Some of the best film scripts come about when an ordinary person is placed into an extraordinary event from which they overcome. Think of Sarah Conner in the first Terminator film or Nicolas Cage in The Rock. We can identify with this luckless hero because they are like us, bumbling through life, ending up being in the wrong place at the right time. Speed Limit takes this theory and runs with it, but with enough high-octane energy that it could well have jumped straight out of a brilliant ‘80s action movie. Speed Limit wants to test your skills to the limit. Can you become the hero you were always meant to always be?
Speed Limit is presented as a 2D-styled platform scroller. The story is simple but very effective. You are on a commuter train, playing an ordinary Joe who is just minding his own business, scrolling on his phone. A sort of tramp staggers into the carriage and falls to the floor, handing you a gun as they do so. Then for no reason whatsoever, everyone wants to kill you. You have one choice… RUN! That’s the essence of the story and it’s glorious; as soon as you start running right through the carriage, never slowing down to consider things because you will die, shooting everything in front of you as you go. Soon you find yourself on top of the train still shooting, dodging helicopter fire and train signage that is trying to decapitate you. As you reach the end of the train you leap into a sports car…. let the next adventure stage begin.
Speed Limit is one thrill of a ride; a brilliant take on a high-octane trashy action movie, and you will be playing this with a smile on your face from the very beginning to the very end. You will die, a lot, but you know what – it’s never terribly frustrating enough for you to turn the game off because it just wants you to get better. And thankfully there is both an easy mode and a normal mode with completely different endings and achievements to encourage the fact that it might just be worth playing through again. Checkpointing is pretty generous too, but you’ll need to prepare to repeat whole sections again and again, pretty much until you start to see the code like Neo in The Matrix.
Gameplay-wise it’s pretty straightforward. In the train carriage in the beginning you can shoot with one button and duck. You have to keep moving forward to the right though, mainly as enemies appear from behind, in front, from the roof, and popping up from the seats of the train themselves. The next stage puts you on top of a train, adds in a jump button for timings to clear carriages and obstacles, then for the rest of the game you are dropped into numerous other vehicles, from cars and motorbikes to helicopters, and finally a jet airplane.
What Speed Limit does brilliantly is that it gives you that same sense of urgency and jeopardy from the start and then never lets it drop; never letting you get too comfortable. As soon as you feel like you are mastering one piece of gameplay, you’re onto the next one, all before you can take a breath. That could well annoy some people, especially with the old school mechanics – indeed, I thought I would hate it – but it’s the way the game doesn’t take itself seriously that endears itself to you and the multiple deaths you will experience along the way.
Visually, an old-school pixel style it employs serves Speed Limit well. What aces it has up its sleeve though is what it does with this art style, very quickly changing the perspective from a 2D platformer, to a top-down racer and then into a 3D aerial dogfighter. It’s not afraid to drop in some nice silhouetted effects while driving through tunnels on the train or during big boss battles in the sky. The characters are well-drawn, as are the vehicles and environments. Sound-wise the game uses a high-speed constant track that matches the intensity of the gameplay; it makes you feel like you’ve just downed 10 cups of the finest Italian Espresso.
Speed Limit on Xbox is a hell of a lot of fun. I’ll admit that I never thought I’d get to grips with what it offers, and thought failure would be nailed on. But there is something about it that keeps pulling you back for one more attempt, and then a few more thrown on top of that. It is all about the thrill of the chase and how Speed Limit makes you feel like you’re in a stupid action movie where everyone dies and the hero does impossible things; a game in which you are constantly routing for him. Maybe it’s a little short in terms of game time, especially if you only take in one playthrough, but the pricing feels about right for what it offers.
If you’re feeling ordinary and fancy a challenge, then you can’t go wrong by testing yourself in Speed Limit.