Hands-onTube Slider

We get our hands on NEC and NdCube's upcoming racer for the GameCube.

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We got our hands on a final beta version of Tube Slider, the recently announced GameCube title being published by NEC in the US. The game is a futuristic racer in the Wipeout vein that puts you behind the controls of a hovercraft speeding through a tube-based track set in a variety of different locales. The game aims to offer some F-Zero-style racing with sharp visuals and insane track designs.

The game features two modes: compete and training. Compete mode features three types of races: grand prix, versus, and time attack. Grand prix is a one- or two-player series of races in three separate competitions. Versus is a two- to four-player split-screen race on any track you've opened up in the game. Time attack challenges you to beat the best times on each track. Training mode features three types of training options: course practice, free run, and tutorial. Course practice lets you get a feel for the tracks in the game by challenging you to go through rings placed on the track. Free run lets you practice on any track you've cleared in the game. Finally, the tutorial option features short video segments that give you the basic rundown of the gameplay.

As you'd expect, the game's focus is on speed. The gameplay revolves around racing through tube-based tracks that feature crazy dips and twists along with straightaways that are excellent for picking up speed. There are no weapons in the game per se, but you can steal energy from an opponent if you line up your vehicle with your opponent's long enough to get a lock on it. Building up energy is key to getting bursts of speed from your vehicle's booster or turbo. You'll be able to select which of the speed enhancements you'll use on your vehicle at the start of a race. Turbo provides a burst for as long as your energy meter lasts, while booster will let you store up to four short bursts of speed you can trigger at any time. The shoulder buttons will let you trigger jets on either side of your ship to help you make tight turns. Each craft handles differently and has its own strengths and weaknesses. While the sense of speed is decent when you first start the game, you can select only the normal speed option initially, and the pace is considerably bumped up once you unlock the maximum speed option, which offers some insane racing.

The game's graphics are impressive and clearly centered on performance. While the vehicles and tracks look sharp, they're kept focused and tight to maintain the high frame rate, which is solid even in four-player split-screen. There's a good amount of detail on the vehicles and the tracks, which are very colorful, as well as on the backgrounds, which can be seen through the transparent tubes you're racing in.

Tube Slider is currently slated to ship later this month for the GameCube.

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