Joy Ride Updated Impressions

This free-to-play Xbox Live downloadable game features arcade racing and plenty of avatars.


Kinect Joy Ride

Let's say you're one of those avatar owners. Let's say you've spent time giving your avatar the perfect nose, made sure his hairstyle matches today's most cutting-edge fashions, and spent gobs of money outfitting him with a lightsaber and an adidas track jacket in the Avatar Marketplace. Now, what's left for your little guy? Take him on the road, that's what. Later this year, Microsoft will release a racing game called Joy Ride, a free-to-play endeavor that lets you put your avatar behind the wheel of an automobile and perform stunts that would make Evil Knievel queasy with fear. MS first showed off Joy Ride back at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, but now, MS has given us a quick look at a new part of the game here at Tokyo Game Show 2009.

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What's New: What MS reps showed at E3 was a fairly straightforward racing track that put avatars behind the wheel of realistic-looking cars that performed in very unrealistic ways in a competition to finish ahead of the pack. Here at TGS, they've showed off a new environment called Perilous Peaks. This place is described as a stunt park rather than a traditional racing circuit. It features giant banked walls, huge jumps, and wide stretches of rolling hills. The MS rep guiding the demo showed off how you can just drive around on your own to pull off stunts like drifts, barrel rolls, loop-de-loops, and midair grabs if you're in a convertible. But you can also trigger group minigames like a pizza delivery mission that asks each player to pick up pizzas scattered throughout the map and deliver them to specific points faster than the competition.

What's Different: What sets Perilous Peaks apart from other areas shown is that this park is actually one that will be unlocked by the community. MS didn't offer any specific terms for how this will be done, but we imagine it'll be unlocked for everyone to play after a certain points threshold is reached, much like DICE did with the dog-fighting map in Battlefield 1943.

What's the Same: Joy Ride looks every bit as accessible and cartoony as it did when it was first unveiled. The game has a sort of Loony Tunes meets Team Fortress 2 visual design, though it does seem to be suffering from a poor frame rate at this early stage. Of course, that might not bother the casual audience Microsoft seems to be reaching for here because the controls look extremely forgiving. Cars easily bounce back into shape after any manner of botched jumps and oversteered corners.

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What Impression the Game Made This Time: You certainly can't argue with the price of Joy Ride, considering the game will be free to all Xbox Live Gold members. However, you do have to pay real money if you want to upgrade and customize your car, so it entirely depends on how much you want to invest in your avatar's sweet new ride. We'll see if that appears to be a tempting option when Joy Ride is released on Xbox Live Marketplace later this year.

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