Street Outlaws is a product of the Discovery Channel, focusing on a bunch of Americans who enjoy racing on the streets and doing so in an illegal manner. Hence the name, Street Outlaws; a genius name that clearly does exactly what it says on the tin. Now, I have to make it clear that I’m not a huge follower of the TV series, but luckily there’s now a game inspired by it so we can all find out what we’ve been missing. And luckily, and at risk of minor spoilers, it’s not much. So come with me to a world of loud Americans, brash cars and the thrill that comes from driving in a straight line as fast as you can.
First up, and we’ll get right on down with the story, such as it is. ‘The List’ refers to the top 10 drag racers on the mean streets of Oklahoma City. These grown men identify so closely with their cars that some of them share the names of the vehicles; Murder Nova and Farmtruck to name but two. Others have even more imaginative names, like Big Chief and Daddy Dave. These larger than life characters are in the game, and we start out as a nobody, before Farmtruck and AZN (pronounced “Asian”) take us under their collective wings and introduce us to the world of The List. The game is split into seasons and episodes, with each of the latter further cut up into five races, before we head off to the climax of each episode – the race against someone higher up the pecking order than us. So, with the scene set, how does the game play?
Well, it’s very much the proverbial game of two halves here. The majority of Street Outlaws seems to be spent drag racing over a quarter mile, and it is here where the action involved isn’t actually too bad. Drag racing is split into definite stages, each race starting with a coin toss, where you can choose whether you want to run in the left or the right lane. There doesn’t seem to be any advantage to any particular lane though, so whichever you choose is fine.
From there you have to warm the tyres, performing a burnout to get some heat into the massive bits of rear rubber to help with traction off the line. As the tyres spin, the car tries to go sideways, so some counter steer needs to be applied in order to keep the car straight, as the tyres don’t seem to warm if it is at too severe an angle. I’ve had burnout bonuses, ranging from 35% all the way up to 100%, but this seems to make not a jot of difference. Once the burnout is completed, you then have to “bump” the car to the start line, via the medium of a bar with a sliding marker on it. The closer you stop the marker to the centre of the meter, the closer you get to the start line, and therefore the better shape you are in.
Last of all comes the actual race. Holding the car on the brakes while the revs rise, as and when the screen changes from “Ready” to “Go”, you release the brake and leap off the line like a majestic gazelle. Or at least like a lump of American iron fitted with a stupidly powerful engine. You then need to start changing gear manually in this mode, by pressing “Y” when the revs rise to the optimal point, and a perfect shift will see you continue to accelerate at the best possible rate. Sadly, changing gear also causes the car to veer one way or the other, so you need to be on top of that as if you stray into the other lane, or go too far off the road, you’ll be disqualified, and have to go through the whole rigmarole again. Assuming you manage to keep the car in a straight line and change gear fine, you’ll reach the end of the run and hopefully find yourself victorious. Thankfully the runs last less than 10 seconds each, but it has to be said that in practice they certainly feel a lot longer.
So that’s the Drag Racing sorted, but there is another style of event in place too, one that involves driving your drag car around a circuit set up in locations like car parks and an airport. And for all my ignorances in life, I know that if a car is setup to go as fast as possible in a straight line, it won’t be any good at going around corners. And so it proves in this mode, with scraping the walls and straight out crashes so common that the whole event is a complete waste of time. Hitting the handbrake won’t get you around the corner, slowing down won’t get you around the corner, hitting the wall quite often stops you dead, and if you are really unlucky you will find yourself stuck to the wall unable to move. Trying to get around one of these circuits in a bronze time, never mind a platinum one, is pretty much impossible and very, very, frustrating. In fact, it’s a testament to the realism of the game that the circuit levels seem to be largely impossible, as they would be in one of The List’s real-world drag cars. That said, realism is very much taking a back seat for the rest of the game.
At this point I’m now going to tell you the things that are wrong with Street Outlaws: The List. And buckle up, because it’s a long list!
First off, the audio is literally the worst I have ever heard in a driving game, and I include the drone of old school Pole Position in this comment. Every car sounds the same, no matter what work you do to the engine, and the noise it makes sounds like no car I have ever heard. You know when the processor fan starts to go in a PC, and you get that dreary droning hum that after a while sets your teeth on edge? Well, it’s like they sampled that fan for the engine noises in Street Outlaws. The same problem applies to the voices of the “Stars” who insist on sticking their oar in when you are driving. With such witty comments as “Take off the Sunglasses, dude!” and “Try using your hands!”, at points I was one redneck quip away from cutting my own ears off.
In addition, none of the real car names have made it into the game, despite the vehicles being recognisable as Mustangs or Camaros. Instead they are called things like “Milky Way” and other such nonsense. And speaking of the cars, the graphics on display here would cause an Xbox 360 to blush and sit in the corner. In a world where Forza Horizon 4 is available on the same console as this dog’s dinner, something has gone very wrong. Cars look like a box, the replays of the drag strip races look like something from the first Gran Turismo on PS1, only not as detailed, and the whole presentation of the game is just dreadful. I can’t even recommend this to fans of the series, as after listening to those from the show wittering on in the game, I dare say it’s hard to be a fan any more.
In conclusion then and Street Outlaws: The List on Xbox One is dreadful. The drag races are a tiny bit of fun, but everything else is of such low quality it’s unreal. The hunt for parts in the Junkyard is like tossing a coin as to what you get, and the upgrading of the car requires nothing more than you finding a part and gluing it on. None of the tuning or upgrading options seem to make a blind bit of difference to how any car handles. And perhaps most importantly – as a game it’s not much fun to play, it’s a terrible thing to look at, and the sounds it makes will have you reaching for the off switch in a heartbeat.
All in all I can’t recommend Street Outlaws: The List to anybody; certainly not to anyone who’s ever played a racing game before.