Import Tuner Challenge Hands-On

We run lap after lap of Tokyo's C1 Loop as we check out Genki's upcoming street racer for the Xbox 360.

Currently scheduled for release toward the end of this month, Import Tuner Challenge is a Genki-developed street racing game set on and around Tokyo's Shuto Expressway, which incorporates the famous C1 Loop. If that description brings to mind the Tokyo Xtreme Racer (also known as Shutokou Battle) series, that's probably because this is its latest entry, albeit with an all-new North American title. Gameplay options in Import Tuner Challenge include time attack, free run, Xbox Live, versus, and the "quest" career mode that we recently had an opportunity to spend several hours with.

Any ride can be made to look great if you spend some time with it in the tuning shop.

When you start a new career, you'll have 3 million credit points (CP) with which to purchase your first ride. You'll only be able to afford around half of the game's 18 licensed cars from Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota at this point, but as you progress through the game and unlock additional vehicles, you'll be able to amass a sizable collection. The vehicle roster certainly doesn't compare favorably with those in other racers, but one of Import Tuner Challenge's most impressive features is undoubtedly the extent to which you can customize your rides. The game's garage boasts a tuning shop where you can purchase new parts for your cars and, if you're so inclined, tweak the settings for traction control, torque balance, suspension alignment, wing angles, and such in an attempt to squeeze every last drop of performance out of them.

Fiddling around in your virtual garage to improve the performance of your car can be quite satisfying, but the real fun comes from making it look better than anything else on the road. Regardless of which model of car you opt for, you'll find that there are a number of different aesthetic options for bumpers, hoods, side skirts, spoilers, mirrors, headlights, fenders, rims, and the like. Other, more superficial options include adding neon lights, vertically opening doors, colored interiors, different seats, a new horn, or even an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror to your car. A lot of this stuff seems pointless when playing solo, but if you're planning to play online, you'll almost certainly want to make sure that your ride is distinctive and/or memorable for the right reasons.

Once you've got a car that you're happy with, you'll finally be ready to take it out onto the highway and earn some money back in illegal street races. All of the racing in Import Tuner Challenge takes place at night, at midnight, or at daybreak, which means that there's not a great deal of traffic for you to worry about. What traffic there is in the game behaves quite realistically, though, and it's certainly possible to use it to your advantage if you keep an eye out for it and can force your opponents in behind slow-moving vehicles. Honking your horn will cause other motorists to change lanes occasionally, as well, which can be a particularly satisfying way to hamper the progress of an opponent who's gaining on you from behind.

To initiate races in Import Tuner Challenge, you can either talk to other drivers in the parking area or simply cruise the highway looking for other tuners. Drivers interested in racing aren't difficult to spot on the C1 Loop because their positions are indicated on your overhead map of the area, and they each have arrows hovering above them that become visible when you get close. Once you close in on a potential opponent and have had a chance to get a look at the other ride, you can start a race simply by tucking in behind the racer and flashing your lights. At this point the CPU will assume control of your car for a few seconds as the two of you pull alongside each other and then, after a 3-2-1 countdown, the race is on.

Collisions don't hurt your vehicle, just your chances of winning.

Although traditional races over set distances are quite commonplace in Import Tuner Challenge, most of those that we've participated in have taken the form of spirit-point (SP) battles. In these battles, drivers have an SP bar (think of it as a health bar, though it actually has something to do with mental strength) that gets depleted anytime they're behind an opponent or are involved in a collision. The winner is the driver whose SP bar outlasts the opponent's, which results in some races coming to an end quite quickly, while others become real tug-of-war affairs. Import Tuner Challenge's handling is pretty forgiving, especially where collisions are concerned, but if you ride the walls on either side of the highway too much, you'll drain your SP very quickly and lose the battle, regardless of how far in front of your opponent you are.

If there's one aspect of Import Tuner Challenge that's easy to criticize it's the environment in which the game is set. Though well known to street racers the world over, Tokyo's Shuto Expressway is anything but picturesque, and the races taking place at times when your headlights are turned on by default does little to help matters. For the moment, our racing has been limited to the C1 Loop portion of this road network, but as you progress through the game, you'll unlock additional routes such as the Shinjuku Line, the Shinkanjo Circular, and the Shibuya Line. We look forward to bringing you more information on Import Tuner Challenge as soon as it becomes available.

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Discussion

49 comments
SamSamo
SamSamo

The cars customization in this game is very special and shouldn't be overlooked.

morketh
morketh

The graphics looks like they were taken on the original xbox, kind of splotchy, not impressed...

