This review was written by Gabriel Strange, who will be joining the GX team pretty soon. Thanks Gab.
Four years ago this game would have been considered a good buy, but in a modern world it seems to be lacking greatly in many departments. It would be fair to say this is a console game to PC conversion too far. After considering buying the X-box version a while back, a wave of relief comes over me that I saved my money.
While installing this game I reminisced about the many wasted hours playing the first console version on the Dreamcast back in 2000. