Kinetica drives new format in racing genre
By AMANDA GRECO
Associate Scene Editor
Here's an interesting twist on an old favorite. Racing games are perhaps the largest and bestloved genre of video games. In the past, gamers have been able to gain speed using conventional modes of transport such as cars, boats and motorcycles, and even more non-conventional machines such as gravity defying vehicles and hovercrafts.
SCEA Santa Monica's Kinetica is something quite different: Characters in this racing game have been melded to their "kinetic skin" allowing them to reach speeds in excess of 200 mph on their hands and knees. Wheels spring forth from hands and feet and sleek, aerodynamic suits barely cover the rest of the body.
Each character is rated on the abilities of his or her given suit. Acceleration, top speed, cornering, grip and mass all factor into each character's ability to dominate a given track.
The artistic talent used to create these characters is great enough to merit a separate booklet accompanying the game just for the artwork. Graphically, this game is astonishing. Each track is highly detailed and almost confusingly intricate.
The tracks are comprised of so many different levels and shortcuts that it is hard to keep track of where a racer is located on the course. Racers can easily become disoriented on these tracks as angles change; there is no solid point of reference to use to determine if one is racing on the bottom or sides of the track.
Often times it is a guessing game when a racer careens off the edge of one track; sometimes what lies beneath is another section of track, other times you fall off into the great CGI beyond.
The trick to winning this game lies all in a character's Kinetic Suit boost meter and keeping it full. Racers can access the energy in their boost meter to get an extra edge over competitors, utilize controlled skids while turning or gain more air when launching off ramps.
There are several ways to gain boost. A player can take advantage of the boost strips located along areas of track. When racing over one, a player receives the same acceleration as active boosting without depleting the meter.
To be able to actively boost, a player must have a significant level in their boost meter. Meters can be filled either by siphon boosting — sucking up the power from boost strips as you pass them — or by performing tricks to earn boost. This is the best way to gain boost, and it is doubtful that a player could win a game without performing any stunts. Performing several stunts in a row creates a combo, providing additional boost.
Power-ups can also be gathered throughout the game, comprised of either five yellow crystals or one red crystal. Power-ups are randomly assigned and can provide the option to deactivate the boost of players in your proximity, perform stunts at double the speed, steal other character's boost and more.
Single player options include the single race, a season and a practice race, while two player options include a practice race and a split screen option, as well as a competitive/best of series for up to four players.
The single player season mode is the key to unlocking new tracks and characters then accessible in the single race, practice races and competitive races. The season consists of a series of races where a player must finish with a certain ranking to advance to the next race. There are three options to re-try games within a season. Each season becomes increasingly more difficult with more stringent requirements for qualifying.
Kinetica adds a new and interesting mode of racing to a genre full of creative transportation. Once the tracks are mastered, this game offers endless entertainment and extraordinary graphics.
Contact Amanda Greco at firstname.lastname@example.org
All Scene Stories for Wednesday, December 5, 2001