Preview: Spikeout Battle Street (XB)

Publisher: Sega / Developer: Amusement Vision / Genre: RPG / Release Date: January 2005

Video games have seen the emergence of a new kind of game. A type of game that focuses on the lifestyle of inner city areas, where gangs, crime, drugs, and violence are the rules that everyone has to live by. The appeal of games like this is easy to see. People get to step outside their worlds and limitations and just let loose in a virtual world where anything goes and you can do whatever you want. So today I’m going to preview a game that is very much in this vein: the fighter/action Xbox title Spikeout: Battle Street.

So what’s the story with this title? Well Sega and Amusement Vision (a development studio of Sega) is bringing this installment of a long running arcade series to the Xbox. The series, debuting in the late 90’s, is pretty basic in what it has always attempted to do: Give you straight up, hard nosed, mindless fighting. And for the large part they have succeeded, as this series has enjoyed relatively decent success. This latest installment aims to follow in that tradition and also expand in new and innovative ways.

Spikeout: Battle Street tells the simplistic story of two rival gangs, Team Spike and Team Inferno. These gangs are very well known and respected, and of course are bitter enemies. Everything started roughly ten years ago with a lot of bloodshed, and now it looks like things are about to heat up once again as both gangs are poised for all out war with one another. Leading the pack is Spike Jr. for Team Spike who is looking to take down the gang of his father’s nemesis Michael.

Sega’s long running Spikeout series returns with a punch!

From there the game pretty much plays like you would expect. You are free to roam a 3D world, where you will run into hordes upon hordes of enemies, and your main objective is simply to pound as many of them into the ground as you possibly can. While the game play itself is relatively simplistic, Spikeout: Battle Street has a lot to offer. As you roam the world you’ll consistently be in combat. Ranging from your average thug to harder elite thugs and gang bosses, every class of enemy has a decent amount of distinction put into them graphically and intelligence wise to keep the combat from becoming too stale as the game progresses.

The controls aren’t hard to figure out either. The standard melee kicks and punches are there, along with special moves depending on what character you decide to jump into the fray with. The attention to detail given to your controllable characters is a nice touch. Every character has its advantages and disadvantages in battle. Some are stronger, faster, or better well-rounded than others. What that means is that their probably is something out there for every fighter fan who likes fighting in a particular style. Personally I enjoy a sleeker, faster, and swifter character, so I would probably go with a smaller thug, or the one female character available for selection. But I’m sure some of you out there love to crush things with big muscle headed brutes. Well, you’ll be happy as well because there is no shortage of those in Spikeout: Battle Street.

The number of enemies to fight on screen at once gets pretty staggering.

While the actual play time of the “story” mode is relatively short it does serve a purpose. Each time you complete the game a new character is unlocked, giving you a more eclectic selection as you play the game over and over. In addition to this you’ll be able to customize your character in terms of how they look (among other attributes) giving your character its own unique style. You will also be able to download new items and style features adding to an impressive array of customization options for your character. Downloads don’t stop there though. You’ll get new ingame sounds, additional new story line materials, fresh characters, and other features not yet revealed. This might be enough for some gamers, but I still have a feeling that all of the aforementioned content is not the reason most gamers are going to be interested in this game. Spikeout: Battle Street seems to do everything right: with brilliant graphics that run at a relatively above average frame rate, a control scheme that is simplistic to the point of mindless button mashing yet doesn’t get boring as you’re always enthralled in something, and of course, a story mode that serves as a way to unlock goodies.

However none of that is the key seller for Spikeout: Battle Steet. What IS the seller is quite simply the best thing the Xbox has going for it: Xbox Live and competitive and cooperative online play.

Quite simply Battle Street is a game made solely for the purpose of exploiting online gaming to its fullest extent. With up to three other players you can form cooperative gangs and play the game that way as you are pitted against an endless horde of computer controlled thugs. With the use of the communication devices for Xbox Live you’ll be able to trash talk the whole way as well as you play with other Xbox Live users, simultaneously trying to help each other, but also trying to outdo the other for bragging supremacy. This is, obviously, meant to compensate for the relatively short gaming experience that the story/single player mode gives you. Here you can experience endless hours of smash mouth fun, talking as much smack as you wish with anyone you can get a game together with. Adding a competitive spirit to all of this is the online ranking feature for the Xbox Live support.

That’s right. You’re so bad that even shop owners close up when you come around!

This feature will allow for online competitions in environments designed for these kinds of events. Also, as the name implies, records will be posted here allowing for any gamer to see how they stack up against the very best. What interests me most, as a gamer who usually shies away from online play, is the huge amount of faith Sega and company have placed in the online component of Spikeout: Battle Street. Certainly Xbox Live has proven itself to be one of biggest hits for Microsoft’s first foray into the console market, and it’s games likes this that convince gamers like me to get off our offline only mentalities and try something new. From all accounts, this game certainly is very intriguing. On the surface things look simple, and in terms of game play it is. But once you look at the entire picture you see a game that has limitless replay value derived from its online functionality focus.

Spikeout: Battle Street is coming out in the early stages of 2005 to kick off the new year. Certainly Xbox owners who subscribe to Xbox Live will definitely want to keep an eye out for this title.