Though bigger and more ambitious than any of its predecessors, XGRA is hindered by a few unfortunate technical and design issues.
As for the turbo boost, you won't find it regularly on tap at the push of a button; rather, the tracks are littered with speed strips that, when passed over, give you a temporary boost. This alters the overall flow of the race and takes some of the control over the bike away from the player. One of the cooler touches in Extreme-G 3 was a dramatic warping effect that would kick in once you reached a certain speed. This effect lives on in XGRA, though the placement of many of the speed strips will cause this screen-blurring effect to kick in at inopportune moments, marring your vision and crippling your ability to race effectively.
Many of the changes that have been made to the Extreme-G formula in XGRA seem questionable, but the game remains quite fun. The AI tends to be just a little bit soft, but it still puts up a good fight, never seeming to have an unfair advantage. The sensation of speed is excellent, and the track designs are as grandiose and ostentatious as have ever been seen in a futuristic racing game. The locations are pretty sensational too, including Mars, a defunct nuclear power plant, a deep-sea research facility, and an asteroid, among others. Once you've gone through the career mode, there's not a whole lot to bring you back to XGRA's single-player game, save for the time trial mode, where you can race against your own best times. There is a multiplayer mode, which supports two players on the PlayStation 2 and four players on the Xbox, and it's about as enjoyable as the single-player game, though general frame rate choppiness keeps the four-player option from being very enjoyable.
Frame rate stability is a major issue for XGRA in general. In the PlayStation 2 version, it never seems to go above 30 frames per second with much consistency. The unstableness of the frame rate, as well as the noticeable aliasing and muddier textures, suggests that the PS2 version was dumbed down from the Xbox version, though the Xbox version is not above a little chop when the action gets intense. The PS2 version is also abnormally dark, which is especially problematic when the game puts you on a course at night or when the game's occasional rain, snow, and sandstorm effects kick in. The weather effects generally cause nothing but bad choppiness, poor visibility, and general frustration in any version of the game. It's really unfortunate that these technical issues could not be alleviated before the game came to market, as the visuals in XGRA are fundamentally sound. The courses are simply massive, with plenty of detail and movement along the sides of the track adding an extra level of reality. The bikes themselves look slick and sort of blend the style of the light cycles in Tron with Kaneda's bike in Akira. There are some nice bits of flash scattered all over the game, such as the long, glowing tracers emitted from the backs of the bikes, the blue glow that precedes the deathstrike ion cannon attack, or the fish-eye effect that kicks in whenever you pass over a speed strip.
Though Studio Cheltenham seems to have put a good amount of thought into the overall design of XGRA, the sound is decidedly slapdash. The sound of the bikes is good, blending the high-RPM scream of a high-performance motorcycle with some of the low-end rumble of a jet engine. Weapon effects are decent enough, but what really annoys are the handful of speech clips you'll hear repeatedly through the game from the game's prerace commentators, from the other racers, and from your own team captain. Almost all of them have a bad, fake accent or carry some kind of voice filter, and what they have to say almost always falls into the category of spectacularly failed humor. The music has been divvied up into three soundtracks--dance, rock, and mix. The music is primarily licensed, including tracks from BT, The Dwarves, Cirrus, and others. It doesn't feel out of place, but it's rare that the music will actually enhance the experience. XGRA's sound is actually at its best when it's not even there, such as when you exit the airlock on the asteroid track, which is a really nice little touch.
XGRA will appeal to fans of the genre that have been jonesing for a new worthwhile futuristic racing game and are willing to overlook some of its flaws, but it's flawed enough that it likely won't lure new players into the fold. However, a lot of the potential of XGRA has, in fact, been realized, so unless you're expecting it to raise the bar for this style of game, you ought to get a kick out of it.