Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed (Game Boy Advance) - Review by Andrew
It's safe to say that we're used to racing games on the GBA and the majority of handheld gamers will own at least one of the classics of this genre. Driving games have grown up considerably in the Gameboy's lifetime though from top-down affairs such as Micro Machines to multiplayer Mode 7 titles such as Mario Kart. Several years ago though a new, and some would argue more exciting, racer appeared. Probably best demonstrated in Atari's V-Rally 3 or Kemco's recent Top Gear, the 3D game was here to stay and what's more it's what every publisher wanted. The problem is that games using this new technology have met with varying degrees of success. Minor gameplay elements, like playability for example, usually fell foul of this new technological eye candy. The Need for Speed franchise is actually the second such game this year and like the previous outing this was coded by Pocketeers who've been tinkering with these types of engines for some time now. The first met with mixed reviews but have they got it right second time around? Read on and see...
While Porsche Unleashed features a good number of this manufacture's most famous models you'll have to work hard, not to mention travel some distance, before you can sample them all. This is because the majority of the cars are locked initially and it's only by success in the various races that you'll be able to drive them. This takes place in the Evolution Mode, which is also the only part of the game to require a save of any description. Thanks to the battery backup this is simple enough, but the gameplay itself lacks any real excitement with a new car becoming available simply once a race is won. When a new car is unlocked it can be raced in any other part of the game but as this only amounts to the Quick Race or Knockout Modes you're likely to tire of the whole thing very quickly. Quick Race is self explanatory and this type of mode appears in almost every racing title. Knockout is usually played out over four laps with the last car eliminated on completion of each lap. The big problem is that you're generally so far ahead of the competition it feels like you're racing alone anyway. More interesting is the multiplayer mode which allows you to try your driving skills with some 'real' drivers although again because of the rather arcade nature of Porsche unleashed this won't be for everyone.
This is actually very simple especially in automatic mode with the controls responding to your every wish. More irritating though is the arcade nature of the actual races and collisions in particular. This is most problematic as it appears that even minor contact with another car or a wall transforms your car to a solid rubber solution causing it to bounce around the track. Obviously the up side of this is that damage is simply not something you have to consider but gaining control of your car (especially on one of the many 90 degree bends) is sometimes more of a challenge than actually winning a race. Some help is provided by on screen arrows but they don't always fully illustrate the severity of the turn so, although you're aware a turn is coming up, you're in no way armed with the information to correctly negotiate it.
Visually the whole thing is very impressive with the developers creating an incredibly competent 3D engine regardless of the game's speed or cars on the track. There are some other nice touches too; viewing the cars in the garage illustrates the attention to detail that the developers have lavished on each of the Porsche range. Less impressive is the overall presentation, which is sloppy by comparison, leaving you with basic races and little to link them in any way.
The audio in Porsche Unleashed is pretty tight with a variety of tunes playing through the races. Some do tend to get a little repetitive but that's something we've learnt to live with in many GBA titles. The sound effects too are well above average with some sampled speech punctuating the action and the usual engine and collision noises accompanying the race track jostling.
While you always have to bear in mind that the GBA shouldn't actually be capable of anything close to this type of game we have seen better examples of 3D racers in the past few months. Don't get us wrong, it is good, but the fact that only cars from the Porsche range win and the unforgiving track layouts hurt the overall enjoyment of the whole package. The major problem is the overall design though which seems unfinished. This is remarkable when you consider the amount of time this title was in development. There's also the lack of any real stats about the various models and outside of the physical characteristics there's little to separate the various cars. It could have been saved by an interesting game structure but again you see little thought given to the single player section and little incentive for the player to continue racing. Despite all this, developers Pocketeers have created a solid 3D engine but with the flaws in the gameplay and with the sheer volume of racers already available this is hardly an essential title for anyone's collection.
Pro: Loads of Tracks and Unlockables
Con: Bland Track Design and Presentation
Final score: 5.9
|Platform:||Game Boy Advance|