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Gaming Review

'Crazy Taxi' (Xbox Live)

By
Released on Wednesday, Dec 8 2010

Gaming Review: Crazy Taxi

Also available on: PSN
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega Studios Shanghai
Genre: Arcade

Following the recent downloadable release of Sonic Adventure, Sega has dug up and dusted off fellow Dreamcast classic Crazy Taxi and made it available as a digital download. Unfortunately, much like Sega's first attempt at a true 3D platformer, Crazy Taxi is showing signs of its age, which only a true fan will be able to see past. And, to make matters worse, even some of the minor touches that made the original game so charming, have been lost because of licensing issues.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Crazy Taxi is very much an arcade title, which does away with a plot or narrative and simply focuses on making players earn the highest score possible. After selecting one of four charismatic cabbies, the action begins and players must drive around town picking up and dropping off customers in a race against the clock. The more jobs players perform, the more money can be earned, which results in a higher score and an extra few seconds on the timer. Performing advanced driving manoeuvres such as drifts and boosts helps to shave valuable seconds off each job and increases the amount of cash players earn by a considerable amount, as does driving dangerously in and out of traffic without any collisions.

The game is a straight port from the Dreamcast and, as such, features the original arcade city as well as the additional San-Francisco inspired location which featured on the DC. Both cities contain numerous landmarks, which are gloriously basked in sunshine and must be memorised in order to obtain the best times possible. The Dreamcast exclusive city features plenty of hills, which means players can catch some air and gain extra points. Neither area is particularly large, but the arcade nature of the game means that sessions are only ever limited to a few minutes at a time, unless players are willing to practise and earn those 'Crazy' licenses.

Additional fun can be had with the challenges in Crazy Box mode, which range from knocking over pins in a taxi ten-pin bowling alley, to performing vehicular long-jumps off a huge ramp. The Crazy Box mode is designed to enhance players' abilities by getting them to master advanced driving techniques which are helpful in the main game. Unfortunately, once the best medals have been earned in Crazy Box, there isn't much incentive to re-visit. However, the promise of bettering high scores in the arcade mode gives Crazy Taxi its longevity.

One significant problem with this latest port is that the original soundtrack featuring tunes from The Offspring and Bad Religion has had to be ditched and replaced with songs from unknown punk and indie bands. This will definitely upset fans of the DC release who probably can't imagine starting a new game without hearing the familiar "yeah yeah yeah yeah" from The Offspring's 'All I Want'. The real-life fast food outlets such as KFC and Pizza Hut are also conspicuous by their absence, which isn't a big deal in itself, but, much like the in-game music, reduces the immersive factor and lessens the game's charm.

Highlighting minor flaws such as music and sponsorship may seem petty, but the lack of these original touches shows that Crazy Taxi - the XBLA release - is a game that has lost more than it has gained. The graphics, for example, have supposedly been given a HD polish, but this additional sheen is so minor that it's hard to spot. The game certainly is bright and colourful, but the vehicle models are jagged, the pedestrians are blocky and some of the green areas look as though they've been coloured in by a 3-year-old. Really, the only change visually, is that the game has been re-jigged to fit modern displays, but without any additional body work it makes the game look worse than it did ten years ago.

The driving mechanic at the heart of the game also leaves a little bit to be desired. The cars don't always behave like the arcade speed demons that they are. Occasionally, launching off a hill or ramp doesn't produce the amount of air time it should (in the arcade context of the game), while on the road it sometimes feels like the cabs are gliding and sliding across the surface. The driving isn't bad by any means, but considering the advancements that have taken place in the driving genre over the past ten years, the lack of realistic properties and physics is telling, even on an over-the-top arcade game such as this. On the plus side, the Xbox 360 pad is great for racers and feels like a good fit for Crazy Taxi, while online leaderboards help to make the game even more addictive than ever before.

At its best, Crazy Taxi is an addictive thrill-ride, perfect for those with one eye on a fast-paced gaming session and the other on their friend's high score. The flipside is that the game hasn't aged particularly well and the latest port has lost some of its original flair. For those seeking a game full of depth and realism, Crazy Taxi is best avoided, but for sheer arcade thrills, the Dreamcast classic should still appeal to all of its old fans, despite containing numerous flaws.


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