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Hresvelgr
Platform:  Playstation 2
# of Players:  1
Developer:  Gust Software
Publisher:  Gust Software
Features:  Dual Shock 2 control, Vibration Function
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  8 MB Memory card required
Info:  
Picasso once said: "If you're going to steal, steal from the best", and in
the world of videogame ideas, this is a common and sometimes necessary step.
After all, without Alone in the Dark and Doctor Hauzer, there wouldn't be a
Resident Evil series, and most console RPGs owe Dragon Quest and Final
Fantasy their very existence. Somehow, the futuristic racing scene is still
sacred ground, with Psygnosis' Wipeout games still at what seems like an
unreachable summit. Not to say that a few contenders haven't tried to muscle
their way up to the throne- the latest pretender to the crown, Gust
Software's Hresvelgr, tries a bit too hard, and all they succeed in doing is
adding another sentence to the quote above: "If you're to steal, at least
try not to embarass yourself miserably".

Hresvelgr gets it all wrong, from the clumsy name, flashy but dull graphics,
and a complete lack of speed for what's supposed to be a racing game. The
worst thing is that this is a new Playstation 2 title, and it plays like a
first generation import...for the original PS. This game is another classic
example of an inexperienced developer using the latest tools to churn out a
decent-looking game, but somehow forgetting to add the gameplay. Every
little thing the game does right is negated by all the other awful things it
does wrong.

First of all, there's no backstory at all- it's a small thing, but if you've
played enough Psygnosis stuff, you can see origins of a whole world order
going back to the days of Microcosm and Novastorm. It may have been
unintentional, but the whole design asthetic of their games for the last 7
or 8 years has helped bring a sense of place into all their later releases.
Hresvelgr just announces itself as if it was on the block all the time, but
just decided to come out for some air. "It's the future, so let's race!",
seems to be the theme here. Secondly, there's no way to practice a track to
get the feel of the controls (or rather, the lack of control you'll feel)-
the game sticks you straight into a Grand Prix Mode that forces you to play
all the way through until you quit, or finish the event. And finally, the
game has no hidden extras in it at all. Once you sit down for a few hours
and actually finish it, there's no incentive to want to pick it up ever
again. The game does fool you though- an announcer clearly states somrthing
like "This is only the beginning!" when you finish the last race, then the
credits start rolling! Of course, the announcer says that quote after every
race, but I only paid attention to him that one time- I was too busy trying
to pilot my ship.

The controls are loose and clumsy, and the game relies on your keeping your
craft more or less close to a power strip representing the racetrack. This
is similar to the old PS game Starwinder, or more recently, N-Gen Racing, in
which the further you are from the track, the less speed you'll achieve.
Paradoxically, the ships move stiffly, and coupled with the poor control,
equals too much frustration to want to deal with what else the game throws
at you- For some reason, you can also fall through the tracks, so you have
to fight the controls not only left and right, but up and down as well.
Either this is shoddy collision detection at its worst, or someone has a
poor idea of what fun is supposed to be. At least the game is only for one
player (which absolutely boggles the mind for a racing game these days), so
your friends won't laugh at you for buying this one- they'll just get bored
watching you play, and go to the movies or something.

Well, at least the backgrounds look nice-yes, if there's one thing the game
has going on, it's the backgrounds. They're really quite nice, full of
futuristic architecture in the cities and nicely designed grandstands in the
mountains. The game has a crippled, inconsistent framerate, so when you're
not fighting to stay on the track, you can ooh and ahh at your surroundings.
It's the reverse of F-Zero X on the N64, which went the minimalist route
with sparse details in the backgrounds in order to give the game a superior
sense of speed. In Hresvelgr, the better looking the track site, the worse
the lack of speed gets until it almost seems that your riding in a busted
monorail at Disneyland, going uphill. The ship designs are all different,
but they all seem to handle the same. Besides, it won't matter too much what
ship you choose, as you'll be cursing the way it chugs along. You can select
from a neat stock of weapons, but for the most part, all you need is the
turbo boost. The explosions from missiles and other ordinance just blind you
when you need to pass the guy you're trying to shoot. And yes, the music is
yet another attempt at creating a "Wipeout-style" mix, but it's almost
totally forgettable. It's the only time I'll recommend someone call Rob
Zombie to do a game soundtrack. This game needs a shot of something hard in
order to make it remotely palatable.

Hresvelgr (and i really hate the name, too) is simply a poorly thought out
and executed idea that is suposed to somehow be arriving on these shores
this fall. If the problems in the import aren't completely fixed, it's going
to be a big disappointment for racing fans everywhere. In its present state,
the game is simply too slow and too short to recommend even as a rental. A
two-player or link mode is a must, and without some major recoding, it's
hard to see it happening, but who knows?


Greg Wilcox


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