# of Players:
Memory Unit, In-game Dolby Digital
After the success of Acclaim’s Burnout series, other similar
racing games by Acclaim were virtually pre-destined. Here Acclaim
attempts to take the formula to the world of street bike racing in
the form of Speed Kings, a two-wheeled crash-fest that fails
to match the excitement or innovation of its predecessor.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, Speed Kings is a
straight-up arcade-like racing game through a variety of
traffic-infested international streets such as Detroit and London.
Single player modes include Single Race, Meets, Time Attack, Trick
Attack, Head to Head (vs. the CPU), and Grand Prix. The Meets are
the most important gameplay mode, as it allows the player to unlock
additional meets and bikes by earning enough points in each
three-race meet to advance to the next. Completing all six meets
opens up the traffic option (either on or off), as well as mirrored
versions of the original tracks. Multiplayer modes include Single
Race, Meets, Trick Attack, Head to Head, Tag, and Grand Prix. In
both instances, Grand Prix allows for one of several different
length races sans the traffic and with extra racers.
The game also offers the opportunity to meet various Respect
Challenges, which can be completed in both Meets and Single Race
modes. These are accomplished generally through the use of tricks.
These tricks include everything from wheelies to endos to powerdowns
(laying the bike on the ground to slide under an obstacle).
Completing these challenges unlocks additional bikes that are much
better than the starting ones. Attempting to pull off these
challenges will generally make the player run a much slower race, so
it’s advisable to only attempt these in Single Race mode. This is
also what makes the Respect Challenges feel more like a chore than
anything, since the player generally needs to specifically aim for
these goals instead of actually trying to win the race they’re in.
Very few challenges are accomplished just by riding well, and as a
result earning all 54 is more trouble than it’s worth. It’s the
racing genre’s equivalent of collecting 1 billion tokens in a
platformer simply to extend the replay value of the game.
Other than the Respect Challenges, the other main motivation for
pulling off a lot of tricks is the Powerband meter. It’s here that
the game really begins to falter. Once it’s full, starting a
Powerband only provides for a simple temporary speed boost. Not
only is it too simplistic, but also for the most part they aren’t
even worth pursuing. Pulling off tricks will generally cost the
player more time then they’ll make up with the temporary speed
There are also two other ways to build up the Powerband meter, and
these are through the use of Dings and combat. Dings are where the
bike taps the side of a vehicle without wrecking the bike. These
are pretty lame, because most of the time Dings will only be
performed by accident and not as the result of any skill on the
player’s part. Attempting to pull of Dings will result in the
player wrecking most of the time, since collision between bike and
traffic is very sensitive and aiming at the side of a vehicle
(without hitting the front or back of it) is extremely hard when
traveling so fast. Acclaim tried to spice things up a bit by
throwing in some combat, but what’s here is pretty lame and probably
should’ve been left out of the game altogether. There are only two
basic attacks: punching/kicking and powerdown attacking. Punch/kick
are assigned to the same button, and the rider will automatically
perform one or the other in the direction of the nearest
competitor. Powerdown attacks work on competition in front of the
racing itself is simply too flawed to compete with most arcade
racers. The AI seems intent on making sure the player wins, as all
too often I magically came back from 6th to 1st
to win a race I ran far too poorly to really win. There are also
way too many scripted events that require powerdowns, including
trucks crossing the road and various environmental obstacles just
happening to fall in front of the player’s path and just happening
to leave enough space to slide under.
Graphically, Speed Kings isn’t anything special. Traffic
looks like it belongs in a Dreamcast game, and the same vehicles
repeat over and over again. The environments in general are a mix
of generic buildings and blurry texturing, with very little in the
way of landmarks or other interesting sites. The majestic trees of
the Swiss Alps have been turned into flat and pixilated monsters,
and the mountains themselves are completely devoid of any foliage.
Rider models look decent though, and crashing looks OK thanks to the
myriad of flying bike parts. Unfortunately, sparks or other effects
don’t accompany these wrecks and all evidence of said wreck
disappears shortly after it’s over. On the whole, it’s basically a
solid looking Dreamcast game with virtually no of the perks you’d
expect on Xbox.
The music sucks. It’s the same basic lame techno crap you’ll find
in many other low budget racing games, and it gets tiring fast. The
box mentions that the game supports custom soundtracks, but I
couldn’t find this option anywhere and the manual doesn’t go into
detail about it either. My guess is that they originally planned on
it, but cut it for some reason. Judging by the music that is
available, custom soundtrack support would’ve been greatly
appreciated here. The sound effects are even worse, with very
generic bike/traffic sounds and the same sound effect for each and
every crash regardless of what the bike hits. There’s also little
environmental stuff to speak of either, and what is there (like the
bike sliding on a wet surface) sounds unrealistic.
controls easily enough, and the controls are responsive.
It runs fast
enough for an arcade racer, although there is a bit of slowdown
here and there.
Most of the
courses are designed well.
A very lackluster effort sound wise, with a generic soundtrack and
stock sound effects.
Looks great...oh wait, this isn't a Dreamcast game.
Weak combat thrown in for variety’s sake.
The camera is occasionally out of position to see oncoming traffic
clearly, and there’s no first-person view to compensate.
Occasionally Speed Kings can be a lot of fun, but for the
most part it’s a chore of completing lame challenges, enduring too
many “extreme” crashes set up by scripted traffic, and pulling off
tired tricks. Worth a rental for arcade racing fans, but motorcycle
fans will be better off sticking with MotoGP 2.