Rumble Racing is the follow-up to last year's PlayStation racer, NASCAR Rumble. While that game carries the NASCAR license, it doesn't fall into the simulation-style mold you'd expect from a NASCAR game. Rumble Racing, on the other hand, drops the NASCAR license but keeps the fast-paced and exciting gameplay that made its predecessor worthwhile.
Rumble Racing is basically a combination of the shortcut-filled track design and Mario Kart-like power-up and combat systems from NASCAR Rumble and the stunts and turbo systems from EA's 1999 arcade racer, Hot Wheels Turbo Racing. The power-ups and weapons, most of which can be thrown ahead of you or dropped behind, include obvious choices such as turbo boosts and bombs, though the lineup gets pretty out there, including oil bombs, shockwaves, supertraction, and a gigantic twister that simply sucks up every car in its path.
Rumble Racing has a few different modes. The main mode is the championship mode, which is where you'll unlock tracks and new cars while engaging in several three-track battles. Single-race mode lets you race on any of the tracks you've unlocked. Stunt-challenge mode puts you on the track with a timer, and you have to do as many stunts as possible before time runs out. Showdown is a one-lap race against another car. The two-player modes include all the same one-player modes, but you can choose to fend for yourselves or team up against the computer in a co-op mode.
The game has three different car classes, each of which is faster than the last. As you move up the ranks in the game's championship mode, you'll have to deal with increasingly intelligent AI. On the rookie level, the opposing vehicles stick to the track and don't really get in your way. But as you move on to the harder levels, the computer cars get better at handling power-ups, and some of the cars become absolutely ruthless on the track, taking every shortcut and making very few mistakes. Also, as a nice touch, the enemy cars don't really gang up on you. If you're in third place with the two front cars in view, you'll see them tripping each other up in an attempt to put each other at the back of the pack. Like any good arcade-style racing game, how you use the power-ups and how well you navigate the shortcuts dictate how well you'll place, especially in the higher levels. While the game does offer a ton of unlockable cars, only about four or five of them have high ratings in all three of the car stat categories: acceleration, handling, and stunt ability. As such, you'll find yourself ignoring most of the game's cars.
The game has a slightly jaggy, aliased look to it, but it has very little pop-up and runs at a smooth frame rate that provides an excellent feeling of speed. There are also some nice effects, from the glow your rear tires get when using supertraction to the jarring blur effect that occurs whenever you get a turbo boost. The soundtrack is filled with some pretty good music, and the effects all fit the game nicely. Rumble Racing's gameplay is accompanied by occasional quips from an announcer, and like most in-game commentating, the quips get old fast. There's an option that lets you set how often the announcer butts in. It defaults to low, and chances are you'll want to keep it that way.
Rumble Racing looks good, moves fast, and is a blast to play, either by yourself or with a friend. Anyone with a penchant for racing peppered with power-ups and shortcuts won't be disappointed, and the game has enough options and tracks to keep you entertained for a fairly long time.