Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars Hands-On

We take the upcoming handheld version of Sega's classic cab-'em-up for a test-drive.

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Earlier this week, during a visit to Sega's San Francisco office, we had an opportunity to get our hands on an early work-in-progress version of Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars on the PlayStation Portable. Currently scheduled for release this summer, Fare Wars isn't an all-new Crazy Taxi game; rather, it's a compilation of sorts that features enhanced versions of the Dreamcast games Crazy Taxi and Crazy Taxi 2. Most of the promised enhancements will take the form of ad-hoc multiplayer options, and although we didn't get to see any of these versus or cooperative gameplay modes in action during our demo, we were afforded ample opportunity to test-drive the PSP version of the first game in the series.

The visuals aren't finished but are already comparable to those on the Dreamcast.
The visuals aren't finished but are already comparable to those on the Dreamcast.

The first thing we noticed about the PSP version of Crazy Taxi is that it already looks a lot like the original Dreamcast game. The only really noticeable difference, in fact, is that the PSP game is widescreen where the original was 4:3--a transition that was purportedly made much easier by the fact that all of the widescreen info was already in the original game. We were told that the finished game will benefit from some additional lighting and particle effects as well as an improved frame rate, but the version of the game we were playing looked just fine.

Picking up Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars for the first time was made easier because the control scheme does a good job of mimicking those of the original Dreamcast games. You'll use the left and right shoulder buttons to brake and accelerate respectively, while the X and O face buttons are used to switch between the forward and reverse gears. Our cab seemed to suffer from some oversteer at times, but that's almost certainly still being tweaked, and the handling wasn't so bad that you wouldn't be able to get used to it after playing for a while.

The premise of Crazy Taxi couldn't be simpler. You drive a cab, you stop to pick up any potential customers that you see, and then you take them where they want to go as quickly as possible while an onscreen arrow points you in the right direction. You'll be playing against a time limit the whole time, and you'll have to negotiate plenty of traffic and other obstacles, of course; but if you can drive fast without crashing into too many things you'll do just fine. Crazy Taxi 2, which we didn't get to play on the PSP, doesn't mess with its predecessor's formula much, but adds a new environment, a jump button, and the ability to pick up multiple passengers to the mix. The Dreamcast version of Crazy Taxi 2 also boasted a number of enjoyable minigames which, we're told, will appear in Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars along with a number of new unlockables.

Driving fast rarely means driving safe in the Crazy Taxi games.
Driving fast rarely means driving safe in the Crazy Taxi games.

Most of the other improvements being made for Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars will be in the audio department, where some new voice-over work and instrumental tracks promise to make the game feel somewhat less dated. You'll also have the option to play the game using a custom soundtrack of songs that you have copied onto your memory stick.

It's unfortunate that we weren't able to get a look at Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars' multiplayer modes on this occasion, because let's face it--they're by far the most interesting new feature that has been promised for the game. We had some fun revisiting the original game in widescreen, though, and we look forward to bringing you more information as soon as it becomes available.

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