the form of a busy amusement park, on foot.
Besides giving you the chance to locate the various themed racing areas (including Egypt, pirates, and space) inside the amusement park, your time spent away from your vehicle will afford you an opportunity to indulge in some traditional Crash Bandicoot platforming. You'll be able to perform all of the same moves that Crash Bandicoot has been employing since his 1996 PlayStation debut, and one way to unlock additional race circuits will be to complete on-foot missions for characters you encounter as you explore the park. You'll also find that there are plenty of minigames for you to play at the park, including Radical's humorous takes on bowling, Asteroids, Missile Command, and Duck Hunt. The bowling game, for example, is played on comically warped alleys that will change as your game progresses. The Duck Hunt-style game, titled Animal Farm Frenzy, will see you shooting at flying pigs, sheep, and cows. And the underwater Asteroids remake will see you firing fish at mines posing a threat to a yellow submarine.
Other things you'll want to look out for in Crash Tag Team Racing's amusement park include collectible gems, park attendants that you can interact with (invariably with humorous results), and no fewer than 34 different "die-o-rama" animations. The die-o-rama animations are brief cutscenes that will be unlocked when you discover a particularly amusing way for Crash to meet his demise in the park. If you perform Crash's pin attack too close to a certain tree, for example, it'll topple over and crush him. Another die-o-rama we got to see had Crash getting devoured by sharks after mistiming a jump and falling into a pond.
Crash Tag Team Racing is currently scheduled for release on all current-generation consoles in October, and PSP and DS versions are also in development. We'll bring you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.