The Final Word game review
Ahh... once again, another excellent looking arcade port for the Dreamcast. I never really played the game that much in the arcades because I really don't like the look of the water, and I really wasn't originally all that interested in playing it on the DC. But, after one night of a few hours with a rumble pack (can't play it any other way!), I got hooked. For all of the game's problems, it's a lot of fun. You just have to put out of your mind that it is a racing game...
"What?" You ask, "it is a racing game!" you say firmly... and I'm going to tell you, "No. It's not." In a racing game, you actually race the other vehicles on the track. In this game, you don't actually race any of those boats on the track. Every one of them follows the same path along the track, with the same wrecks at the same points, etc... all of which appears to be tied to some form of time marker or script. From what I can tell by playing this game, you can't beat a particular track (no matter how good you do and no matter how much you cut off the other boats) unless you A) complete all of the arbitrary "requirements" of the track (be it take a specific short-cut, pick-up certain boosts, etc...) and B) finish the track under a specific time mark (and I found this to be less important than "A").
This is not racing... racing implies winning by driving skills, not winning by checklist. They might as well have taken the other boats off the track... oh wait, they couldn't do that because the AI appears to use the enemy boats as rams to knock you away from ramps and certain boosts when you're doing exceptionally well on a course! Cheap! Another failed attempt at AI tuning!!! ...oh yeah guys, and when are you going to retire the Hard Driving engine???
Also, bonus tracks are just that... bonus tracks. When I solve a game I want credits... and I want those credits before I go on to solve any special bonuses that I may have unlocked by finishing the game. If you're counting them as part of the game, then don't call them bonus, call them "even harder" or something lame like that.
You might think that I don't like this game... but... well, aside from the BS that is required to beat a track, the game is pretty fun and gorgeous to look at. Much like Soul Calibur, once the game was beat it basically got delegated to dust patrol on the shelf. Although, unlike Soul Calibur, nobody really cared enough to bother to try and solve every last thing in the game. Besides, we also got tired of the entire sound component of the game crashing out every other time we played it (sometimes the music or sound effects would just quit playing for no good reason and would never kick back on until you re-booted the game... I'm talking, in game, in menus, in everything... and then again, I don't think we've played a single Williams/Midway game for the Dreamcast that hasn't manifested some horrendous bug like this).
If you like fantasy racing games with really sweet graphics then check this one out. If on the other hand you're looking for some racing action, then check out Sega Rally 2.
(ed note, added 5/2002: If you plan on buying this game, be mindfull that there are atleast two different releases on the market, possibly three. The version you want to buy is the final pressing that has a round green mark on the top left corner of the game's cover/manual which contains the words "HOT! NEW!" inside the mark. This is the version where Midway fixed all of the game bugs, and it is the version that will work with all DC hardware models. Earlier pressings of the game had bugs that would cause the game to crash or fail to load.)
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