REBRANDING is always diffi cult; but rebranding a unknown brand is never a problem. Take the two names for this game, Import Tuner Challenge and Tokyo Extreme Racer; together they give you a perfect picture of what you have to do - customise import cars and race them around the streets of Tokyo.
Customising your car is stylistically essential, as the basic vehicle selection isn't great. You can pimp your ride with multilayered decals, give it roving neon lights, and unlock all sorts of custom kits as you play. More importantly, you can tweak the engine, in 'over fi ve million different confi gurations'. Not that this makes any difference how the cars handle, it just helps the gearheads get off.
Then you go racing, by cruising the highways looking for other racers and fl ashing your lights. The landscape you're driving through is very familiar if you've ever seen Tokyo in a movie - all neon and black glass refl ecting your car's passing lights. And there's the problem. It's all neon and black glass. Tokyo's cityscape, while extremely atmospheric, doesn't vary enough to justify a whole game set there, and the stretches of identical motorway get tedious pretty quickly. Even when you unlock a new stretch, it all looks much the same and, thanks to lots of big sensible straights and gentle curves in Tokyo's road design, it's not too challenging.
The racing mechanic is odd too. It's not just about being in front; it's about the whole spirit of your driving. Crash into walls, scrape your paint job or drop too far behind and your spirit drops, with the fi rst one to lose all his spirit losing the race - even if he's in front. It's not a bad mechanic and it should reward the careful or talented driver; but you'll mainly be racing against single-player AIs. How often are they inelegant? It's just easier to blast past them, drifting Ridge Racer-style, while they pootle around being careful. Moreover, you're not always racing against the clock or individuals; sometimes you have to race against entire car clubs, which is more challenging. At least the promised Xbox Live play should be more interesting.
A quick word about the music - it's awful, mindless irritating techno-pop without even a squeaky vocalist to leaven it. It also drowns out the subtler car sounds, so you're never quite sure whether you're bouncing off the walls or not. Tokyo Extreme Racer is worthy enough; but with the raft of great racing titles on the Xbox 360, it's a rear-runner.
NOT A GAME OF NOTABLE IMPORT
- Lovely neon-soaked Tokyo
- Excellent customisation
- Boring environments
- Repetitive driving
- Plenty of better Xbox 360 racers