The altered Dreamcast version of Ubi Soft's PC title Speed Busters, Speed Devils, is an arcade-style racing game along the general lines of Midway's Crusin' series and California Speed... except it doesn't suck.
You begin Speed Devils as a hotshot racer who has recently been sponsored by a mysterious benefactor. He starts off providing you with a little money to pick out a car to get started with and then appears sporadically throughout the game, setting tasks for you to complete during certain races, such as making sure that a particular competitor isn't one ofthe first three cars to pass the finish line or avoiding taking more than 20 percent damage. If you succeed in following his requests, he'll reward you with extra items, upgrades, or even cars.
You race in a handful of progressively difficult tournaments, each with its cast of racers you compete against for prize money. Cash is awarded for placement, highest speed, and time spent in the lead, or you can also make money by busting police radars, which is done by driving faster than the prescribed speed limit for a stretch of road. The more your speed exceeds the limit, the more green you make. Also, from time to time between races your opponents will visit your garage and wager cash on the next race. If you continually beat them, they'll become frustrated and raise their bets to vendetta status, meaning it's your car or theirs - may the best man win, and all of that. These little side-quests, as well as those set by your benefactor, add a lot of variety and personality to the game.
Once you've racked up enough wins, you can move on to the next class and compete against a tougher group of drivers, or you can choose to stay in a lower class until you feel you've accrued enough money to step into the next class in style. But courses in the tournaments vary in the order they're presented and in weather, the direction you race (mirror), and a special hidden element, so you won't be repeating the exact same tracks in the exact same order time and time again.
This adds challenge, and if you meet the challenges successfully, all the money that you make can be used to buy new parts for your car - such as better engines, tires that are suited to different types of terrain and weather conditions, and nitro boosts - or new cars entirely. Quite often though, a good chunk of change goes towards repairing the damage done to your ride from the prior race.Driving at the velocities found in Speed Devils is hard on more than just your whitewalls. The damage appears on the car models during the races, to the point where your headlights will eventually bust, causing you trouble driving on night courses - which may be tough, but certainly looks sharp. In fact, nearly every aspect of the game's graphics is fantastic. Each car comes with the choice of a dozen distinct paint jobs, and every course has at least three different elements working around or against you. On one, a T-rex stomps through Hollywood and, likewise, the roadway on which you're driving. On another, jet planes buzz the track leaving colored smoke in their wake. And racing the same courses during the nighttime or under different weather conditions can result in different effects as well. Eye candy abounds in Speed Devils. The cars look great, the courses are gorgeous and pop-up free, the frame rate is fast, and the extra little effects presented toward the end (you'll have to see them for yourself) are very impressive. The only visual problems are that the vehicles appear to float over the track instead of appearing to be placed physically on it, and the car models never show any dirt, which looks unnatural when you're driving along a muddy road in the rain.
The music in Speed Devils doesn't quite hold up against the graphics, but the songs are appropriately arcadey and thematic to the tracks. The real black eye though is the game's multiplayer mode. Not only does it cap out at only two players, but you can't use cars you've built up in the championship, and you're not able to race against computer-controlled racers. Since many other driving games provide four-player split screen or two-player tournaments, Speed Devils' multiplayer mode appears pretty sparse and dated by comparison.
While the weak multiplayer severely cuts into the game's replay value, Speed Devils does present an excellent single-player experience. The courses become increasingly challenging without being increasingly frustrating, making it into a game you'll want to play through to the end. And its other numerous little touches add up to make it a very worthwhile game that sucks you in. Even though the lack of replay value keeps Speed Devils from being a must-have game for the Dreamcast, it should still be considered a should-have.