Acclaim's new Cheltenham studio is working on a PlayStation sequel to last year's RC-car-racing sim, Re-Volt. Titled Re-Volt 2: RC Revenge, the sequel is a definite deviation from the sim-heavy original. Having gotten our hands on some playable code of the game in development, we've spent quite a bit of time with it.
Re-Volt 2: RC Revenge derives many elements from its predecessor, though it is definitely more arcade-like in execution. Where the original Re-Volt was scolded for its unforgiving controls and relatively steep learning curve, the sequel is being touted by Acclaim as a light, "pick up and play" experience. Actually playing the game gives off that very impression: The bulk of the sim-ish experience was jettisoned in favor of a game design very reminiscent of what you'd see in a kart racer.
There is a decent variety of vehicles, and each vehicle possesses three characteristics: acceleration, top speed, and handling (which presumably replaces the original's "weight" classification). The car's aesthetic qualities normally mirror the way they'll behave in action - trucks, you can assume, are going to be more top-heavy and will thus handle more solidly, while small sportsters will zip through the tracks like a zephyr but will inevitably suffer during collisions.
Each vehicle, moreover, doubles as a speedboat. Some tracks possess marine elements, while others are completely composed of water. The change of terrain, for the most part, doesn't really seem to affect the gameplay too much.
Re-Volt 2's track design draws heavily from the institution of kart racing. Tracks are littered with shortcuts and preplaced power-ups that respawn every lap. Dead ends and chasms are very prevalent, and their placement is optimized by the use of optical illusions - what would seem at first glance to be the logical course of the track often turns out to be a solid wall, which effectively brings your car and everyone behind it to a dead stop. All this adds to Re-Volt 2's general frantic nature - some areas are tight and cramped; others are wide and expansive, with numerous obstacles and obstructions that keep you from driving freely. As with the original, the weapons you'll use seem to be of the typical kart fare, though they seem more in context within the sequel, given its heavy kart elements.
At this point, the game's emphasis seems to be placed on the accumulation of weapons - efficient driving will only get you so far before a bottle rocket blasts you out of the race temporarily. Emphasis needs to be shifted, though, lest the sequel's frustration factor parallels that of the original's.
Graphically, Re-Volt 2 seems to be a solid package. The tracks are intricately designed, and they fit their themes well. You'll race on wacky, cartoony tracks, as well as those designed to resemble horror-movie sets, lunar landing sites, and water parks, among many others. The designs are fully realized, with large, detailed, decorative elements; expect to see enormous sea serpents, volcanoes in the middle of tracks, and many other types of nuttiness. Everything, thankfully, seems to go down at a brisk rate, with nary a bit of slowdown. There is, however, a rather hateful amount of pop-up in at least two of the levels. Given that a majority of the tracks I raced were 100 percent pop-up free, those two rather glaring instances did seem like eyesores. Let's hope they're just a quirk in the preview that'll be resolved upon release.
Fans of the original Re-Volt may be a bit put off by the sequel's more arcade-like approach, though they'll quickly be won over by the new elements that were incorporated. Kart racing diehards should also keep an eye on this title, as it seems to be coming together very nicely. Scheduled for release this summer, Re-Volt 2: RC Revenge, altogether, seems to be a more widely appealing product than its predecessor. Check back here for a full review come the title's release.