Street Supremacy Hands-On

We test-drive Konami's recently announced street racer for the PSP at a press event in San Francisco.

Earlier today, at a Konami press event in San Francisco, we had an opportunity to spend some time with a work-in-progress version of the recently announced Street Supremacy. The PSP-exclusive street racing game, which was released as Shutokou Battle: Zone of Control in Japan last year, lets you race the highways of Tokyo behind the wheels of licensed cars from the likes of Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subara, and Toyota. We spent some time with the unimpressive Japanese game last year, so today we were eager to see if any improvements are being implemented for the North American version.

The good news is that, unlike its Japanese counterpart, Street Supremacy will support wireless head-to-head races between two players. The bad news is that based on what we saw of the game today, not much else has changed. The car models look great and the Tokyo highways look decent enough, but the controls are quite unresponsive, and even when you're using nitrous boosts to reach speeds well in excess of 100 miles per hour, there's really no sensation of speed whatsoever--particularly when using the behind-the-car camera. It'll be a real shame if these problems aren't addressed before Street Supremacy's release, because the game boasts some quite interesting gameplay modes and really comprehensive car customization options.

The vehicle models are undoubtedly the stars of the show.

Street Supremacy's career mode, for example, sees you joining a street racing gang that's vying for control of the Tokyo highways. The game's map is divided up into 15 areas, and as you race between them your performance will determine whether or not you can claim control. The races themselves are one of the most intriguing features of the game, because instead of being tasked with crossing a finishing line before your opponent, your goal is simply to deplete your rival's "sprit points" as quickly as possible. Spirit points are represented at the top of the screen in much the same way as energy bars in a fighting game, and you'll lose them any time that you collide with a wall or another vehicle, or fall too far behind your opponent. This can make for some very enjoyable races if the two drivers (and their cars) are evenly matched, but it also means that races can be extremely brief if one of the competitors makes just a single mistake and falls behind.

The disappointment of having a race end after only 30 seconds or so is compounded by the fact that Street Supremacy's load times are both lengthy and frequent. We spent more time than we care to remember staring at loading screens when we checked out Shutokou Battle: Zone of Control last year, so we've got our fingers crossed that Konami and Genki will find some way to improve the load times ahead of the game's North American release. We'll bring you more information on Street Supremacy as soon as it becomes available.

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