Review: Top Gear RPM Tuning (XB)

Top Gear RPM Tuning
System: X-Box
Publisher: Kemco
Developer: Kemco
Genre: Racing
Release Date: 2/15/05

Well, it’s a budget title. It’s a racing game. That’s all I’ve got.

Wait… this isn’t just a racing game. This is a street racing game! Awesome, freaking awesome. This is high octane, pulse-pounding racing. Top Gear RPM is the type of game that makes you check your nerves every second as in the world of street racing, one false move sends you on a ride, TO THE HOSPITAL. Drift around rivals! Turbo the V-tech! Boost blast past the competition! Prove once and for all who’s the true king of the video game road.

That should be enough to make you stop yourself from buying this game. If not, here’s ten other reasons why you’d be better off donating your money to charity then spending it on this game.


Story and Modes

“Vince is searching for a stolen car, a GTSR model. His only leads are ‘RedSet’ name and this garage, headquarters of tuners around there…” This text is what greets you on starting a new story. Oh boy, was I in for a treat.

First off let’s talk about Vince. Vince is the most vanilla character in the world. He makes Mark Jindrak seem like, um Bizzaro Mark Jindrak (ha, wrestling reference and a comic reference all in the same sentence, I rock). In a move of brilliance, Vince ends up buying a new car to rice out to try and solve the mystery of the missing car. The story isn’t bad; it’s just exceptionally bland. You run errands, have street races, mod your car, and watch poorly acted cut scenes. If you have ever played a street racing game before, this is all very passe’.

Outside of Vince, you’ve got all the usual cliche’. The military vet who runs an auto shop talking constantly about his military days is particularly annoying as is the Spike Lee in Lakers uniform bookmaker. The additional characters are walking gaming cliches that add absolutely nothing to the game other then an annoying personality with the bright yellow truck you’re racing against.

In the story mode, there is another mode that lets you drive around the city. This is practically pointless as the only things to do are either earn “fame” by doing jumps and drifting, which has an extremely negligible effect on how much money you earn in actual races, or search for short cuts for races, which are minimal.

As for other game modes, you can have all of the fun of the story mode without the story in a mode that lets you win money through racing and customize your vehicle, but doesn’t have Vince and his dapper looks and charm nor his daring quest to find the missing car. There’s also a free race mode which involves no customization and a versus mode to take on a friend. That’s right, just one.

Story and Modes: 3/10


Graphics

This game’s graphic engine would barely give a Saturn a workout. That’s not to say that there isn’t some good in this mess of a game. The character designs are serviceable. While not being spectacular, the overall look of each character and their movement is the best thing the game has going for it in the graphics department.

The car design is pretty weak. Playable car models are blocky and can’t hold a candle to other game’s car designs. Traffic looks even worse as practically all of the cars you run into are just as blocky as the playable cars, but lacking what little polish that went into the playable cars.

As for the city you’re actually racing around in, it also looks quite awful. The locales are exceptionally dark and the actual courses you race on have tons of problems with pop ups. The buildings bathed in bright neon lights look flat. There are a few neat graphical effects though. For example, when you use nitro and your car hits its top speed, the screen lights up and the buildings blur around you. Despite being a relatively basic effect, it is a nice touch for a game that seems all too lacking in creative flair.

For a game who’s subject matter deals with style as much as substance, having the graphics be this poor is rather unforgivable. The nice touches are hugely overshadowed by the poor overall graphical presentation.

Graphics: 2/10


Sound

If a racer blasts bad techno music across an empty city, can he still be arrested for violations of noise ordinances? This question bounced around in my head listening to the exceptionally generic soundtrack. The music in the game is pretty annoying after a while for a bunch of reasons. I’m not one of those people who makes a claim that all techno music sounds the same, but Top Gear RPM Tuning features all of two songs quite literally. The songs initially are just mediocre, but after your fifth race or so, the music just begins grating on your nerves. Since this is a budget game, it would be a bit too much to ask for a licensed soundtrack, but honestly, there needs to be more then two generic sounding songs to really immerse one’s self into the racing experience.

