Iridium Runners Hands-On

When you add some weapon-bound athletes, a series of competitions, and a range of quirky characters to a futuristic setting, you get Iridium Runners.

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Iridium Runners, which could be described as a mixture of Wipeout and Mario Kart, is being developed by Italy's Playstos and published by Southpeak Interactive. Priced at the lower end of the price spectrum (with an expected UK RRP of £24.99), the game is aimed at the teen bracket, combining futuristic racing and family-friendly action.

Iridium Runners is set in the year 2050 where corporations sponsor runners in the Iridium Championship, a racing league that features six cups made up of four races each. Created in a cartoon style, the characters wouldn't look out of place in The Incredibles or EA's snowboard-racing franchise SSX and range from sexy sirens to stocky jocks--all wearing aerodynamic bodysuits. The graphics in the preview version of the game we played were on a par with other PlayStation 2 games.

There are four classes of runners with five in each class. At the beginning of the game, you have eight runners from which to choose. Runners are placed in categories according to their strengths in speed, acceleration, stamina, and agility. Once you've chosen a character, you'll choose from eight "pods"--a craft that floats behind your runner--which use power-ups to attack competitors. Like runners, they have differing strengths: attack, shield, and bonus.

Two tracks are unlocked at the beginning of the game: Track City 22, a course surrounded by high-rise skyscrapers and the more organic R-Bay. Both are elevated tracks, making it possible to fall over the sides at several points along the way. Obstacles are also placed on the circuit, such as gaps that need to be jumped across, making it important to time your jumps precisely.

Iridium Runners offers a number of play modes beyond single races, cups, and championships. Along with a straightforward standard mode race, players can also engage in survival mode, which is a knock-out style race, and collect xtras where the goal is to collect as many power-ups as possible. The game also supports multiplayer split-screen for up to four players with deathmatch and cooperative modes.

Expect to see Iridium Runners toward the end of February in Europe.

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