Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Speed Devils from UBI Soft seems straightforward on the surface but there's more here than initially meets the eye. Far from the standard issue arcade racer that initial impressions may presume, this racing game is full of surprises and cool features. The main thing that separates this from the pack is that players can bet opponents about the outcome of a race. This adds a lot of excitement and challenge to the game, making this a longer lasting and much more satisfying experience. The gameplay itself is solid and shows a lot of inventiveness in the track designs and style of the cars. The visuals in the game are quite stunning as well, with tight controls complimenting a solidly entertaining package.  You race a variety of vehicles ranging from old-school hot rods to super sports cars on a variety of different environments. Speed Devils is a sleeper game one that will hold your attention long after other racers have skidded off the tracks. 

Speed Devils has two main styles of play. These are Arcade and Championship modes. Arcade is straightforward basically you have to race against your opponents with very little else to do.  Speed Devils really shines in its championship mode, which is where the real meat of the game lies. You have to race against other cars which gives you points. During the race you can also 'bust' the radar. Busting a radar means passing a checkpoint above a certain speed to get a cash bonus - this can be quite a bit more difficult than it sounds because some of the radar checkpoints are placed in tricky locations. You also get points and money for having the fastest lap times and finishing first in the race. Your money can then be used to upgrade your cars, fix damage and buy new more powerful cars. There are 4 levels in the championship mode and during these levels you'll sporadically face a challenge from another rival driver. These wagers range from cash or a high stakes wager where you are racing for each another's cars.  Offering an innovative layer of challenge and excitement to the genre, Speed Devils' championship mode makes the game a much more satisfying racing experience. While it doesn't hide the fact that Speed Devils is still basically a racing game, the added tension of knowing that your car or a significant amount of cash may be at stake during a race lends the game play an urgency that sucks you right in. 

Eye-popping graphics are one of the main draws of Speed Devils. This is a visually excellent game that showcases the Dreamcast's excellent graphics and fluid frame rates. The engine used in the game is outstanding, this is especially true when it comes to looking at the dynamic car models. These are huge and beautiful beasts that look very solid and also show a lot of detail with beautiful reflections and little touches such as working lights.  The game moves at a very smooth, consistent frame rate to make this look incredibly sharp and polished. Outstanding lighting effects, brilliant colors and detailed backgrounds scroll by with an incredible smoothness to make the game environments feel lush and alive. The visuals in this game are outstanding with richly detailed environments of varied terrain rendered with precision and panache rivaling and in some cases surpassing, the graphics found in high-end 3D accelerated PCs. From steep curves and huge jumps this game has a lot of obstacles for the player to master. Adding even more visual goodness, the game also implements weather conditions such as snowy rainy and also day and night racing. The lighting and weather effects have been randomized in order to increase the variety that the races offer. Driving at night is very cool, though to be honest, the effect of rival racers' headlights isn't totally convincing - they just look like huge blobs of light and feel fake. 

On the bright side, day or night, rain, snow, or fog there is little evidence of pop-up in the game, and the objects in the background are large and quite detailed. The skies even show a large degree of realism with great stars in the sky at night or gorgeous clouds flowing during the day. It's the little things but they definitely add up. Speed Devils displays a very high degree of production polish throughout with beautiful animations and silky smooth camera movements. The various obstacles in the game are pretty cool as well, showing a lot of imagination. Such as the large dinosaurs in the Los Angeles levels or the UFO's on the outskirts in the Nevada level. This is what makes a game more interesting, without them the game would be generic. There are also many areas that are quite stunning with offer panoramic views of a large area in the game. Speed Devils also allows you to choose the color of your car ' or the 'skin', which is a nice touch and some of these paintjobs are quite elaborate. The reflections and lighting effects that the game implements are all quite impressive showing a dazzling realism and complexity that is visually pleasing. Speed Devils has eye candy in abundance and fully takes advantage of the graphic power of the Sega console. Complimenting the visual flair, the game also excels with its audio. Sound effects and music are above average, with a variety of funky tunes creating a cool atmosphere. Speed Devils' music tracks range from 70's style to funk to 80's style pop making for a soundtrack that fits the game well and is even memorable and stylish in a retro sense.  The engine roars and other sound effects are about what you'd expect. Overall, this has an excellent audio-visual presentation.

