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N-Gen Racing
Platform:  Playstation
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Curly Monsters
Publisher:  Infogrames
Features:  Analog Control, Vibration Function
Ratings:  Early Childhood
Memory Req.:  1 Block
Coming off like a cross between Wipeout and Ace Combat 3 with a dash of Gran Turismo, developer Curly Monsters' new Playstation game, N-Gen Racing ends up being one of those games you'll either love or hate, depending on your patience level. The PS has way too many racing games, and not enough flying games, so on one hand, a flight racing title is a really good idea. The last one- Bravo Air Race was decent but too restrictive with its invisible walls and horrid pop-up. N-Gen does have loads of customizable planes and 14 courses to speed around, as well as two 2-player modes. On the other hand, the game has enough flaws to keep it from becoming an instant classic. There are loads of good ideas and intentions here, but they simply end up showing the age of the current PS hardware, rather than showing off what the system can really do.

The CG intro is super impressive, though- so are the menus and set up screens. But the moment you start up your first game you'll be screaming more than the jet engines onscreen- the game moves very s l o w l y with the trainer planes that the game gives you at first. I was puttering along the first simple course wondering when the hell the game would get faster (and better). After I got my first license, I got to see what the game could really do. It's almost too fast to deal with, especially with some of the more twisty courses. The game is structured to have you get used to flying the trainer courses and planes until you become accustomed to the controls. But the switch in difficulty from the trainer to fighter levels is like going from milk to moonshine in one day- pretty damn rough. In fact, the difficulty of some of the later courses may turn off some folks. Part of this is due to the awful draw-in in the game, and also the simple fact that most of the tracks are too narrow to really cut loose on. There are some afterburners and health power-ups scattered about, and in order to win, you HAVE to snag all the speed you can, AND not hit anything, AND use all your weapons properly. This is supposed to be fun?

Fortunately, the game has a really well done two-player Powerball game that almost makes up for the annoyances of the single player game. It plays like a cross between Lucasarts' old Ball Blazer and Tag, and gets quite addictive, until the second player beats you over the head for winning so much (that is, if you've been practicing in the regular game). There's also a speedy head to head mode included as well, and the frame rate doesn't suffer too much with the split screen. The main problem is that the graphics can't keep up with the gameplay. On first glance, everything looks slick and moves at a nice clip, but guess what? You have to fly really close to the ground in order to get the most speed, and getting close to the ground reveals some pretty awful-looking tiley textures, and loads of jagged edges flying at you. Also, when you finally get the faster planes, the pop-up is even worse, especially when a checkpoint suddenly appears a few hundred feet in front of you, and you're going about 500 or so miles an hour. It looks like they took the Eagle One: Harrier Attack graphics engine, and sped it up a bit too much. Not good, considering all the potential here.

N-Gen is far from perfect, but being just adequate isn't good enough these days with all the other games out there. On one hand, N-Gen is a good example of how to improve on an old genre, but on the other hand, you'll wish that the developers had waited for their PS2 development kits and produced something really stellar.

Greg Wilcox

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