Game Title: Speed
Developer: Team 6 Game Studios
(Glacier 2, Pacific Liberator)
Publisher: ZOO Games
Racing games are a dime a dozen on Wii, and unfortunately the value of a majority of them are about the same. With the release of Mario Kart Wii and the Wii Wheel, a plethora of racing games have come out, and Speed from Team 6 Game Studios is just one of the many racing games out this year alone. Offering a focus on speed and a special Wii Wheel Controller Shell, does this game fire off in front of the others, or does it sprint forward only to crash and burn?
When purchasing the game, you can obtain it with or without a controller shell, and I happened to receive a copy with a controller shell. The game does not come in a case, in this bundle, and that immediately makes me concerned for the long-term storage of the game disc itself. The wheel, upon immediate inspection, appears to be made of fairly cheap plastic, but as I used it, it compared to the Wii Wheel accessory more than expected. It has rubber stoppers to keep the controller secure, and instead of having a unique button to push the B trigger, the shell has a hole allowing for easy access. There is even a hole on the side to allow the IR pointer to be used while the controller is inside the shell. Overall, if you do not already have a Wii Wheel, this is a decent substitute.
Enough of the hardware and onto the software. Speed is a racing game in which players drive exceptionally fast vehicles along selected tracks for the amusement of fans nobody really sees. Each racer chosen is part of a special Team, ranging from Team Fire to Team Forest to Team Sky and even Team Pink, as if girls did not fit into the other team names. According to the game’s booklet, these teams vary in racing strategies, and what the game itself does not tell you is that your teammates actually want you to LOSE! Do not think that the same color means friendly, when it comes to Speed. Either way, the basic concept of Speed is, well, speed, and crashing cars together for Burnout-like explosions.
The presentation is, in one word, basic. The font is extremely standard, and the menu seems mostly pointer driven rather than by buttons, which is odd as the game menu could move faster that way. The artwork for each Team is just a recolor of the next, still images without any more information than the name at the top. When it all comes together, the presentation is expected for a team of only six people, though after a few games, one should expect a progression in menu quality.
The game’s graphics are not as basic but do fumble in more than a few ways. The vehicles are well-modeled, and it seems Team 6 Game Studios wants you to notice. The camera is located low on the ground to provide a more speed-centric vibe from each race, but as a result, there are instances where the backgrounds are completely blocked off by the barriers that surround the race tracks. If you can see over the barriers and other obstructions, you might see some good environments, but even so, they are muddled with a Vaseline filter to add to the blur effects of fast racing. Perhaps if the filter was toned down a notch, the backgrounds would be more delightful for people to see, but as it stands, the blur causes some tracks to feel similar rather than unique. The atmosphere is filled with techno beats along the way, and while the menu seems to have no idea what song to play, the music for the game is acceptable and, at times, catchy.
As Speed comes with the Wheel attachment, naturally it is easy to assume what the controls are for it. Players hold the Wii Remote, shell or not, on its side and turn the controller like a wheel in order to make turns. One button accelerates, and another uses the brakes. This control scheme appears to be ideal for racers, though all it takes for the game to collapse is poor motion control response.
Unfortunately, Speed does not follow through with motion controls, and it runs into the pitfalls of most Wii racers with the wheel control scheme. While competing racers can be competitive, the turns themselves are the main foes of the game. Driving to each turn at super-fast speeds is as deadly as running into other cars, though it is humorous to see the Burnout-like explosions take place in the latter situation. Over the course of my playtime, turning the controller would not respond when I moved too fast, when I moved too slow, or at any other random interval. Making a perfect turn like the ones the computers will make is most likely impossible, and what makes the turns even more annoying is that the last level of the game contains two sharp turns at the very end of the track, just about ensuring your failure after a long race.
The opponents in Speed like to play mind games, as their competitiveness varies sharply from one moment to the next. When facing the other racers in the fray, explosions and collisions happen often, and the multi-car pileup usually results in a number of computers flying on ahead. If you are ahead of the swarm, they accelerate extremely fast and will collide with your backside as you attempt to make turns; making a longer-than-necessary turn will lose you about three places, on average. However, if you are in last place, you will find that the entire lineup of opponents is waiting on the final stretch for you to pass. It happened to me multiple times, so it was not a fluke, by the way. However, it doesn’t seem to happen at the last level, where the competition is as it’s fiercest. Note that the game provides two difficulties, but the second is not available until each level is individually cleared.
There is multiplayer for two people, but rather than have some form of unique versus mode, the game throws both players into the single-player grand pries. The game also has a Time Attack mode, but in order to unlock these, you have to beat the track’s single-player event. This second mode is actually useful for those willing to practice without the odd computer AI; without much of a way to share your scores, the Time Attack mode is strictly a local bragging right.
While attempting to diversify itself from the multitude of generic racing titles on the Wii, Speed stumbles at certain aspects that keep the game away from a high recommendation. The graphics are covered with too much blur to experience, but the music is fitting to the speedy gameplay. The control varies in stability, making pivotal turns hard to make, thus resulting in multiple losses for otherwise competent players. The computer racers are schizophrenic, ranging from pushovers to a swarm of the Stig. The cheaper price tag does make the game easier to swallow, and when the game actually works, it is enjoyable. However, the above reasons keep me from recommending it.
Unlike the drug, Speed is not entirely addictive; like the drug, it is not recommended.
Team 6 Game Studios has made racers before, and a number have not been too highly reviewed. I believe the team is headed in a good direction, if it tries to get more assistance at key spots. Personally, the level design is not a problem, but the control recognition needs to be worked on a bit more. Perhaps one more person should be hired to benefit AI differentiation or add to the presentation of future projects, as well.