The Tokyo Xtreme Racer series started out on the Dreamcast and was built around the concept of street racing on Tokyo's highways. The series has since progressed onto other consoles, and it now appears as Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3, a budget-priced offering from Crave. Though the game has been around for quite some time, it really hasn't improved much since the Dreamcast days. The new addition of roads from Nagoya and Osaka doesn't change the fact that, even as a budget title, TXR3 doesn't stand up to the other games in the genre.
In all, the game contains around 200 miles of highway to race on, though since the basic idea of a highway is usually to be as straight as possible, the amount of road isn't as impressive as it initially sounds. TXR3 features three basic modes of play: free run, time trial, and quest mode. Free run and time trial function as you'd expect and allow you to get used to the tracks and test your skills against the clock. The main single-player mode is the quest mode, which lets you race, but also gives you a garage where you keep your car and a series of menus that allow you to tweak your car--you can buy parts and upgrades, or you can purchase an entirely new car. The game does feature a two-player head-to-head mode; however, since most of the highways are straight, the two-player contests are typically a simple test of each vehicle's top speed.
TXR3 includes a total of 15 vehicles from real-world manufacturers such as Nissan, GM, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota. The selection of cars isn't that impressive, but the variety of upgrades for each is. You can choose to get new items that improve the performance of your vehicle's engine, the aerodynamics, and the handling. You can also trick out your car's look with different lights, side mirrors, and hoods.
The bulk of your time playing Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 is spent driving, but not necessarily racing. Your opponents are simply cruising around the highways as well, waiting for you to challenge them to a race. Once you find an opponent to race, to initiate the race you simply have to drive up behind the other driver and flash your headlights. Upon doing so, two fighting-game-like health bars appear at the top of the screen, and the race begins. As the race progresses, the car that falls behind begins to lose "health" from its bar. With each passing second, the bar loses more and more until it is completely depleted, at which point the leader is declared the winner. Cars can also lose health for hitting objects, so it's important to drive well when you're racing. After a winner has been declared, you are allowed to drive on and meet up with your next opponent. Once you've raced against all of the regular competition, a rival gang leader will challenge you to yet another race. If you are successful in defeating the gang leader, you are then given the option of purchasing his car. This formula of racing one opponent after the next, stopping only to buy upgrades, is pretty much the entire experience that Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 has to offer.
The controls in TXR3 are responsive and feature a drift system that definitely sits right in between traditional simulation and arcade specs. The cars get more than a little squirrelly when you make moderate turns at high speeds, but it's nothing that you can't get used to in under a half hour. The vehicles differ from one another in terms of their top speeds, handling, and such, and they provide a reasonably close interpretation of how the cars relatively perform in real life. The AI of the computer-controlled cars is decent, although if you like to trade paint, you'll find that you can actually use the traffic in the game as an obstacle to impede the AI drivers. The computer has trouble maneuvering around the few vehicles that appear on the road, so with a little persuasion you can often run your AI opponents into the back of an unsuspecting vehicle.
Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 is a decent-looking game. The car models look like fairly faithful re-creations of their real-life counterparts. The tracks include 200 miles of re-created Japanese highways. They look realistic, but that isn't exactly a good thing, since the roads are, for the most part, uninteresting stretches of concrete that often have walls on either side. While the scenery may be limited, some of the game's lighting and reflection effects do a decent job of dressing up the overall look of the game a bit.
As for the audio, the game simply doesn't have a whole lot to offer. The sound effects and engine sounds, while adequate, are quite flat, and they don't make a very lasting impression. The music, on the other hand, is so bad, thanks to constantly blaring guitar riffs, that you'll want to try to forget it, or, more likely, you'll just turn it off.
In the end, Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 is a decent budget game with solid, if simple, gameplay and presentation. Racing fans will probably be able to find something to like here, though obviously there are many, many other, stronger choices available for the PlayStation 2.