BadgerGravling
BadgerGravling

There's more to modfying cars than a tacky spoiler....unless you're 'street racing' to the drive thru to pick up a burger....

catilano
catilano

All you that have never played this game before dont really know what your missing. i've played NFS U1, U2, MOST WANTED, AND THERE ALL THE SAME, SAME CARS, SAME TRACKS, SAME EVERYTHING. So whats to expect from the CARBON, i know same cars, same tracks, same modifications, everything is going to be the same like the most wanted.... All i gotta say i would spend the money for the import tuner challenge because its a fuc*** cool game. and about the 18 cars that's just to begin with you unluck more and more cars as you beat car club in different citys like tokyo, japan etc. i cant wait till sep 27....... CORVETTE C6.

PR3D4TOR2
PR3D4TOR2

this game will be awesome plus the price is good to ! I will 100% buy it. Well if you ever played Tokyo Extreme series you know this game will be awesome !

m34d
m34d

29.99 that is a freakin deal. Maybe you guys before me should think of the price. For that price 18 cars isn't as bad as you would think. Maybe you can look forward to those nifty micro transactions we like so much. This game looks solid but no real interesting factor other than the price. I love my 360 but im not making another over g decision I rent it b4 I buy it and if it sucks then it wasn't worth even renting. but even over g fighters would have been a better investment had it been cheaper.

SamSamo
SamSamo

I like the Tokyo extreme games. They are fun and interesting. The car's modification is great. You can show your character via your car. You can make beautiful or ugly cars. I really believe that this game deserves its price. I wil buy it without any hesitation.

BadgerGravling
BadgerGravling

Hmmmmmm..... Nothing here that makes me want to invest, rather than sticking to Test Drive Unlimited for fun, and waiting for Forza 2 for serious racing....and 18 cars is a bit limited.

SwatTeam14
SwatTeam14

I agree with John but why the FUX did you make that gay supra?

Guitar_John
Guitar_John

Man, I loved those Tokyo Extreme games way back when. The challenging and tug-of-war races are great. Plus, it's got my car in it, the MK3 Supra!!! In the gameplay movie it sounded exactly like it does in real life. I can't wait to race that around the lanes!

kamicolo
kamicolo

Is this game really $30? Nice graphics, but is there a good sense of speed?

alfa90
alfa90

I have always liked these games. They are really nerd-ish when it comes to details and I really like that. I really liked the games for the dreamcast and i enjoyed street supremacy for the psp (I might be the only one, lol) however I look forward this game but I also look forward Forza 2 and NFS Carbon

durial117
durial117

This game looks pretty lame... get a Need For Speed game or Forza 2 dont waste $60 for this peice of junk...

payback_56
payback_56

hold on if its not there to compete with NFS carbon, and definatly not there to compete with forza and other sim style racers, then why should we pay $50-$60 for this game, that is lost somewhere in the middle? I mean seriously, it might be a good game, but an import tuning game, that u can't compare with NFS Carbon, whats the point, NFS carbon is an impot tuning game, that might be better, indications from previous NFS games is that it will be better, so why cant we compare it???? Import tuner challenge features cars u modify and race, NFS carbon features cars u modify and race, but we shouldnt compare the 2 games, and we will probably have to pay the same price....right

MUN200455996
MUN200455996

Okay fun fact for all the kids with miniscule vacabularies, it isn't there to go up against the likes of carbon or unlimited and to compare it to a sim like Forza, Gran Turismo or GTR is ludicrous, now that said I've thoroughly enjoyed all the tokyo extreme games right back to the first one in 99' on my dreamcast. There are complaints in the commentaries about the graphics and rightly so, Genki has never aspired to have prettiest racer out there but with solid frame rates and an almost turnbased rpg feel to the racing this series has always brought an enjoyable if not unique quality to racing fans. Plus the titles usually start off at bargain bin pricing eg: Tokyo Extreme 3 for PS2 in 2004 when it came out was only 34.99+tax at my local EB here in Newfoundland, Canada. Here's hoping for the same this time around.

_Sam_
_Sam_

it looks alright IMO

SwatTeam14
SwatTeam14

WOW I CANT WAIT! im going to get TDU wensday, this game... this game is perfect for me, i love street racing. . . I cant stop thinking about it . . . i hope the 26/27th comes very soon :) this games IS PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! phuck CARBON!!!!!

JiveT
JiveT

When I get to Tokyo I'm on ru-ide my Bat-mos-bile right tru dat Shinkanjo-Shibuya line. Peep dat! This game looks fantastic!

Jigglytits
Jigglytits

I think I'll just buy TDU and in a few months, Forza 2.

