Rollcage Stage II Preview

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Psygnosis' Rollcage turned some basic tenets of racing on their head, in more ways than one. Instead of creating realistic, damageable cars and an unchanging landscape, Attention to Detail developed indestructible death machines capable of tearing tracks and buildings alike to itty bits. Or, instead, you could just blow the buildings into big bits and leave them in the way of the opposition. And then there's the part about driving on walls and ceilings. That's right, Rollcage's unstoppable vehicles also possessed a Spider-Man-like tenacity for sticking to all things vertical. As they say, everything is negotiable.

Psygnosis and ATD are upping the ante with Rollcage Stage II. It will include five new leagues (one is hidden), six new environments, and a whopping 20 new tracks. Some racers have only as many tracks as this one has leagues, so Rollcage Stage II is certainly set to deliver in the replay department. In the world of racing games, where every conceivable power-up or special weapon has been done before, the first Rollcage managed to deliver some totally original dirty tricks: wormholes that swapped your position with the car immediately in front of you, guided missiles that automatically sought out the lead car, and time warps that slowed everyone but you to a crawl. Rollcage Stage II will have a lot of the same, plus more.

The game will contain an astounding 16 play modes. Want more vehicles? No problem; Rollcage Stage II includes 20 cars, each having three unique paint jobs. Like a lot of tracks? Then this is your game; RS2 will contain an amazing 65 unique tracks. In addition to your basic play modes (arcade, time attack), many of the interesting modes found in Rollcage Stage II include league, training, scramble, survivor, demolition, all tracks, tournament, pursuit, combat, and rubble soccer. Each league contains four tracks - three standard tracks and one knockout track. You get to the knockout track by finishing first in the points race in the first three tracks. When you do get to a knockout track, what you do not want to do is finish last or else you'll be eliminated from the race. You can, however, use continues, which you earn by winning races, to immediately race on the knockout track again. If you win the race on the knockout track, the next league is opened up.Ten training tracks are available for use, each set up specifically to help you become an expert with the game's basic elements. The objective on each track is to complete a given task and stop in the finishing area within the amount of time allowed.

ATD is including 25 tracks for scramble mode. The mission here is to simply finish each track within a certain amount of time. But don't be fooled; these aren't the typical tracks you are used to seeing. Each track in this mode is floating in space, and you can easily fall off of them. To make things harder, you encounter obstacles such as bumps, jumps, twists, and banks. Survivor mode is a bit basic but by no means easy. The point of this feature is to win each track in order from league to league. The more you win, the further you advance. If you lose, though, your game is over. Demolition is a feature that destruction freaks will love. In this mode you get to destroy everything that's on the track as fast as you can.

In all-tracks mode, you get to have a taste of every track without having to worry about your place or being blown off the track - the only power-up available is turbo. You complete one lap from each of the 20 league tracks in the game, and your total time is added up. This mode opens up once you have opened up all 20 league tracks. Tournament mode lets you play a "best of" series with your friends. You have the choice to play a best of three, five, seven, or nine game. Are you constantly driven to pass a certain car on the track, no matter how tough it is? In pursuit mode, two players are placed exactly half a course away from each other. The first person to catch up and pass the other is the winner. This mode consists of specially designed tracks - three in total - which have been created so you can see the other player at certain spots on the course, just so you have an idea of how well you are doing.

The combat mode was also found in the first Rollcage title, but there are now more weapons and a new scoring system. You have five combat tracks to choose from. Want to play a game of soccer? Then try rubble soccer, a two-player game where you push a piece of rubble into your rival's goal. As far as weapons go, 12 weapons are available. ATD has added a new weapons structure to the title that's somehow supposed to double the number of weapons to 24. Exactly how is anyone's guess right now.

One thing the Rollcage Stage II development team has said is that it has taken in to account all the criticism the original title received from the press. For example, one of the biggest complaints about the first Rollcage is that it was far too easy to spin out. Well, that's not a big problem anymore. Rollcage Stage II has an all-new handling system, where the annoying spinouts have been reduced greatly. Another complaint made about the original title is that it was easy to become disoriented after you crashed. So, thanks to media criticism, the development team implemented a new feature called the "Stack-O-Cam." How the Stack-O-Cam helped in RS2 is that it knows when you are about to crash and slightly zooms in on your car so it's easier to recognize which direction is the right way.

One of the biggest features of the original Rollcage was its soundtrack. With hit tracks from Fatboy Slim, Aphrodite, plus many others, Psygnosis even released a limited version of the title that included an additional soundtrack CD. Disappointingly, the only group returning for the sequel is EZ Rollers. Other artists on the soundtrack include Aquasky, Flytronix, Dom & Roland, and Omni Trio.

Rollcage Stage II's graphics have come far since the original title. The courses have more detail, the lighting is much better, and some of the effects caused by the power-ups are much more cool looking. Despite that, the game is still looking very much like a Wipeout game. With the whole setup of how the weapons, shield, and speed power-ups work, you may think this is in fact a new Wipeout title, until you actually see the vehicles. Thankfully, ATD is adding a vast load of extra features and modes that hopefully will deter gamers from seeing this aspect of the title. Rollcage Stage II is turning out to be a title that will be strongly supported by its modes of play, and gamers who dearly want a game with a lot of replay value may want to keep an eye on this title. It could turn out be very addicting. Expect to see the game in stores this March.

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