When I saw the words “Licensed by Microsoft 2002” sprawled across the bottom of the title screen (which is actually just a black screen with text) I immediately knew what to expect from Maximum Chase. What’s more, you know a game has massive problems when it takes you longer to write your review about it than to beat it. Not that Maximum Chase isn’t without its merits, it’s just that it’s so damn shallow and unsatisfying that it can’t be recommended for more than a weekend rental.
There’s something about car chase sequences that makes them compelling. Whether they’re taking place on the big screen or on the streets of Los Angeles, the American audience has a penchant for having its attention glued to the action. Developer Genki and Majesco realized this and opted to capitalize upon the phenomenon by released Maximum Chase for the Xbox. While an excellent throwback to the heyday of the Arcade we found the game’s short length and boring gunplay elements to bring down what could have been an excellent game.
Our trek through the game doesn’t start off so well. The main menu is essentially a black screen with generic looking text on it. After making a selection the screen flickers for awhile before your selection re-appears and you’re taken to the next screen. From there things get a little better, largely in part to game’s cutscenes which deserve a rightful place in the annals of the Pornography Hall of Fame. Maximum Chase features a storyline that puts new meaning to cliché and corny but since I’m a man I kind of dig it. Not for the quality of the script or the thrilling plot twists but mainly because of the cheesy production values. Seriously, the story seems like it was lifted straight out of one of those late night Skinemax flicks where bad acting is spliced with copious amounts of bumping and grinding; except in this scenario it’s gunplay and car chases instead of softcore action.
Tell me if this sounds familiar, a big shot cop is driving along one day when a female gets into his vehicle. Suddenly a horde of goons are on your tail, ramming and shooting you with reckless abandon. At that same time someone’s threatening to blow up the city of LA unless a $100,000 ransom is met by the mayor. There’s a new proprietary bomb named Overflare and a bunch of other conspiracy theories running amok. Oh yea, the cop gets framed for a shooting too. I thought that True Crime: Streets of LA’s story was contrived but this one really takes the cake. Not that that’s bad or anything, it’s actually pretty sweet for action movie lovers like myself.
We get pieces and bits of the story via some of the strangest cutscenes that we’ve ever witnessed. They’re a combination of real-life actors in CGI rendered environments, giving them a really surreal look. Genki should be lauded though as they’ve pulled it off in convincing fashion and at times we wonder if the actors are really human or if they’re CGI rendered. While the acting is seriously over the top (whether this is deliberate we’re not sure) the dialogue really takes the cake. For some strange reason the developers opted to shoot the scenes first with a set of actors and then loop the audio in post production with an entirely different set of actors. This means that lines are dubbed in and it really shows. Lip movements don’t quite sync up with the dialogue and the delivery is just woefully horrible. But it’s this quirk that really makes the cutscenes worth watching because you’re guaranteed to laugh out loud at some time or another.
You’ll be given access to a number of vehicles, which vehicle you’re controlling essentially dictates which level you’re on. Each of the levels is split up into two portions, one where you’re driving and one where you’re shooting, kind of like your usual light gun shooter. Of the two gameplay elements the driving portions are definitely more entertaining as they try to mimic some of the chases from your favorite big screen movies. They’re pretty intense and involve plenty of cinematic moments including near misses, explosions and fancy maneuvering. We can’t identify all of them for certain but we know for sure that one of the end chases closely mimics one from the movie Bad Boys.
It’s a shame that the game has to be brought down by the shoddy light gun sequences. They’re a throwback to those cheesy rail shooter games that used to be all of the rage in the early 90s. Basically you trade roles with the female as you lean out the passenger side window to take out your pursuers. After playing for awhile I was starting to feel like I was playing the cheesy chase scene from the first Lethal Enforcers. They’re not insanely bad but they really disrupt the flow of the game because they’re just rather pointless.
Cinematic camera angles help lend the game a cinematic feel that’s absolutely brilliant to watch. A really neat facet of these replays is the fact that phone conversations take place when you’re watching them. These conversations essentially help you lay out your next mission as you gain insight on the events that transpired during your chase. What this does is it gives you something entertaining to watch while you learn more about the game. It’s really similar to those movies that show outtakes while the credits role. Sure you may not be paying attention to the credits but you’re still firmly glued to your seat.
Thankfully the cinematic angles aren’t the highlight of the show, the cityscapes and effects are competent enough to put on a display of their own. While some of the environments look pretty weak in comparison to today’s city-themed titles, such as Midtown Madness 3, the vehicles look superb. All of the licensed vehicles are exceptionally rendered and look very true to their real-life counterparts. Even better is the fact that all of the cars can be smashed and wrecked. While the damage modeling here isn’t quite as realistic as it could have been it’s still pretty nice to see that the manufacturers allowed for their vehicles to be torn apart.
Our main concern is in the game’s frame rate which is woefully unstable. At times the frame rate can drop into the single digits, making gameplay virtually unplayable. Regarded, the game looks great and can sometimes be downright gorgeous, but I’m sure that the Xbox’s hardware is more than capable of handling this game. It makes sense to see frame drops during the hectic city portions of the game but there are plenty of sequences that take place in parking lots where not much is happening.
After playing the game for a bit you’ll encounter a huge problem, you’ll soon come to the realization that there really isn’t much to it. There are only 10 available missions, five shooting and five driving, and most of them can be completed in under three minutes. In total it’ll take you under an hour to complete the game on your first run through it. In order to add more depth the programmers developed a series of unlockables but they don’t work many wonders for the replay value. Some of the features are neat, such as the ability to select any vehicle or weapon for any level, but they aren’t all that special.
And while some of the levels can be fun they don’t really fit in with their supposed setting. The entire game is supposed to take place in the city of Los Angeles yet one of the missions has you racing towards the State Line, a journey that takes about five whole minutes. In another level you’re racing along what appears to be the Golden Gate Bridge as you’re fending off a vicious runaway semi. It’s all very strange and kind of unsettling, particularly for anyone who actually lives or has been to the city of Angels.
It would have also been nice to have had a multiplayer option. Maximum Chase’s value would have been increased tenfold had it featured some co-operative play. Incorporating it would have been relatively painless too. Add a gunner for the driving sequences and a driver for the shooting sequences and the set is primed for some good old-fashioned arcade fun.
Maximum Chase tries to be cinematic and it succeeds at doing a great job of masquerading as a B-Movie action flick. It’s a fun little game to play if you’ve got about 15 minutes to kill, but anyone looking for some more to chew on should look elsewhere. If you're looking for a weekend rental that'll allow you to shut off your brain then look no further than Maximum Chase.
Like your last relationship this one is over before it can even begin. Some great action interspliced with comically hilarious cutscenes. Fun for a rental but not much more.
Rating: 6.3 Flawed
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile