The King of Route 66
To be honest, the first things that come to my mind when hearing the word “truck” are: traffic jams, annoying drivers that try hard to knock you off the road by drving like a maniac, and so on. But truckers can also be true heroes that save oppressed people from tyranny just by driving around in their oversized go-cart. Although, that’s what the excentric people over at Sega believe, so they send us out on a ride down the Playstation 2 highway from Chicago to California in The King of Route 66.
Obviously, this game is nothing more than a simple arcade-racer. Just like 99% of all arcade games, the story is very simple, the characters are clichéd and time is always against you. And then there’s Tornado, you’re one and only enemy. This transport company is terrorizing the population living around Route 66 (the longest highway in America) with their violent truckers. It’s about time someone stood up against them, and of course, you can be the dupe.
In the main mode, entitled “The King of route 66″, the plot is unfolded and you get one assignment after another while cruising Route 66. One time you’ll have to complete a course in time, while next time you’ll need to reach the finish line before a trucker from Tornado. If the other dude gets there first, it’s Game Over for you. After a succeeded mission, you can bring out your piggy bank to put away the earned credits. You can’t buy anything with it, but the total amount will in the end determine your high score ranking. Don’t expect an extensive mode here, you can easily play through it in just two or three hours.
Up next is “The Queen of Route 66″, the second mode in the game. Personally I found this one much more entertaining. You don’t just drive from point A to B, but you have to complete a certain goal on a small part of Route 66. For instance you’ll need to retrieve a fixed amount of diamonds on the track in only one and a half minute. This way you make a living and you can spend earned money on new parts or decoration for your truck.
If these 2 modes still don’t satisfy your needs, you can battle competitors in 7 levels and this way unlock new characters in the Rival Chase mode, try different minigames or kick some friends in their metal ass in VS Battle.
You get to choose from 5 different characters (the ones you unlocked can only be used in multiplayer), each with their own different trucks that vary in both speed, weith and handling. As said these characters are very clichéd: among others there’s a cowboy, an indian and a funky Soulman. Each have their own voice, although especially the guys from Tornado get to talk. Personally I found it very annoying having to spend in about a half minute listening to some bullshit each time at the start of a mission that can be summarized as “We’ll kick your ass, punk!”. Fortunately the ingame sound, like the sound of your engine, is pretty good and for once we ignore the ubiquitous arcade ditty.
The graphics however are less attractive. Not only does everything seem rather sharp-edged, the colors are often too bright and the environments too dark, so especially in the cities you’ll notice turns way too late. Furthermore there’s hardly any detail, one building can be wrecked completely, while the other one can’t (very frustrating !) and you’ll definitely hit a whole lot of invisible walls. And that’s all I have to say about that.
The King of Route 66 also has a rather crucial aspect called gameplay. At first sight, this ain’t so bad, but the driving can be complicated by the absence of good camera viewpoints. There are only 2: a dashboard view and a 3th person car view. On a side note: it’s pretty cool you can see a hat moving on the dashboard while you turn. For me, the gameplay was also spoiled by the fact that you can’t turn properly with an 18-wheeler while driving at 200 km/h. You will crash into EVERYTHING (lampposts, trees, …), but miraculously this will hardly slow you down. So forget all about braking and drive like a fruitcake. In this game, the challenge is to see the turn, not to actually make a smooth one.
But the most annoying thing for me remains the A.I., or the complete lack of it. Instead of an equal opponent, Sega opted for a firm villain who rides just a few meters in front of you by standard. If you catch up with him with a nitro blast (you can collect packs of nitro along the way for a short turbo boost), in only 10 seconds he will have miraculously overtaken you again. Even when he crashes and is standing still, you won’t be able to enjoy your lead for very long. But the opposite is slightly true as well: if you crash and are far behind him, he will slow down a little. So what’s the best way to win a race ? Just keep on riding behind your nemesis and in the last couple of 100 meters, punch those nitros !
In conclusion: The concept may sound nice, but due to the poor qualities of the game, such as the gameplay and the A.I., the challenge of this game is rather small. The varying modes can provide a couple hours of fun, but after those, you’ve seen most of it and the annoying things of the game can’t be compensated by joy anymore (assuming the player ever enjoyed the game). So today’s keywords are: rent this before buying it!