Extreme-G 3 Preview

One of the racing series that has always been associated with the N64 is Extreme-G from Acclaim. In a change of direction, the company announced a few weeks ago that the series would shift to the PlayStation 2. We take a look at where the series is coming from and where it is heading to.

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Ever since the series started on the N64 back in 1997, Extreme-G has always been compared to the Wipeout series on the PlayStation. But while Wipeout was based on antigravity gliders, Extreme-G focused on ground-based racing with futuristic high-speed bikes, added weapons and turbos to the mix, and had very sophisticated graphics. With all these elements, it looks like the series could make a pretty good transition from the N64 to the PlayStation 2.

The original Extreme-G game pretty much laid out the framework for all the sequels to come. In order to keep the population entertained and off the streets, the government has created a new leisure-time sport called Extreme-G racing. The races take place all over the world in areas that are either destroyed or have become useless over the years. Special tracks have been built in order to "stimulate the mind and awaken the spirit of competition of nations all over the globe." In Extreme-G 3 you start as a rookie pilot who must first compete in a series of virtual reality races before he proves himself worthy enough to pilot an actual bike. Once you prove yourself you'll be able to take to the tracks in one of the game's superbikes.

The PS2 sequel, which is simply named Extreme-G 3, won't have a completely different take on the series' story. It still is focused on racing and racing alone. Like in the previous games, the racing field still consists of 12 bikes, which will see a few cosmetic changes in this new installment. Developer Acclaim Studios Cheltenham (formed my members of Psygnosis' South West Studio) is working on a physics model for the bikes that animates them in real time according to the movements you make with the bike. If you accelerate, the front part of the bike will lift up and the weight will be pushed down on the back wheel. The system also reflects how you use your air brakes, thrusters, and weapons. We might even see small transformations--like in Twisted Metal: Black--when you equip or fire a weapon.

Another important element of the series has been the serious weaponry that has been available in the races. If you race over certain icons, you can collect weapons that can be fired at your competitors. The weapons can be offensive or defensive. The second game offered weapons like magnetic mines, rear-firing rockets, energy shields, and ion side cannons, and we can expect to see a similar collection of weaponry in the PlayStation 2 sequel. According to Acclaim, the PS2 version will feature some impressive weapon effects, but we still have to wait and see how the weaponry will look in real time. Also making a return are the turbo boosts, which let you gain important seconds in the race against your competitors.

The tracks are as twisted and bent as in the previous games, offering you loads of jumps, ramps, and loops, as can be seen in the screenshots. Whether it will also feature multiple routes such as in Extreme-G 3's main competitor on the PS2, Wipeout Fusion from Sony Liverpool, remains to be seen. A newly developed landscape animation system will allow for some nice motion in the background as you race by at maximum speed. When you break through the sound barrier, you will even be able to hear a sonic boom coming out of your speakers, telling you that you can't go much faster.

While both of the previous games featured a four-player split-screen mode, such a mode has not been confirmed for the third installment yet, and it would be somewhat of a letdown if that mode were omitted. So far, we know of a team grand prix mode, a head-to-head mode, and cooperative mode, which, according to Acclaim, will be provided "through two-player split-screen action."

Nick Harper, lead designer for Extreme-G 3, said, "Extreme-G 3 represents a huge leap for Acclaim in terms of next-generation products. Not only do we believe this game to be one of the best looking PS2 titles in development, utilizing the raw power of the Emotion Engine and Vector Unit graphics chipsets, but we are also developing a highly sophisticated bike physics system to cater to the convoluted twists of the Extreme-G 3 racing circuits." This leaves us hungry, as Wipeout Fusion won't see the light of day until fall. So if Extreme-G 3 doesn't suffer from the same delays Wipeout Fusion has, it could make quite an impact on the PS2.

Currently, Extreme-G 3 is set for an August release in Europe. A US date has not been confirmed yet. The game will be published by Acclaim.

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