The streets of San Francisco have been home to some of the best car chase scenes to ever grace the silver screen. Films such as Bullit, Dirty Harry, and The Rock no doubt sparked the imagination of the developers of games such as Crazy Taxi, Metropolis Street Racer, and San Francisco Rush. But if good movies have helped lead to the production of good games, the one that helped to inspire Super Runabout: San Francisco Edition is one that you probably chose to miss.
As in the previous two Runabout games, your goal is to drive quickly through traffic-filled streets while you collect key items and wreck as many vehicles as you can without totally destroying your own car. The first Runabout (call Felony 11-79 here in the US) was a very enjoyable PlayStation game that was held back only by its average graphics and lack of levels. It seemed that the Runabout series needed to be brought to a more powerful system to reach its potential. The first Dreamcast take on the series, however, has proven that more than a facelift was necessary.
There were occasions in the first two Runabout games in which your car would catch on a corner, stick on an outcropping of a building, or twirl around a few times, but the environments in both were sparse enough that these didn't come up very often. By comparison, Super Runabout's San Francisco streets are a booming metropolis, which means that there are now numerous instances in which your car will get stuck in a doorway or be sent spinning. The physics and control also conspire to keep you from enjoying the experience; they would rather see you spend your time caught between a bus and a hard place while the ever-present clock counts down the last few seconds of the level. If you're driving with any degree of speed, you'll likely be sent flying by a collision with even the smallest object in the environment. If the controls were tight, you'd have no trouble recovering, but the game's so loose that you end up careening about with little sense of which direction you'll end up facing.
Super Runabout's visuals paint a nice portrait of San Francisco, albeit one where its buildings suddenly appear in your line of vision from time to time. While that's certainly a forgivable flaw, the game's default perspective is so low to the ground that your car can get in the way of your field of vision. So if you're baring down on a targeted item or just another car or obstacle, you'll find that they're hard to discern. The driver view mounts your camera on the grill, which allows you to look around somewhat better, but this angle initiates early stages of motion sickness within a few minutes. The soundtrack is much more of a clean-cut issue than the graphics: It's made up of uninspired surf tracks that are often obscured by the repetitive comments of the pedestrians who are working hard to run out of your way.
It almost goes without saying that this game compares poorly to Sega's similar driving game, Crazy Taxi. While Super Runabout clearly wins in the area of extras (there are many bonus vehicles to open up, for example), the basic gameplay is nowhere as engaging as Crazy Taxi, and few people will delve in deep enough to experience it. Many games try to test your skill, but Super Runabout works to exercise your sense of frustration.