  Reminiscent of hyper racing games such as San Francisco Rush, the track designs are also very interesting with unexpected obstacles that sometimes appear and dramatic, super-cool short-cuts to make the game more interesting. These are all difficult to master but make the game more fun due to their challenge level. The tracks don't just look pretty since the different environment effects also affect gameplay. For example, a snowy track is more difficult to traverse than one that is clear, The player can also make adjustments to their tires to compensate for adverse conditions. All of this strategy makes the game much more immersive and enjoyable without making things overly complex, so while this is at heart, an arcade style racer, the features and goals make this a game that has plenty of longevity as well. Speed Devils' computer-controlled cars are surprisingly sophisticated in their AI and show quite a lot of aggression, additionally, the tracks are difficult to maneuver. This is one game where you'll have to use your brain and not just the gas pedal. In order to succeed, you'll have to make a minimum of mistakes, this becomes especially true at the later levels. The margin for error in this game is quite low and once behind significantly, it's very hard to catch up to lead again. Luckily, the game play is hard but playing the game isn't. Speed Devil's analog control means that the cars are highly responsive and easy to maneuver. Turning around tight corners and jumping over chasms is a cinch. The Dreamcast controls are excellent and intuitive making the game easy to get into. The learning curve is nearly flat which is good thing in an arcade racer. Speed Devils' vehicles are highly responsive and control easily, though they seem to be harder to control at faster speeds. Controls in the game are a joy to play in every aspect. The on-screen interface is simple and easy to use with menu navigation and saving functions easy and intuitive.

Unfortunately, there are some fairly significant problems with Speed Devils - there are enough issues that the game is merely very good where it could have been outstanding. The main flaw with Speed Devils is that it can be excessively difficult and suffers from a large degree of sameness after awhile. The cars have a tendency to spin out of control in the game for small run-ins with the scenery or other cars and its next to impossible to stop them form doing so if you mess up. This happens all to frequently and can quickly become very frustrating early on. The only real way to avoid this is to memorize the tracks and even then, you'll need split second reflexes to avoid major crashes.  Another major problem is the Canada track. It's a great track, but is repeated three times in the game, which is both cheap and very annoying. The championship mode doesn't seem to have much of logic to its money awarding system, and the point system is very confusing as well. Having to keep track of both is confusing and occasionally annoying when you think you have enough points to move up to the next level, only to find that you'd have enough if the game counted in dollars. The biggest problem is the game doesn't really offer anything exceptional - sure there are some short cuts and the mirroring does increase the game's longevity but the main problem is that this isn't enough to avoid a monotony after awhile. While the gambling and pseudo role-playing elements are fun, the limited amount of tracks means that the game is going to get monotonous much earlier than it should. After a few spins around the tracks, they lose the element of surprise. You've pretty much seen all of this before, still this is a solid racer and is thoroughly enjoyable if you really enjoy racing games.

Despite these hefty problems, Speed Devils is a satisfyingly intense racing game. While the graphics are the immediate draw, the championship mode is the reason that you'll keep playing long after the novelty wears off.  The game plays a lot like San Francisco Rush in that the physics and damage isn't very realistic. Combine this with the over-the-top elements help make the game play loosely. No doubt about it, this is a fun and enjoyable action-oriented racer. It's got enough strategic elements behind it to increase the replay factor significantly. While it's probably not the greatest racer for the Sega Dreamcast (wait for Sega Rally 2), its satisfying and enjoyable. Speed Devils looks great but its gameplay will keep you coming back for more. 

- Michael Palisano