Sony's latest racer Jet X2O might not win any awards for originality but it is a fun and challenging game. The goal here is speed, though you can perform some really cool stunts for extra points and boost power. It's very straightforward but is a lot of fun, with good graphics, excellent controls and challenging course designs making for an entertaining experience. These features make for a cool water-based racing game, but the problem is whether Jet X2O is engaging enough in its own right to please fans of the genre. We play this extreme-racer and find out.
Taking place in a near-future hyper version of our reality, Jet X20 places players on top of sleek and powerful watercraft in a frenetic race through some imaginative courses and takes you to exotic locations around the world including jungles, rivers and waterfalls. While on the surface it might seem that Jet X2O is a derivative title that mixes elements of other popular games, that doesn't mean it isn't engaging and fun in its own right. Unlike most traditional racing titles, the game isn't structured for multiple laps on a short course. Players will instead take on a long single course with multiple branches, ala SSX Tricky that will test their endurance and stamina. This actually makes the game more challenging, since you can't memorize the layouts in the first few laps. The courses themselves are surprisingly long, each race can potentially take 5 minutes to complete. Along the way, you'll see that there are ramps and power-up gates. You can only perform tricks when you are going off a ramp or over a large gap. Successfully performing the stunts gives you added boost, as does sliding between the gates. You'll need to manage your boost and use it wisely in order to jump the long gaps or use it towards the second half of the race. In addition, you'll have to avoid obstacles such as rock formations, viewing structures and ground while avoiding dead ends along the way. Getting stuck off course on land is really going to slow you down and it's best get off this as quickly as possible if you want to have any chance of winning the race, or even placing in a respectable position.
Jet X2O has a limited number of characters open initially but you can unlock more as you progress through the game. Each character has their own set of pluses and minuses such as speed, agility and acceleration but these attributes balance out between them. While you start off with the basic model, there are various water-craft in the game that can be unlocked later on by winning a series of races. Jet X2O has some cool modes of play including a single race, tournament, championship mode. You can choose to race either a standard race where position matters most, or a stunt mode where your score is the most important thing. Finally, there's a combo mode where both elements are factored in. In the championship mode, you race a series of races and can only advance to the next round if you finish in the top three. This is the only mode where you can unlock extra characters and ships. In this mode, you can earn extra ability points that will increase your riders' abilities. These include faster top-speed, increased acceleration, handling and weight. Earning these enhancements is strong motivation to keep playing the game.
The most important thing you need to know is how the boost system works in relation to performing stunts. Stunts are performed when you reach a jump or large gap and are implemented by pressing down on the shift keys and different stunts are done depending on which combination you use. Successfully completing a stunt increases your boost points, which can then be used. You also earn boost when you pass through yellow gates on the course. The boost can be used at anytime after you earn it. An energy bar at the left of the screen is used to indicate how much boost you have, and when it's completely filled, you can perform a spectacular mega-stunt. It's very straightforward in this approach but that doesn't mean there's no challenge. Getting your timing right and boosting right before you hit the ramps is something that will take awhile to master, though it's not terribly onerous.
Controlling your vehicle is a snap, with turning and jumping a major factor. The other racers are quite aggressive in Jet X2O, so players don't have a lot of room for error when racing but can also shove the other characters when they come in too close. It pays to memorize the courses ahead of time, since there are many dead-ends and false jumps. The later courses become increasingly difficult, and you have to clear some huge gaps in order to race on the faster part of the course. Failing to do this means you are relegated to the longer and slower portion of the course, until the branches rejoin which makes it difficult to catch up once you fall behind. Players can also use the controls to perform barrel rolls and dive during the race. Running the craft is simple, though you do need to learn to brake before you turn, since cornering isn't that great at high speed. Using the boost is simple and you only need to hold down a single button to do this. Performing stunts is also quite easy, since all you need to do is hold down the back shift buttons, and can experiment with different moves as you progress. As you get better with timing these, you can then make combos of different moves when you reach one of the long drops in each course. The controls are tight, responsive and intuitive, making Jet X2O deliver on its promise of fast action.
Jet X20 visuals are razor-sharp and impressive with huge multi-branching courses that take place in a variety of impressively designed areas. The course design is quite creative, mixing natural environments with futuristic billboards to make for an exciting experience that transports you into hyper-kinetic racing experience. Jet X2O course design includes some truly large, massive drops which can be quite breathtaking when you're going down. Since these are usually accompanied by ramps, they're opportunities for big points if you can land stunt combos without crashing. There are different types of water effects implemented and these are well done and give the visuals an added punch. An excellent frame rate gives the game an excellent flow and the liquid effects allow the reflections in the water to sparkle. Perfecting the water effects is paramount and we're happy to report that while it looks cool, it responds to the player's movements realistically, giving the game a cohesive feel throughout. This is enhanced by the cool stunt animations which are impressive. The action is easy to follow thanks to the excellent camera angles which you can toggle throughout to give yourself a good view of the action, though most players should find the default viewpoints more than adequate. Jet X2O has a decent soundtrack with appropriately thumping techno in the background adding the excitement. The characters in the game are brought to life with cool voice-overs and can taunt you as well. An off-screen announcer gives the play-by-play and makes snide remarks, giving the game an appropriately edgy feel. Overall, the presentation is excellent, and despite feeling a bit derivative, the game looks really good and takes good advantage of the PS2's abilities.
While it isn't the most original title ever made, Jet X2O is a challenging and fun title for fans of the genre. Players will like the huge course with loads of huge jumps, with multiple branches that increase the replay value. Jet X2O's excellent presentation and above-average graphics allow for some really cool environments, while the tight controls make the game play smooth and fast. Performing the stunts is easy which makes play very exciting. This is a solid release from Sony with an arcade-style approach that makes for a solid game that will please to fans of stunt based action racing titles like SSX Tricky and Wave Race: Blue Storm.