Driving Emotion Type-S Hands-On
Square has been making changes to Driving Emotion Type-S for its US release, and we got our hands on a build.
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In the court of public opinion on the matter of console RPG supremacy, SquareSoft's name is near the top of any list. But the company has more than glossy role-playing games on its roster, as it has shown with several fighting games and with its recent racing game, Driving Emotion Type-S for the Sony PlayStation 2. Unfortunately, by most critical accounts, the company fell considerably short of its admittedly lofty expectations for the Japanese release of the game. So, it went back to the drawing board in hopes of creating a reworked and better-playing game for the US release of Driving Emotion Type-S. Has the extra development time helped? We played the latest US version of Driving Emotion Type-S to find out about the tweaks and modifications being made to the game.
The US version of Driving Emotion Type-S retains all the gameplay modes from the Japanese original, including arcade Type-S, line training, time attack, and the two-player versus mode. Of these, the arcade Type-S mode is the most involved. Here you must compete in and win progressively difficult races, acquire new car models, and customize your racers - everything from spring rates to gear ratios can be tweaked. There are 40-plus cars in the game, including racers from such manufacturers as Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, BMW, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Porsche - there are 12 manufacturer licenses in all. Once on the track, there are three camera options: a third-person three-quarter view, an inside the car view, and the traditional grill-cam, which gives you a close-up view of the speeding pavement.
In addition to the aforementioned arcade Type-S mode, the training school mode is also of importance. Here you can practice racing lines on selected tracks or on one of the specially designed autocross training courses. The object in these training exercises is to hit the apex, the top of the driving line, in order to come out with the straightest line through turns. This practice mode is essential in Driving Emotion Type-S, because the game still requires a lot of practice and is not very easy to pick up and play.
The major problem with the Japanese version was the exaggerated oversteering tendencies of most of the cars in the game. Square has toned it down significantly for the US version, but some of the problematic oversteering characteristics are still evident. Even with the slightest twitch of the directional pad, cars will lunge into turns with the rear of the car coming around quicker than the front. This essentially means that you have to go in very high on turns, dive hard, and come out low, but because the game demands absolute precision in taking corners, this is easier said than done. Thankfully, in the US version, Square has added a driver-assist function that settles the car automatically. For example, if you back off the throttle and nudge the directional pad in the opposite direction of an oversteer, it is much easier to straighten the car out, and this lessens the frequency of the unwarranted spinouts that were so prevalent in the Japanese version.
Visually, Driving Emotion Type-S hasn't been improved much from the import version, which means that the environments can be truly impressive at times, but the car models are merely adequate. The game's courses include all of the tracks from the import version, and a new course has been added to the game for its US release. There are fictional tracks such as the West Coast City course and real-life courses such as the Suzuka circuit in Japan.
The handling characteristics of the cars in Driving Emotion Type-S have been tweaked since it was released in Japan earlier this year. Although the handling continues to be overly sensitive in relative terms, the physics seem more realistic and the controls are more forgiving. Square Electronic Arts has announced that the game will be released on January 30, which should make it the company's first game to be released for the North American PlayStation 2.