Street Racer Underground comes from those at InLogic games, with publishing rights handled by JanduSoft. What we seem to have here though is a racing game that was apparently made by people who have never seen a racing game before. So, come with me to a world where the only ability needed to take part in a street race is the skill of changing lanes…
Yes, you read that right. This is a driving game that is viewed from a top-down perspective, much like Spy Hunter if you are old enough to remember that particular gem. The car accelerates itself – real racers apparently never touch the brakes – and the only other thing you need to worry about is steering through traffic (all of which drives in the same direction). If you can manage to get close to other cars, you’ll earn some Nitrous to use. That’s it. Forza Motorsport this ain’t, I think it’s fair to say.
And if you thought the premise was bad, the visuals on display would embarrass an OG Xbox, never mind an Xbox 360, and possibly don’t have any right to be showcased as a native Xbox One title. To make things even less interesting, the road you “race” on is dead straight; so straight the Romans would have been proud. I’m not stopping there though, as we also have to contend with cars which are pretty much just boxes, which you can paint different colours in the menus. You can also put different wheels on the cars, but quite why you’d want to (apart from the achievement for buying a set of wheels) when the car is viewed from above and they are invisible via that viewpoint, is beyond me.
There are two game modes in Street Racer Underground, helpfully introduced by “your Babe” (and yes, that’s how she is described in the game description). There is Endless mode, which is pretty much as it sounds – just you, a road and a set of checkpoints to try and reach. And there is also “Race” mode, but as your babe tells you, there’s no chance of beating the races in the car you have. So, once you have the car, you’re left to play though Endless mode again, and again, and again, until you have enough money to either upgrade your existing car, or buy a new one. And my God is that an unappealing prospect. What this game puts me in mind of is a toy that was popular when I was a much younger man – a Tomy Turbo with a blurry LCD screen, a steering wheel, and the request to steer between oncoming cars. Honestly, it was as much fun as Street Racer is.
So, if we are stuck playing Endless mode for a good long time it has to bring a reasonable amount of fun, yeah? Well, apart from being presented with the graphics from a 90’s arcade racer, the lack of any kind of control of the speed of the car, or ability to hold our interest, the answer is no. You see, the only way to speed up is to use Nitrous, and the only way to earn Nitrous is to get up close and personal with the traffic on the highway, overtaking it very closely. This is not an alien concept – Need for Speed and Burnout games have rewarded similar behaviour for years, so you may be thinking “Pah! No problem”. Unfortunately what you have failed to take into account is the fact that the steering controls seem to work in geologic time, and are nowhere near sharp enough to allow for any consistent overtaking within a gnat’s whisker of the car in front to be a viable proposition. You can learn to adjust, but you will spend more time crashing rather than carving through the traffic like a well-oiled dolphin, believe me.
So, Street Racer Underground looks dull and Street Racer Underground controls badly. Are there any good points? Well, it’s not the sound, that’s for sure… the cars sound like they are a bunch of hairdryers droning down the street, the music made me want to pull my own ears off and throw them in the bin, and the whole presentation is just, well, a bit rubbish, really. I will however admit that there is one part that did amuse me (amuse isn’t the right word, but family website and all) and that came about when I tried to enter a race without enough money to pay the entrance fee. It is here where Underground happily states that I didn’t have enough cash, promptly leaving me stuck on that one screen and unable to get out. The game just kept me there, unable to go back until I dashboarded and started the whole game again.
And this brings me on to the parts of the game where you aren’t “driving”, for these are also pretty poor. You can choose from a selection of recognisable cars (that don’t have names, for some reason) and if you have enough money, you can buy a new whip, as the kids these days almost certainly don’t say. You can buy wheels that you rarely see – as I mentioned earlier – you can change the colour of the car, and you can spend cash on upgrades for the car. The real problem is that as nice as this all is, you know that you are going to have to go and “drive” the car at some point – something that you won’t look forward to.
In conclusion then, if you’ve been living under a rock for the last 20 years and have never seen a driving game, you may get a bit of fun out of Street Racer Underground on Xbox One. If you have played anything after, say, Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 on the Amiga, you won’t. Honestly, I can’t understand how a game like this can be released in this day and age, and I would rather do almost anything than have to play this again. Avoid, is my advice.