Here's something you don't see every day. In an age when the complexity of video games is increasing right alongside the technical capabilities of the hardware, Maximum Chase is a simple, straightforward 10-level driving and shooting game. There's not a whole lot of depth or substance or even replay value, but what's here is playable and pretty entertaining while it lasts. The hokey storyline, complete with bad B-movie live-action scenes, makes the whole thing feel campy and fun, and what Maximum Chase might lack in longevity it makes up for with sheer craziness.
The storyline in Maximum Chase is straight out of some bad action movie you'd see on Saturday afternoon cable television. You play as Los Angeles detective-turned-traffic cop Rick Summer, who's out making his daily rounds when fate combines his destiny with that of songstress-in-distress Catherine Stanfield. Cathy's on the lam, desperately trying to avoid some evil group or other, and the two end up in a series of epic car chases spread across all sorts of urban and rural areas. The storyline plays out between missions in the aforementioned live-action scenes, and though they're poorly acted and take place against really fake-looking CG backdrops, they have the same kind of so-good-they're-bad charm you get out of the typical slasher flick. These cutscenes also have the amusing benefit of always finding you a newer, more stylish car to drive. The game's story is outlandish enough to keep driving the action stages, which is what it's there for, and so it works perfectly fine in that respect.
There are two main gameplay modes in Maximum Chase--driving and shooting--and they alternate between stages. That is, the first mission is driving, the second is shooting, the third switches back to driving, and so on. The driving mode's objective is simple: Get away from whoever's pursuing you. Thankfully, the driving mechanics are a little easier and more forgiving than in hardcore racing games, so you'll be able to pick up Maximum Chase and play it even if you don't have much in the way of Gran Turismo chops. It's good that the driving is accessible, since the driving stages have you plowing through a lot of areas that don't look like they were made to accommodate cars. The shooting stages also have you inside your car, but you won't be driving; instead, you'll control a crosshair with the left analog stick and lean out the window to take potshots at your assailants. The shooting is pretty fun, if a bit silly--you're taking out SUVs with a handgun, after all--but it can get a bit repetitive after you have to do it too much.
At least as flashy and entertaining as the actual gameplay in Maximum Chase, if not more so, is the game's superb replay system. After a mission is over, you can watch a full replay of the action from a number of stylish action-movie camera angles. Often, it's more exciting simply to watch the replay of the last level than it was to actually play through it. That's not to belittle Maximum Chase's gameplay, which is pretty fun, but rather to emphasize that the replays are really cool. Oddly enough, you have to watch the replays to get all of the storyline, since there are plot snippets in the form of telephone and radio conversations that only play out while you watch the action. Finally, aspiring Steve McQueens can even save entire replays to a film gallery for later viewing, which is a neat enough feature.
And that's about all there is to Maximum Chase. After you finish the game, you can replay the stages with various extra objectives--like destroying a certain number of objects in a level--to unlock a few bonus items like new cars, images, and some visual effects, but these all hinge on replaying the same 10 stages that you already played through to beat the game. Unless you really loved the main single-player game in Maximum Chase, you won't have much reason to play through it more than once.
Maximum Chase has been out for over a year in Japan, and so its visuals look pretty dated by Xbox standards. The car models are detailed enough, but the backgrounds are mostly bland and uninteresting, and the frame rate tends to drop in busy scenes. The sound is serviceable but uninspired, though it does feature real-time 5.1 like just about every other Xbox game in existence. Finally, the voice acting is like the FMV movies--it's pretty awful, but if you can appreciate bad voice acting, you'll get a kick out of it.
Maximum Chase is a nice diversion for the couple of hours it takes to finish the game. Too bad there's not more to the game to keep you playing, and its technical execution lags almost unforgivably far behind other modern Xbox games. Those facts really hinder the value of the game, which is currently on sale for full retail price--nearly a crime, given the brevity of the main game. Maximum Chase is a fun game, and it scores some points with its B-movie charm, but if you feel absolutely compelled to own it, wait for it to hit the bargain bin.