LucasArts gave us a look at its upcoming Star Wars Racer Revenge, the sequel to Star Wars Episode 1 Racer. Building on its predecessor's strengths, Star Wars Racer Revenge looks to offer gamers quite a bit to sink their gaming teeth into. Developed by Rainbow Studios, of ATV Offroad Fury and Splashdown fame, the game has come a long way since it was shown at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Set eight years after the original game, Star Wars Racer Revenge focuses on Sebulba's return to the podracing circuit--Sebulba had disappeared following his defeat in the original game. Padawan Anakin Skywalker also returns, having snuck away from Jedi training to compete in the new podracing season. Anakin's entry in the races sits well with Sebulba, who is eager to take out his old rival.
Those familiar with the original game will be right at home with Star Wars Racer Revenge, which follows the basic structure of the original. You'll find three modes of play to choose from: single, versus, and tournament. Single mode offers three variations: single, practice, and time trial. Single lets you race on any available track, practice lets you take a practice run on any track, and time trial challenges you to beat a set time on each track. Versus mode is a two-player split-screen race on any available track. Tournament mode is a single-player career mode that has you choose a racer and compete to be the best pilot in a series of races. You'll earn trugats, which you can use like cash to upgrade your pod and enhance its performance in between matches.
The alpha build we played featured eight selectable characters, including the Episode 2 Anakin Skywalker--played by Hayden Christensen--and nine tracks to race on. The final game will offer 23 selectable characters, 18 of which will include new characters as well as returning characters from the previous game. The remaining five characters will be secret characters you will have to unlock by going through the game's various modes. The track count in the final game will also be upped: You'll find 14 tracks spread out over five worlds. Tatooine will be the only planet Racer vets will recognize; the other four worlds--Mon Calamari, Ryloth, Gamorr, and Sullust--are entirely new.
Attack of the Pods
Gameplay has been tweaked a bit, mostly for the better. Pod handling is a bit less floaty than before. You're now encouraged to race aggressively and are awarded extra trugats if you slam into other players during a race. You'll earn the most trugats if you take out an opponent, and you'll receive an added bonus for merciless racing. The AI will react to your racing style to a degree. We noticed certain racers who were our favorite punching bags in the earlier races gave us a wider berth as we approached them in later races. In addition, it appears as though the racers will be a bit more aggressive themselves, staying quite close on your tail if you've passed them.
Control in the game was solid and translated well to the PS2 controller. You'll steer with the left analog stick or D-pad. The X button will handle acceleration, while the square button will handle braking. The triangle will cycle through five available camera views, and the circle button will let you look behind you. The L2 trigger will repair your engines when they're damaged, and the R2 trigger will give you a boost. This time out you'll be able to boost whenever you want to rather than only when you're at your top speed as in the first game. You'll still have to keep an eye on your engine temperature to ensure you don't blow up on the track. An interesting advanced controller configuration you can select gives you independent control of both engines through each of the PS2 controller's analog sticks.
The game's graphics engine, a hybrid of original code and bits from Rainbow's other game engines, keeps the action looking quite nice and moving smoothly. The pods offer a great deal of detail, extending to the various tubes and wiring in some of the more intricate pods, as do the various character models. The tracks themselves feel more fully realized and feature more background action that gives them a more natural feeling. Weather effects, such as rain, and ambient sound help sell the whole package. The sense of speed in the game is quite good and pulls you into the game. In the midst of the onscreen madness it's nice to note that despite its early state the alpha build maintained a nearly constant 30 frames per second.
So far, Star Wars Racer Revenge has improved greatly since its E3 debut. The improved graphics and refined gameplay certainly show some promise. Look for a more in-depth preview once we explore a more complete build of the game as it nears release. Star Wars Racer Revenge is set to ship Q1 2002 for the PlayStation 2.