On the other side of the coin, we have the sound effects. Every crash sounds the same. Your engine no matter what gear you might be in sounds the same. Every passing car sounds the same. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the sounds of Top Gear were well done, which they aren’t. Car horns sound comical, the nitro sounds flat, and the engine sound effects sound like they were dubbed over from another racing game. This game reeks of cheapness and in no area is it more apparent then the audio.

Sound: 1/10


Control

Out of all of the important factors in a racing game, having a solid control system is paramount to creating an enjoyable gaming experience. So how does Top Gear RPM control? Ever try racing an RC car over a bunch of different surfaces? Yeah, it’s sort of like that.

The basics are fine for Top Gear. The core of the simulation aspect is well done as cars handle realistically in most cases. Upgrades to your car do make a slight but noticeable difference in how easy it is to control. Still though, overcompensating on a turn will cause you to spin out, and riding against the sides of the wall will cause a drastic slow down. The basics are fine for the most part.

One interesting choice that Top Gear makes is how wrecks are handled. Rather then having your wrecked car explode and be reset on the course, the game has your car stop for a few seconds and then regain its ability to move from the site of the accident. This makes players run a more careful race as it is possible to miss a drift and end up stuck in a corner that takes several seconds to get out of. This is incredibly annoying when a wreck like this happens, but it ultimately leads to a more realistic experience.

There are some glaring problems with some aspects of the controls mostly in how inconsistent the game is in certain areas. The most aggravating aspect of the game is drifting, as often times your car will spin out for no reason at all. If this just happened when you went too hard into a drift, that would be fine, but this happened frequently coming out of drifts too. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to execute a perfect drift only to lose complete control of your car 50 feet later.

The other aggravating inconsistency is collision detection. There are some instances where you could be going full speed and crash into a bus with your vehicle not wrecking, but other instances where you nick a car while passing it that effectively breaks your car. The complete inconsistency in wrecks will have you shouting at the game in total aggravation.

Overall, the core of Top Gear RPM Tuning is fine; it’s the game’s complete ineffectiveness in establishing a consistent system in drifting and wrecking that really hurts the control more then anything else.

Control: 6/10


Replayability

In a game that is all about customization, there should be a lot of replayability right? Well yes and no. The game does offer a tremendous amount of customization, it is just that all of that customization will be done on eight non-licensed car models. That’s right, eight. The lack of variety in the base units you start out with really hurts the whole idea of Top Gear RPM Tuning being a customization game. It is understandable that without any license really to differentiate cars why they put so few car models in the game, but come on, eight? I’m not a car guy and I can think of easily over eight distinctive shapes of cars on the road today.

The actual customization element is a bit of a misnomer too. Sure, you can customize your cars, but if you stick with the game long enough, you’ll eventually end up buying the best parts. There are really few options where parts provide comparable benefits. Usually the case is the best part costs the most money and if you have the money, your car will ultimately be “customized” with the parts that makes your car drive fastest. Even when there is a comparable choice, it rarely gets into you having to make a choice beyond “A” part or “B” part.

Actually unlocking enough money to buy all of these parts and the ability to purchase parts to upgrade your is a different story. You can put some time into this game and feel like you’re actually making a difference in how your car performs. Additionally, even though there are only eight car models, quite a few of them need to be unlocked. Also, there are quite a few cosmetic options to fool around with your car, but these are available from the start.

The biggest dagger in the heart of Top Gear RPM is the lack of a decent multiplayer game. Not only does this game not support X-Box Live, it doesn’t even allow 4 human players to go at it at the same time. Heck, it only allows four cars in a race at once. The complete lack of anything besides racing one human player truly hurts this game’s replayability. After all, what good is having a sweet ride if you can’t show it off to anyone?

