Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone




Making adjustments to popular series is a double-edged sword, you can stray from your roots and alienate fans of the original, or you can become timid, rest on your laurels and become stale. Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller seems to have done both, oddly enough. This game features 2 older scenarios but, the real excitement comes in the new Las Vegas-inspired level. Aside from this, the gameplay hasn't changed much, which isn't surprising. Fortunately, the original addictive mini-game mode returns and is just as addicting as ever. The Laser takes Sega's latest wild ride and finds that how you view this installment will depends on how much innovation you expect in sequels.

Despite its popularity and seeming ubiquity, Sega's Crazy Taxi series is actually fairly recent, with the first game appearing only two years ago. Even though the first game has appeared the PS2 and Xbox consoles in the past year due to the abundance of ports, the second was apparently a Dreamcast-exclusive. With its first showing on the Xbox, CT skips right ahead to the third installment with a brand-new Las Vegas scenario and some minor graphics enhancements. There's only a single course here but CT3 throws in some older levels as well. All the cabbies from the previous games are back, along with some new ones. The older levels are similar in their layouts but there are some new areas and each has been given an enhanced graphic look, making them feel fresh. The New York level looks the most dramatically different, as the transistion from day to night for this level makes it look cooler than the plain rendering in CT2. More importantly however, is that you can now use the jumps and other special moves introduced in later games on these levels, plus the multiple passengers have been implemented. This gives the player some new challenges in familiar territory.

The new Vegas Level is called Glitter City and takes you on a pretty wild ride through mega-casinos and huge canyons. The downtown area of Glitter city looks really spectacular and is enhanced by the flashing neon and massive casino structures. This area also takes place at night, which is a new look for the series, and keeps things fresh., but this level is hampered by the fact that a large portion takes place in a rather dull canyon, and the downtown area itself is rather small. Still, this is a challenging and interesting departure from the previous CT titles and adds to gameplay's overall fun-factor. One of the more disappointing things about CT3 is that while the earlier games only had a single scenario, each one had several different course layouts (usually a small one and a large one) while CT3 only has a single layout, though each course is big enough that it shouldn't be a problem.

For the legions of CT fans, it's reassuring to see that the controls are as smooth as they were in previous installments. This makes the game very easy to get into for veteran cabbies, but the lack of significant new moves is a slight disappointment. Still, the excellent arcade feel remains quite appealing. There's more than enough tricks to keep you hooked for quite some time. In addition to standard driving there are several techniques, such as Crazy Dash, Crazy Stops, Spins, Crazy Drifts and Crazy Hops to master. While none of these are difficult to perform, the trick is knowing when to use them, not how. As in the previous games, the best practice is in actually playing the game, but the mini-games are an excellent way to fine-tune your skills.

From a gameplay standpoint, not much has changed from the second-installment of the series, since the game has a similar structure and modes of play. You can play a timed game where you have a set period of minutes, or go for standard arcade mode where you have to earn bonus time. Both modes play similarly, with the player picking up passengers and delivering them to their destinations. This isn't as simple as it sounds, since there are numerous obstacles to face, not the least of which is traffic. Luckily, you can jump over them and gain extra points for perfoming many of the driving techniques as Crazy drifts and Throughs, just like the earlier games. The key here is memorizing the layout of each course and using the numerous short-cuts.

The game's free-style play has always been at the heart of it's appeal and having your own style counts for a lot. As always, players earn even bigger bonuses by chaining these moves together. In the second game, the concept of multiple passengers was introduced and it continues here. The object is to bring all the passengers to their destinations, this is a huge fare, but the risk is that failing to deliver all of them means you get nothing. Another element that helps the overall freedom is that like in previous games, many passengers are on the street, with different destinations. Choosing whether you want to drive many relatively simple fares, or take on more challenging longer fares is entirely up to the player. Crazy Taxi's free-form play quickly turns into a highly structured task once you pick up a passenger, but here you still have some leeway in using tricks. It's a small thing, but gives the gameplay an almost flawless balance. This also makes each game different, adding to the replay valueimmensely.

There is the Crazy X mode, which is a series of mini-games and as always, is the most fun of the entire game. Some of these are really simple, and basically just test to see if you can use a specific skill, while others are more elaborate and tricky, requiring more patience and persistence. These are quite varied testing both skill and reflexes and challenging. What's cool is that each of the cabbies in the game has their own set of mini-games. Beating these allows you to unlock yet still more mini-games.In all there are more than 40 of these included in the game and they get progressively more complicated and difficult as you get farther into them. This adds immeasurably to Crazy Taxi 3's replay value and keeps you interested in the game long after you've mastered the standard arcade scenarios.

Visually, the game is slightly disappointing because it doesn't take advantage of the Xbox console's abilities. There is some major pop-in evident in some of the areas, but the biggest complaint is that the game slows-down to a crawl in certain sections. This is truly aggravating because it should have been easy to correct. This makes Crazy Taxi 3 feel rushed which is a shame because delaying a bit could have made these technical flaws disappear, but that's the price we have to pay for gaming becoming a hit-driven mass-market pastime. It feels like a slightly enhanced version of the old engine was used since the cars, levels and passengers don't seem much more detailed than in previous games. While the visuals were impressive on the Dreamcast, it seems a tad behind the times on the console. A new replay mode has also been implemented, which is nice, but doesn't add much to the gameplay. There are some minor visual enhancements including the night areas, and Xbox blurring effect which is nicely implemented and gives the Crazy Boosts a bigger impact. The game's voice-over work is still excellent and the personality and attitude of the cabbies and passengers is still one of the highlights of the game. Unfortunately, the lame corporate punk seen in the earlier games returns but there's an option to turn it off entirely. This is obviously the preferable mode of play. Overall, the enhancements aren't enough to make up for the problems outlined earlier.

The graphics may not show the production polish that Xbox owners have come to expect, the gameplay is as addictive and fun as it's ever been. While it's not an entirely new experience, Crazy Taxi 3's gameplay is still solid and appealing retaining the almost flawless balance between freedom and tasks that made the other games so appealing. Some may be disappointed that the game isn't entirely new, but the mini0games are just as addictive and fun as they've always been. The older levels have been retrofitted with new areas and abilities which fans of the first two games should enjoy. Despite the problems, Crazy Taxi 3 is a good sequel, which retains the tight, responsive controls, addictive gameplay and style of it's predecessors. It's not a flawless series extension, but in this case, we view the glass as half-full - CT3 is good enough to earn a recommendation for fans of the first two games.

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