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Review

Review: Anarchy: Rush Hour

Gaijin goes Vroom.

It’s a bit of a strange period for the driving genre. Last fall we had two great games to enjoy in the form of Need For Speed Shift and Forza 3. There followed a dearth of releases except for a couple of side titles like MotoGP 09/10 and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, and now in May 2010 we are facing a glut of forthcoming releases: ModNation Racers, Split/Second, Blur and SBK X Superbike Championship. Each unique in their own way, it seems a bit of an odd choice to release a racing game on PSN now, and this one has come as a bolt from the blue with nothing but a trailer on the US store one week before release to go on.

The dilemma is that Anarchy: Rush Hour costs a paltry $7.99 (£5.20), which for racing fans may make it irresistible on price alone.

Anarchy: Rush Hour is perhaps best described as a budget-level cross between Burnout and the old Midnight Club series on PS2. The game features an open world city, with the aim being to impress your rivals enough to get in their good books. You will be invited via in-game email to various types of events hosted by your competitors, including straight circuit races, point-to-point sprints, hot laps, eliminator rounds and stunt runs. Those of you who hate certain race types will be glad to hear that you can accept races whenever you want in any order, so modes that don’t suit your tastes can be readily skipped.

There are a bunch of cars to collect – unlicensed of course – and have a standard raft of customisations available: colours, decals, tuning, performance upgrades etc. There is not any great level of detail here but the game’s price must be borne in mind. Collecting all the cars is part of the aim of the game, with a gold trophy available for finishing the job.

Your car can be fitted with up to four devices, each upgradeable to three levels, to help you in the races. You can auto-repair, boost, emit shockwaves to disrupt opponent cars and use the front brakes to do some mad stunts. This is really the only part of the game that differs from the norm of the genre – it is a bit reminiscent of the forthcoming Blur.

Graphically, this is a decidedly non-descript affair, with very basic black, white and orange menus and information screens, the in-game graphics are perhaps slightly better than a PS2 game but are absolutely nothing interesting or comparable to Bluray offerings. Once again though, we shouldn’t really compare as Anarchy: Rush Hour is not trying to compete with full price releases.

The soundtrack is more pleasing with a decent if unremarkable mix of dance, house and rock music. It’s nothing special but it does the job and complements the gameplay well enough.

On a first quick play of Anarchy: Rush Hour, you may be forgiven for thinking that it’s a yawnfest. The tutorial is decidedly boring and the initial races have no flair. Your car slides around like it’s on ice with handling somewhere between Ridge Racer or Outrun, and a rally game. Drifting well is absolutely critical to winning in later races, however it’s not nearly as annoying as the drifting style in Ridge Racer 7 and once you get used to it you’ll likely enjoy it.

For solo play, the game is decidedly unspectacular with nothing particular to hold your interest. You do have a nice easy set of trophies to collect– including a platinum which is unusual for a PSN game – which will probably give a lot of people impetus to finish it. Where this game shines is in the online multi-player, which with some like-minded players is an absolute blast.

Comment must be made on how good the multi-player is for such a cheap title. The voice chat is 100% smooth, the game is totally lag free and it doesn’t seem to take too long to get a match. There are three modes: circuit, hot lap and deathmatch. The deathmatch mode involves ramming and destroying your opponent; you set the frag limit at the start and the cars acquire health bars. This mode does not work at all well as you generally end up driving round in circles trying to ram each other, but the other two modes are superb.

All of which makes it very sad that the online design suffers from some pretty serious flaws. If you stray off track a bit during a race, you’ll be told you’re going the wrong way, even if you just took a minor shortcut, and you’ll need to trek back (or reset to track) to the last checkpoint, and the checkpoints are invisible, although the quasi-3D GPS mini-map in the corner does show a green line to indicate which part of the track you have covered so far. This is an annoyance that only crops up with certain tracks and only periodically as you play, so it is tolerable although it definitely should not be present.

The real problem with online play is that you can’t change the game settings (track, race type, car limits etc.) once you’ve created a game without exiting the lobby and making a new game – which of course kicks everyone out including your friends. You can’t make private rooms but you can send invites, so there is no way of keeping strangers out of your friends-only race. Irritating, but not devastating. On the upside, the host can instantly kick any player if they sit around failing to click Ready, which is very handy.

When online races end, the remaining players are given 60 seconds to finish, which is rather a long time especially if they are messing around doing donuts, and you are forced to spectate until the 60 seconds are up. 30 would have been a better choice.

While the closed tracks work well, in the open world tracks that have the directions shown by arrowed signposts as in Midnight Club 2 and 3, you are going to get frequently lost, and when you do you’ll probably end up spending more time looking at the map than the road, because the signposts become bugged and point in all sorts of directions that don’t make sense.

Working in its favour, Anarchy: Rush Hour is very accessible. There are four or five difficulty levels, the easiest being so trivial that you can crash at almost every corner and still win, and the hardest being insanely difficult, so the AI can be tweaked to suit anyone’s skill level here, which is a nice plus.

Pros:

  • Plenty to do, lots of events and tracks (13-17 online tracks depending on mode, more offline)
  • Race types you don’t like can be skipped
  • Online play is really fun
  • Terrific value for money

Cons:

  • Poor graphics for a current-gen game, very average interface
  • Average and un-engaging single player campaign
  • Online play has some lobby design flaws
  • Being told you’re going the wrong way when you’re not due to invisible checkpoints you missed is stupid and annoying

I have really mixed feelings about this game. It’s not fair to compare it to Bluray titles, but if you’re going to buy one of those this month, is there any point in buying this? On the other hand, it’s so cheap you can’t really go wrong, as long as you aren’t looking for anything particularly new and fresh in solo play, or if you have some buddies to play online with and can tolerate a few foibles.

My opinion of Anarchy: Rush Hour was quite bleak until I took it online. That changed the game completely and I’ve upped my rating in consideration of that. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this game, but if you’re not buying any of the big racing titles at the moment, or if you just have some loose change burning a hole in your PSN wallet, you could do a lot worse than Anarchy: Rush Hour.

Score: 7/10

Visit www.totalmusicgaming.com for SingStar, Lips, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, DJ Hero and Karaoke Revolution social networking and contests. Thanks to TSA for their support! – Katy

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