Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone



Based on the hit 70's television show, Starksy & Hutch allows players to ride with the two crime fighters in their famous red and white car. Starksy mixes driving and shooting action in some unique ways that make for clever game mechanics that supports co-operative play using driving controllers and light guns. The scoring system is based on viewer ratings and gives the game a unique personality. The soulful spirit of the 70's episodes lives with a funky soundtrack and cel-shaded graphics and even Huggy Bear himself provides voice-overs. There are some cool ideas in Starsky, but does the game live up to its promise? Read on and find out.

Gotham Games' Starsky & Hutch for the Xbox has some interesting concepts that set it apart from the many other driving games on the market. Instead of using a traditional scoring system, the game implements a viewer ratings system. When players perform a stunt or shoot objects their score goes up, but when you hurt pedestrians or go too long without action, your ratings go down. When your score reaches zero, the game is over. Before each 'episode' or mission begins, a short animated sequence sets up the plot for that installment. During the intros, Huggy Bear outlines the mission and you are given an objective to complete. The missions are fairly simple and usually involve chasing and destroying a criminals' vehicle while performing stunts. You can disable a car either by shooting it or by bumping into it. While you're on the road, you'll see groups of power-up icons on top of the levels that you can shoot. There are several types of power-ups in the game, some increase the damage you cause, others give you added ammo and some will increase your car's handling and top speed. There are several other power-ups as well, including new weapons such as shotguns and rifles. Some of these icons will increase your viewer ranking, or multiply the damage you cause. During each mission, you're viewer ranking declines constantly and the challenge is to not let it reach zero. Hitting other cars, running over pedestrians and major crashes deduct many points from the score, while making huge jumps, damaging the criminals' vehicles and shooting criminals causes the score to increase. In addition to this, you can interact with the environments by shooting explosive elements. You can also affect traffic patterns by shooting the traffic lights from red to green, which clears a path for you car to drive. These are cool ideas that give the gameplay a unique feel add to Starsky & Hutch's cartoonish gameplay.

The missions unfold at a decent pace and there are several kinds of them. The majority of the episodes involve chasing after criminals and destroying their vehicle, but there are also protect missions where you have to keep another car safe and checkpoint missions, where you race through checkpoints. After each mission is complete, you earn a badge depending on your score and you can replay these missions to get a higher ranking or play it with another car that you have unlocked. In addition to the standard missions, there are also 'special episodes' where you can perform stunts for big points. Starsky & Hutch has some interesting unlockable content as well, including cars, extra missions and more. The game also lets you view pictures of Huggy Bear, if you can find one of the two special cards that are hidden on each level.

From a visual standpoint, Starsky & Hutch does a decent job in recreating the feel of the original TV series, though it's not nearly as gritty. The cinemas between rounds are well done and rendered in a cel-shaded style that lends itself nicely to the game's light-hearted approach. The in-game graphics engine is decent and suffer little from pop-in or draw in and the game moves at a decent frame rate. However, the trade-off here is that the individual objects don't look as detailed as they could. While it's quite large, Bay City itself seems rather bland and the game rarely implements light sourcing. This dulls the game's appeal after awhile but there are loads of hidden areas and shortcuts hidden throughout. Mastering the layout of Bay City is important, because the extra Huggy Bear cards and the keys that unlock extra cars are hidden outside the prescribed mission paths. Bay City itself is quite large and it's easy to get lost if you aren't looking at the map. While Starsky & Hutch's maps don't offer quite as much freedom as GTA, there's more than enough to give you some breathing room and makes replaying worthwhile. The music is appropriately funky with some nice tracks that create a nice compliment to the action. While the original actors apparently aren't doing the voice-overs for Starsky and Hutch, the stand-ins do a decent job. However, Antonio Fargas, the original Huggy Bear returns to give the game authentic feel. The plots are fairly interesting as well and should keep you interested.

The game controls well using the standard Xbox controller and most single players should have little trouble getting the hang of things. Starsky & Hutch also supports both the driving wheel and lightgun for cooperative play, which is definitely a cool addition. The car controls well and players can make tight turns without much effort. Many of the 'special events' such as jumping over a bridge or a burning hoop are triggered automatically, which is pretty cool and stops the action for a short cinematic sequence. However, the simplistic nature of the game and the cartoon driving physics means skidding and drifting won't be much of a factor, it's all about the action. The shooting system works well and doesn't get in the way of the gameplay. While mixing driving and shooting at the same time makes things a tad more complicated, this is mitigated because the gun auto-targets, which makes life much easier. The game is decent enough in its single-player mode and the multiplayer mode is pretty cool, but there are some nagging flaws that affect the overall experience negatively.

Even though there are many positive elements in Starsky & Hutch, there are some nagging problems that really hurt the gameplay overall. The controls are decent but lack the nuance that driving fans have come to expect, which can be frustrating at certain points. While there are 18 missions over three seasons plus several special episodes, the limited mission types makes the gameplay become predictable and monotonous after awhile. Its graphics are technically competent but, the overall look of Bay City seems a little bland and washed out. It drowns the player in endless grays, making for a dull experience after awhile. This seems even worse when you contrast it with the colorful and lively cel-shaded cinemas. Another major problem comes in the missions themselves, which are very easy and probably won't challenge most players, making this a title you'll probably be able to blow through in a few sessions. Starsky & Hutch has some interesting ideas and the gameplay is fun initially. The appeal wears off as you do the repetitive mission structure kicks in, which makes later levels more a chore than anything else. Starsky & Hutch is a decent title considering its budget price, and is entertaining for awhile thanks to some cool ideas. However, its repetitive mission structure and predictable gameplay make it fail to live up to its potential.


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