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

i dunno looks pretty nice in terms of visual appeal but not in actual graphics. doesn't look next-gen but if it keeps its own nice style i'll buy it

LexLas
LexLas

Makes me want to go out and get a 360. Racing games are my favorite. Wow.

hayasapu
hayasapu

Looks really good, the tokyo extreme games are for me a game you play when you grown tired of nfs and never want to play any nfs again / I dont think its as good as forza 2 but I´d buy this one long before I even start to consider nfs:c.. really looking forward to this

Tk0vacs
Tk0vacs

This game is craaappp!!!! evry car handles like a dump truck in water. the controls are not responsive and the visuals feel like your looking through cloudy plastic bottles. This game has been out in japan for over a month and the used copies are already cheap. forget about this game save your money and wait for forza.

zbaird
zbaird

I like this.. In the video it looks like you stay neck in neck with the opponent the whole time.. I hate games that lets either you or the computer blow you out.

NND1
NND1

Why settle for this when there are much better games??????

CaribouLou5
CaribouLou5

As a huge fan of the first 2 tokyo xtreme games, I would buy this if I had a 360. Sure the graphics aren't revolutionary, but the gameplay is what's important. Every game that comes out isn't going to set new graphical boundries, so stop expecting them to. Sure there are better looking and more realistic racers, but when I wanted to pop in a game for a quick few races txr had the perfect blend of arcade and simulation style gameplay.

elvis_gardner
elvis_gardner

I don't think this should be criticized, now I am a die hard fan of racers, and I've always liked the Need For Speed and Burnout Series alongside with TOCA. But when I'm looking for a bit of a different racing scene, I always pop in one of my TXR games, not only are they pretty well made, (They aren't need for speed or Burnout, but these companies are EA with a huge budget) but very relaxing, I look forward to playing this along side Test Drive Unlimited, don't knock it until its tried.

DontEatCream
DontEatCream

Man, enough with these import tuner games... Need for Speed is all most gamers need: we don't need another copycat title to be ported to a next-gen console just to cash in on the new trend.

NND1
NND1

OK I'll be fair: So--So Graphics but still TRASH!!!!!!!

NND1
NND1

WTF is this??? All the Shutokou Battle's were trash and anyways I doubt that Genki can make a racer better than Burnout Revenge, Need 4 Speed or Test Drive Unlimited..... But I guess it doesn't hurt to try.....

BioShockOwnz
BioShockOwnz

I own the Japanese version called Shutoku Battle and the games really good. You drive around and then to challenge a person you flick your headlights on, then you are set in the race. It also has the nice in-dash view like in TDU and PGR3, but you are sitting on the right side since it is a Japanese game. The only problem I had was the handling of the cars. It is REALLY bad, and I let games slip a lot and don't get on them, but the handling in this game is honestly atrocious. Now if they fixed this for the US release then all will be well, but I highly doubt they will.

kamicolo
kamicolo

I reminds of Sega graphics. It sounds fun, remind me of Midnight Club. What are the differences? I played Test Drive Unl...that game seems better, Beautiful graphics, great scenery.

DreamerD
DreamerD

OMG...who brings something this ugly to 360? It 's not even close to the current gen, let alone next gen. It'll do better on ps2...Carbon will wipe the floor with it. And it will be nothing like nfsu series...driving bricks got old with SRS....sheesh...now with that out of the way :) I apologize if anyone got offended in the process. Simply stating my opinion based on videos and screen shots and I wish you good luck if you planing on getting this :D

ZeTecThreaT
ZeTecThreaT

This was one of my favorite Dreamcast games back in the day.Its Next Gen makeover is a nice one.

KingKoop
KingKoop

Hmmm it's been done really I'll stick with NFS Carbon

dragthat
dragthat

This game looks very good

CPL_PEACOCK
CPL_PEACOCK

regardless of others i think this will be a good game for the ones that like the nfsu series. This gives the impression so far that it will offer a more indepth experience of the tunning lifestyle. This game will offer a different experence than other current racers suck as pgr is not a tunner racer as well as nfs mw took a different aproach with the police. Forza is a track racer and not the cruising experence. I hope they include drifting on mountain roads.

pcanepa
pcanepa

DAMN. that looks real bad. i wouldnt take it if they gave it to me for free. ok maybe i would but i would immediately return it for money and buy myself something else. i suggest no one buys it. whoever thinks that games looks good is mad dumb. i think NFS most wanted looks better than that. if you want a racing game get PGR3 which is already out. or u can get Forza Motorsport coming soon. . . now thats gana be great game, i cant wait to get that game. Forza Rocks!

4esth
4esth

This looks pretty bad. Hey, at least it's similar with tuners in real life!

GoYa_MoB
GoYa_MoB

This Game looks Hott and I can't wait to get it!! I Have a Honda Accord and I'm making a Tuner Car so I want this Game!

wenbin09
wenbin09

the graphics have to be the disadvantage!!

aftermath_69
aftermath_69

I have the 2 previous and they are OK racing games. Can be fun but frustrating at times. This game lacks physics because all cars handle the same and they are hard to turn.