E3 2002: Crazy Taxi 3 impressions

We check out Sega's upcoming Xbox-exclusive installment in its popular Crazy Taxi series.

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We had a chance to check out the latest entry in Sega's Crazy Taxi series, Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller. Developed by Hitmaker, creator of the series and the previous installments on the Dreamcast, Crazy Taxi 3 retains the original's charm as well as the features introduced in Crazy Taxi 2, such as multiple fares and jumps. We had a chance to take the game for a spin at E3 and were pretty pleased by our experience. Offering an impressive face-lift and tried-and-true gameplay, Crazy Taxi 3 looks to be a solid game that should please fans of the series.

The premise is the same as before: You'll race around picking up fares and delivering them to their destinations as quickly as possible. The faster you get your passengers where they need to go, the more you'll be financially rewarded. To increase your reward, you'll be able to race off ramps, jump impossibly high in the air, and zip dangerously close to other cars on the road. If you manage to pull off such thrill-seeking acts during your trip, your passengers will toss in some extra cash. However, the game's focus is still on speed and collecting cash. The arrow that directs you to your destination changes shades from green to yellow to give you an idea of your passenger's mood and the amount of your payoff. In addition, an onscreen time limit alerts you as to how close you are to leaping from your car in search of faster transport if you lag too long.

The game's title refers to the newest setting in which you'll find yourself looking for fares, the Glitter Oasis. The level is essentially patterned after Las Vegas and features a host of landmarks that call to mind the more memorable sights in Sin City. You'll find a brand-new cast of cabbies to choose from as you embark on your virtual career. Newcomers Angel, Zax, Bixbite, and Mrs. Venus are a motley crew that suit the game's loopy tone to a T.

Control is as accessible as ever, thanks to the physical similarities to the Xbox and Dreamcast control pads, so fans of the series should have no trouble getting a grip on the Xbox game. The triggers will control acceleration and braking, and shifting will be handled by the face buttons, as will performing your taxi's gravity-defying jumps.

Graphically the game is coming along, although don't expect to be blown away initially. The game looks good and features enough Xbox bells and whistles to ensure that you won't mistake it for a Dreamcast or PlayStation 2 game. The taxis feature real-time reflections, specular highlighting, and a good amount of detail. During evening races you'll notice the subtle glow of your headlights in front of your cab lighting your way. The detail on the cabbies themselves is solid but unspectacular. The environments feature the aforementioned landmarks, tons of pedestrians, and enough local traffic to keep you on your toes. More significantly, the Glitter Oasis offers a massive amount of terrain to explore. You'll go to a neon jungle reminiscent of the Vegas strip and to the outskirts of the desert, delivering your customers to gas stations sitting in the middle of nowhere. Like every other installment in the series, CT3 offers a high frame rate that keeps the game's pace light and breezy.

From what we were able to see, Crazy Taxi 3 is coming along fine. The gameplay is solid, and the graphics are faithful to the look and feel of the series. Much of the series' charm has been rooted more in its gameplay than in any groundbreaking graphical features. In this respect, CT3 looks to be well on its way toward becoming another fine installment in the series. Crazy Taxi 3 is currently slated to ship this summer for the Xbox. Look for more on the game from the show floor and in the coming months.

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