Crazy Taxi was one of the biggest arcade hits of the early 2000s, with the Dreamcast home conversion being one of the most acclaimed releases of its time. It is one that is still remembered fondly to this day, especially thanks to an iconic soundtrack featuring punk rock hits from The Offspring and Bad Religion. The game would get ported to numerous platforms, including a HD remaster on Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360 (with all of the music changed of course).
Crazy Taxi had official sequels and spin-offs too, later followed by several clones on mobile gaming storefronts. Needless to say, there is a void in modern gaming when it comes to taxi shenanigans, and so Taxi Chaos on Xbox is both opportune and welcome. However, to address the proverbial elephant riding the taxi: No, Taxi Chaos is not Crazy Taxi, not even close, but it is competent and functional enough to scratch an itch until SEGA’s arcade classic receives a modern 4K remaster treatment.
Taxi Chaos is an arcade romp: you pick a character and a taxi vehicle and off you go with a simple goal – pick up passengers and drop them off to their destination in record time, by any means necessary. The basic premise immediately clicks and satisfies, much like SEGA’s aforementioned arcade hit, and the goal of racking up passengers and collecting record fare within the time limit is immediately apparent and compelling. It’s a pick up and play arcade experience to be sure, and while a lot of its vibrant ideas are appealing in the first few sessions of play, it becomes clear that the execution of otherwise intuitive ideas leaves a lot to be desired.
The biggest thing working against Taxi Chaos is how it lacks momentum. Although you can unlock better cabs, there is a certain sluggishness in the basic driving model, and for a game that has the word Chaos in its title, the core mechanics don’t quite allow you to wreak havoc on the city. Sure, your cab can pull off certain techniques like boosts and jumps with just a press of the button, but these mechanics lack nuance and feel superficial in execution.
Taxi Chaos takes place in a fairly large map, and while the city does have a sense of vibrancy and visual variety, the actual level design itself isn’t all that interesting, especially when you’re going from one busy intersection to the next, with the occasional highway loop and open spaces like parks. The level design doesn’t compel you to explore and master the locales; not to mention there are naggings like the occasional invisible walls and not being able to drive underwater (which was a notable feature in Crazy Taxi).
From a presentation standpoint, Taxi Chaos does have the bright and shiny graphics, but ultimately this feels like a premium mobile game running in HD. The graphics aren’t offensively bad but the visual finish just comes across rather bland and uninspired. The music doesn’t help much with the presentation either, featuring generic looped rock riffs likely drawn from a creative commons pool. What hurts the presentation most though is the voice acting, because although the idea of having a nice chat with the taxi driver is a neat one, it simply fails in execution here as by the third passenger you’ll be hearing the same dialogue lines over and over.
To be fair to Taxi Chaos, it is fun in its basic gameplay loop of picking up and dropping off passengers, and what’s more is that there are a range of achievements and unlockable content tied to certain milestones. These will provide some incentive for players to keep coming back for more. The unlockable content includes new cabs to drive and new game modes, plus there is always the satisfaction of chasing a higher score and star rating.
Taxi Chaos on Xbox is not Crazy Taxi, not even close, but it does execute the familiar gameplay loop in a competent and functional manner. The experience is deeply flawed in its core driving mechanics and overall level design, but despite this the game is still an arcade-styled romp which delivers the satisfaction of racking up passengers in record time. Taxi Chaos is far from being the Crazy Taxi everyone had hoped for, but there is still some measure of enjoyment to be had in this unique style of arcade gaming.