Replayability: 3/10


Balance

Top Gear RPM Tuning doesn’t have an exceptionally steep learning curve, yet it provides an adequate challenge as the game goes on. One of the big flaws of the story mode, the complete lack of any sort of multiple paths, actually helps the balance as you get a few races to try out the game before you actually need to win anything to continue. Upgrading parts of your engine and your car actually does make a difference in how easy it is to control your car. As the game gets harder, your car is better prepared to deal with opponents.

The game also isn’t completely unfair with giving preferential treatment to the computer either. Computer controlled racers have to deal with the game’s shoddy controls as much as you do. They will occasionally get into unforced accidents, drift into a wall, or lose control of their car going into a sharp turn.

When the game does become more difficult, it is a rather drastic jump, especially when the story shifts from time trials and one on one races to GP races. This is mostly because of the inability to restart a race without restarting a chapter, but also because of the need to be perfect in a game that you have so little control over. You could be able to hit a drift through a sharp turn nine times out of ten in any other racer, but it is much more sporadic in Top Gear RPM Tuning. Plus, the mere notion of controls being poor for everyone making the game more balanced just makes me feel… dirty.

Balance: 5/10


Originality

It’s a racing game. It’s a street racing game. It’s been done before and it’s been done better before. Top Gear RPM Tuning attempts nothing new. The ability to completely cosmetically alter your car is fun for a while, but ultimately superficial. There is very little that RPM Tuning brings to the table that we haven’t seen a million times before in a million better games.

Originality: 2/10


Addictiveness

I literally had to psyche myself up to play this game and then take a break from it every six races or so. Hell, I had to psyche myself up to actually write this review. That’s how unaddictive this game is.

It offers absolutely nothing that appeals to me. I’m not a big fan of racing games and I’m even less of a fan of most simulation racing games, but I could not find one compelling aspect of this game for me. This score probably would be higher if I knew half of the stuff that the car customization menus were talking about, but we’re getting into hypotheticals and that is the only reason that this game gets higher then a 1.

You know what, let’s do that. Let’s delve into hypothetical situations for a moment. This game would have been more addictive if the story was better composed. I would be coming back to this game if the design of it didn’t force me to play through four races over and over again if I failed to win a GP race. I might have come back to the game’s customization menus if they weren’t so text heavy and if there was a decent explanation for non-gear heads on what all of this meant. The game would have been more addictive if it was ACTUALLY FUN TO PLAY!

RPM Tuning wasn’t though. If those elements were all in place I’d be a happy reviewer humming the Speed Racer theme song while I played this game. I’m not though. I’m sad. I’m very very sad.

Addictiveness: 2/10


Appeal Factor

If street-racing games didn’t appeal to someone, they’d have stopped making them by now. Add in the fact that this game will only cost you two X notes and change and you’ve got a game that appeals to quite a few people. Cheese in rat traps appeal to mice too before an iron bar slams down crushing their skull and splattering their little mouse brains all over. So yeah, this game appeals to a lot of people.

Appeal Factor: 8/10


Miscellaneous

While I was writing this review, I read over it and thought to myself, maybe I’m making this game out to be worse then it is. I went back to it and played it again and consequently lowered the score for Replayability a point. That’s how much this game hurts to play.

This is one of the most soulless games I have ever played. It was sent to stores to try and lure in your average idiot who enjoys racing titles and is bored with Need for Speed Underground 2, and can’t afford Gran Turismo 4. Save your money young racer for rims or an air freshener for your Honda Civic. This is a money grab, pure and simple. Shame on you Kemco.

Miscellaneous: 1/10


The Ratings:

Story and Modes: 3/10
Graphics: 2/10
Sound: 1/10
Control: 6/10
Replayability: 3/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 2/10
Addictiveness: 2/10
Appeal Factor: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 1/10

Overall Score: 33 out of 100
FINAL SCORE: 3.5/10 (BAD)