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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


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Featuring funky drivers, wide-open roads and big rigs, Sega's King of Route 66 is the long-awaited follow-up to its cult Dreamcast and Arcade hit, 18 Wheeler. Will improved graphics, more bonus games and deeper gameplay be enough? Will this be another fizzy title with limited substance and low replay value? Has Sega addressed these problems for the sequel? The Laser previews this upcoming driving game and finds out if it will rule the road.

Sega's renowned AM2 division is hitting the road once again with The King of Route 66 coming for the Playstation 2 this coming March. While this release seems, on the surface, to be like their first trucking game, 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker that had a cult following on the DC and in the arcades, there are some notable differences. While 18 Wheeler was a notably short game that could be completed in under an hour if you were up to the task. The good news is that Route 66 will take much longer to finish. While the first game seemed a little bland, the new game's underground personality is going to be much funkier and a lot more evident this time around. While the first game gave the player the option to play as one of a few different characters, the new game has a much larger lineup. In fact, Route 66's character lineup will include more than 30 unique personalities. They come in all shapes and sizes with funky names as Texas Hawk, Highway Cat, Iron Bull, Soul Man and Ichaban who become your alter-ego. After selecting your character, you choose which load to haul. There are different types of loads and the heavier ones take longer to move. Your mission is to deliver the load to its destination before the clock runs out. When you pass a checkpoint, collect a power up or destroy an enemy truck, you get time extensions to help you on your journey.

Another significant change in Route 66 is its more interesting back-story. Instead of competing against other truckers, you go up against the sinister drivers of the Tornado Corporation. Tornado's aggressive drivers are mean and inconsiderate. They will stop at nothing to complete their mission, but players will have the ability to destroy these rigs and give themselves a time bonus to boot. These black trucks are quite aggressive and it's up to you to stop them. Players will find a much deeper play array of missions and the roads themselves will feature branching paths to increase the variety. You earn bonus cash by arriving early but will lose money if your truck and the load is damaged before your arrival. The trucks themselves will be a lot cooler and there will be more of them to drive. In addition, the game will allow you to upgrade your trucks between rounds by checking into the garage area. Here, you'll be able to use more than 70 different parts to upgrade your vehicle including tires, suspension, and additional weapons. The truckers will also be able to collect and use a variety of power-ups including the devastating Nitro Weapon. Using the Nitro will give your truck a burst of speed that will allow you pass the other trucks and leave them in the dust, giving you quite an advantage. The biggest change in Route 66 is one that should put players even deeper into the trucking world. When you're on duty in your truck, you will sometimes receive calls from your fellow truckers. When you call them back with a reply, they will follow you and make a Convoy Combo, which you can use to ride their slipstreams or to create barriers between yourself and enemy Tornado drivers. Riding in the convoys gives the truck a lower air resistance, and you'll consequently move faster. You can also find other upgrades hidden as you race through the courses, which should make for a more exciting game.

The King of Route 66 have a much more non-linear feel than 18 Wheeler had, and its' missions will also that will be open-ended with multiple paths and objectives to keep the replay value high. Each mission will be longer as well and the complete game will traverse nine states in all. This should give Route 66 more depth and make for a generally more satisfying experience. From a graphical standpoint, the game will feel instantly familiar to 18 Wheeler vets and its behind-the-wheel viewpoint is a lot like the original game. However, King of Route 66 gives this approach a facelift with enhanced terrain and trackside objects giving it a much more detailed and realistic than the earlier Dreamcast game did. Overall, fans of the original should be thrilled. The King of Route 66 looks like an awesome follow-up that should expand upon the good ideas of the original game, and will probably end up being much more satisfying than the original game, which was fun but ended too quickly. These problems have been addressed and Route 66's increased depth, open ended missions, deeper gameplay and new abilities should make AM2's second trucking title a vast improvement.