Wednesday 9 September 2009

Super Runabout

The Dreamcast's 10 years old today in North America (and it would have been 10 in Europe too if it wasn't for that last minute delay), and what better way to celebrate that fact than review some seemingly random Dreamcast game of years long past.

Today's pick, Super Runabout. A frightening game, because recently I found out it was part of a series. Released in 2000 by Climax Entertainment, Super Runabout came to the DC between the release of the godsend that was Crazy Taxi and the period where Grand Theft Auto 3 made waves on Sony's console. Not a particularly great time for a game that fared lower than Sega's efforts, because GTA3 raised the standard far beyond what Super Runabout could have achieved. It's like if you released a FPS game that was worse than Wolfenstein 3D just months before Doom came along. Bad luck, or a rubbish business plan?

Super Runabout is generally good fun, don't get me wrong. You drive about San Fransisco trying to get from A to B and possibly to C, D and E as well, in a reckless and care-free manner. The physics are a bit stupid. Some cars are rubbish at climbing hills, which is a whole heap of fun considering the city of San Fransisco is known for having lots of steep inclines, and I'm not sure why anyone would ever want to pick the moped, but as said, this was before the likes of GTA defined how driving games/physics should be done. It's clear that none of this was based on real-world values, so I suppose it could be considered a budget Crazy Taxi... going for the same price. Okay Crazy Taxi minus some of the fun but plus some more variation. You won't be taking 45237894 people to the Original Levi's Store™ but you might make some hot dogs, and it's good fun shouting "YOU'VE GOT THE LETTUCE".

But the thing that's dated is the presentation. All the 3D human models look awful, and because the cutscenes lack speech, you're practically forced to look at them. This isn't anything to do with the Dreamcast's limitations - Shenmue did a fantastic job (though it did have a massive budget) and even PS1 games have looked more appealing. If you can't sprite humans at least make them a bit more stylised and interesting to mask these flaws! I also found myself shouting at the TV due to the 14 year old driving a car without a license. A younger me would have let this pass by, but that was before I learned that it costs less to insure a female driver than a male one, just because the former is female. Forget all your feminists who break down at the thought of cooking a meal - that's a good £100 worth of sexism endorsed by the government. This wouldn't have happened under a Conservative Rule (even if it did)! Better bring on that general election!

But yeah Super Runabout isn't bad. The first time I read it I thought it said "Super Roundabout" and I assumed it would be something about cars and a flying spinning disc thing tearing through the streets of America for their overuse of crossroads, but I wasn't too disappointed. It just isn't as good as Crazy Taxi. The Runabout series seemed to end with 2002's Runabout 3 for the PS2. I've not played it, though I've heard it got a bit of an update in the graphics department, so it's good to know improvements were made before the series was laid to rest.

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