In a future where every need and desire is provided, it's no wonder that many simply want to go very fast and shoot each other. No malevolent interplanetary dictator forces drivers to compete for the fate of their world, no one killed anyone's brother or mother, and you're far from being an evil, psychotic clown with a twisted wish. Acclaim's Extreme G is really just about hijinks.
Extreme G's developer, Probe, knows a little something about packing titles with value. You might remember Fox Interactive's Die Hard Trilogy, which had a great shooter game, a gun game, and a driving game (well, of sorts) all jammed into one title. While this game is clearly only about driving and shooting, Probe put a volley of different modes into it, the meat and potatoes of which is the Extreme Contest. At its outset, one or two players choose from a pool of eight different futuristic bikes - all with awfully butch names such as Grimace and Khan - each varying in acceleration, top speed, handling around turns, shield strength, and fixed weapons. Three tracks open up to each of the four different environments (desert, city, mines and canyons, and space station) as you qualify. Do well, and extras such as alternate game modes (play as a rock or as through a fish-eye lens) and vehicles (case in point, the high performance Roach) become available.
Other modes available for the single player are practice (once you reach a course in EC, it's open to rehearse in), time trial (beat your best time without any explosive distractions), and shoot 'em up (a weapon power-up-filled run). Multiplayer options include head-to-head (two to four contenders compete sans the computer-controlled bikes), cup challenge (a racing cup for two to 16, much along the same lines as Mortal Kombat Trilogy's tournament mode), battle arena (two to four players in four different open environments), and flag game (a moving target version of Capture the Flag). All the various multiplayer modes are well worth exploring and have their own separate merit, though the single-player variations don't come close to the Extreme Contest.
The Extreme Contest can get pretty fast and furious. Again, the Extreme G gameplay is much different from similar-looking racing titles. The bikes are firmly planted on the ground (for example, you must pull up for jumps and hug the track on dives), and the game is as much about battling opponents as it is about racing, giving it a very competitive feel in more ways than one. As you move up the different difficulty levels, all the bikes get faster, and the enemy vehicles become smarter and more deadly, as well.
The wide array of inventive and destructive power-ups makes for some strategically minded competitions. For instance, the tractor beam will slingshot you past an opponent, the static pulse produces an energy wave that momentarily disables weapons and reverses the bike's controls, the ion side blast creates a streak of plasma that pours out the bike's sides to hold opponents at bay, multiple needle missiles produce a shower of tiny rockets that rain down from above, and the wally warp can send racers back to an earlier point in the track.
In no time, you will find yourself hanging onto your turbo boosts (three are provided each race) until stuck in a lurch, making a beeline for power-ups to recharge shields and fixed weapons, and discarding unnecessary power-ups for ones more suited to the place in the race. The lead position can surely be a tough place for you to get to and maintain, with an angry horde of seven other racers bearing down and firing on you all at once. If it's too frustrating, an option exists to leave the weapons off and just drive.
Extreme G has all this gameplay, and it's nice to look at, too. The graphics and level design improve with every track, until the main payoff: the space station courses. Mile-high drops and track-splits meet up with visually intense pulsating walls and burning lava, making the courses both a sight to see and a challenge to drive. The frame rate still keeps up very well with two players, although some slowdown occurs at times when four players compete. This is pretty excusable though, since all 12 tracks are available in multiplayer mode - no mean feat.
In all, Extreme G is a good, solid title that stacks up in both single-player and multiplayer mode. If you're still starved for titles for your Nintendo 64, here's one of the few that won't leave you feeling dirty the morning after.