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SRS: Street Racing Syndicate (Xbox)



By Michael Palisano

Namco's SRS: Street Racing Syndicate for Xbox is an underground racing game for the Xbox that offers a unique spin on the genre. It borrows elements from other popular street racing titles with extensive car customization and female models adding to the mix. SRS' cars have a realistic feel with tight, responsive controls that allow you to power slide through corners, drift in front of rivals and perform other cool maneuvers easily. The racing itself is intense with multiple modes and race types that extend the game's longevity significantly. SRS is a solid racer from a technical standpoint, but the biggest issue is if it stands out from the pack.

Taking players deep into the street-racing underground culture, Namco's SRS: Street Racing Syndicate allows you to compete against other racers in order to earn the cash you'll need to customize and turbo charge your ride. In addition to cash, you'll also need to earn the respect of other racers. You earn respect by winning races and performing cool moves such as drifting and drafting. If you don't have enough respect, you won't be able to enter certain events or race other drivers. SRS offers dozens of licensed vehicles, each of which you can customize with hundreds of parts. Unlike many other racing titles, the cars in SRS take damage and it isn't cosmetic, either. Since multiple crashes significantly affect your vehicles' performance and handling during the race. There are two basic types of parts available: basic parts that increase the cars' performance, with standard parts used for engine and tire upgrades to more exotic upgrades such as Nitro boost. The other types available are Aftermarket parts and accessories such as rims, paint jobs, stickers, vinyls and, spoilers to personalize your car's appearance. SRS offers literally hundreds of types of parts, giving you seemingly endless customization features to choose from. 

You begin the game with a single vehicle but can unlock additional cars as you win races and wagers. The game offers two basic modes of play: Arcade and Street modes. The arcade modes consist of single events while the street mode allows you to make a name for yourself by entering several different event types. These include self-explanatory modes like Quick Race, Checkpoint and Speed Trial in addition to an Iron Man, which is a challenging series of races where damage is cumulative.

More interesting from a single player perspective is SRS' story driven Street mode is deep and offers some minor plot development to keep your interest level high. During the game, you can drive to your garage and can upgrade and repair your vehicles, a showroom where you can purchase new vehicles. You can also go to the warehouse and hook up with your girlfriend for relief between races. You start at the bottom of the rung and have to work you up in the underground. As you're driving around the streets, you'll see other racers hanging out waiting for someone to challenge them - these are the street challenges. These are one on one races against a single opponent where the stakes are high. Players can also compete in Respect challenges, where your main mission is to earn respect points which you can use to hook up with your girlfriends later on. That's right, in addition to the standard driving game rewards, Street Racing Syndicate also offers 'girls' as rewards. When you've earned a girl's respect, she'll hook up with you, and can watch videos of her dancing in the warehouse. You can unlock additional girls and videos as you win more races. You won't really see much more than that, and to be honest, the overall approach to this is more embarrassing than titillating.

In Street mode, you can also challenge other cars to roll-up races, where you have to challenge a single opponent in a grudge map. The most important and lucrative parts of the game are the Crew Meets. Here, you challenge a group of other racers in a series of races, with the car with the most points at the end of the series the winner. Players can also wager against other cars and repair their car between races. Some of these races aren't sanctioned, so you'll have to be on the lookout for cops on the streets as well as your opponents. While the unsanctioned events can earn you a lot of respect, official events offer bigger cash prizes. The Crew Meets are the fastest way to earn the most respect. While the cities are quite large, you can locate most important locations and Crew Meets on the map and drive to them.

SRS takes place during the night and in daylight with three unique urban maps to explore. Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia are offered as you progress in the game. Each of these cities is a massive environment with plenty of space which allows you to explore them in free-form style at your own pace. This opens up the game, giving it an appealing non-linear structure that gives you a lot of freedom. This is most evident in Street racing mode. In this mode, you can search for other races and contests and can compete in either sanctioned or illegal events at your own pace and whichever order you want. The larger events require you to race against other drivers in a variety of courses from short lapped levels to longer point-to-point races. Before each race, you can challenge an opponent by wagering some of your cash, which is then up for grabs. During each race, you can earn respect points by driving with flair and style and are also rewarded with bonus points for lap position, overtaking other vehicles and performing drift maneuvers. This makes for a very intense game, one that will keep you busy and excited for many hours, the checkpoint races are particularly challenging and exciting. SRS' single player mode is quite intense, but that's just the tip of the iceberg, since the game also offers an intense array of multiplayer options.

Using Xbox Live, players have the opportunity to compete against other players online in a number of modes. The most exciting of these are the 'Pink Slip' racers, where you and another player compete against each others in an all-out battle. The stakes? Each player puts up their vehicle and the race winner gets the loser's car. As you'd expect, these races are some of the most intense and competitive you'll find in the game. In addition to these high-risk races, less intense options are available, including single races against another player. One interesting variation is the collection race, where you have to race around the city collecting icons. The first one to collect more than half of these is the winner. This is similar to the checkpoint races, but competing against someone else makes it much more exciting. You can also set up team races, where you cooperate with other players to defeat a rival team in a number of modes including collection races, timed and position races. SRS also supports multiplayer action using the System link and also split screen races. The online games add another layer of excitement to the game, and we found the performance when connected excellent with little in the way of lag or freezing games. Setting up games was quite simple, and the Optimatch feature allows you to jump right into the action without having to worry about configurations and options.

From a visual standpoint, SRS looks fairly solid with excellent environments showcasing the game's powerful engines. The cities are rendered beautifully with excellent attention to detail evident in the buildings and cityscapes. The car models themselves look decent with realistic damage and light-sourced reflections in windshields that give SRS a believable appearance throughout. SRS' action moves at a blistering pace, helped along by silky smooth frame rates that don't suffer from slowdown or clipping. The appropriately aggressive hip-hop and metal soundtrack matches the game's ferocious metal-on-metal action perfectly. From a control standpoint, SRS offers an excellent driving interface that makes performing the special maneuvers such as drifting and drafting intuitive and fun. The physics models are excellent as well, with each car handling and performing in an authentic manner, though obviously the responsiveness varies by model. Overall, developers Criterion have much to be proud of. SRS' highly polished, technically impressive game engine is excellent, transporting players to the mean streets effectively.

While the derivative play borrows elements from other underground racing titles, SRS is still an exciting and somewhat addictive title. It's mix of solo and multiplayer gameplay modes is decent, giving it more longevity than you'd expect it to. The visuals are decent, with excellent car models enhanced in appeal because of their customization options. The gameplay itself is fairly good with some intense battles awaiting players who get through the slower early rounds. The biggest problem we have with the game are the "SRS Girls" which seem to be a needless distraction, and to be honest, pull the title's maturity down a few notches into borderline immaturity. Fortunately, this is a minor part of the game, and doesn't really detract from the solidly entertaining racing action. Even though SRS: Street Racing Syndicate isn't the most original game on the market, it still offers a solid adrenaline rush for fans of underground style racing.

Grade: B-

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