E3 2001 Hands-onKinetica

Kinetica is a fast-paced futuristic racing game featuring stunt-performing athletes in exoskeletons. Here are our impressions.

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Kinetica is a racing game that draws upon inspiration from games like Rollcage, where defying gravity is fair play, and trick-based games like SSX that reward impressive stunts with boosts of speed. We got a chance to race around a few of the tracks, and get familiar with the futuristic racing action.

Kinetica's stunt system works in a manner very similar to that found in SSX. Your racer has a boost meter, that is charged by successfully pulling off stunts. The bigger and more original the stunt, the more turbo you receive. Performing a stunt while racing is simple, executed by holding a shoulder button and making a semi-circle movement in either direction or rapidly tapping alternating directions using the analog stick. The tricks are visually impressive, and are accompanied by a streak of colorful energy that makes it easy to know when the move animation is being performed. Ground based tricks include break-dance styled leg sweeps, backflips and handstands. Aerial tricks are even more over the top, and can include any number of spins, twists, contortions and maneuvers, with only the limitation that you successfully land on the track, lest you lose your current position and any points the trick may have netted you.

Racing in Kinetica is fast-paced, and often hard to follow as the camera sometimes lags behind your exoskeleton as it zips through curls and sharp turns. Handling loops and racing on ceilings and walls is a cinch since your exoskeleton is kinetically bonded to the track as it speeds along, hence the title. Even at blistering speeds, the pace is always solid, and the frame rate, despite the detailed city backgrounds and impressive lighting effects, never lags for a second. The exoskeletons are each modeled nicely and in an interesting fashion; while they may just be suits, the racers are highly detailed and could just as easily have been presented as robotic characters. The tracks are varied, and bear individual themes, such as an oriental, fluorescent dragon on one stage, or the many loops and jumps of some of the more advanced courses. The computer-controlled opponents are challenging, and will not hesitate to box your racer in during narrow strips or even cause you to crash when the opportunity arises.

Graphically solid, and accompanied by an entertaining, beat-driven audio track, Kinetica appears to be shaping up nicely for racing enthusiasts that would like to enjoy a break from realism and gravity. Look for more information on Kinetica as it approaches its release on the Playstation 2.

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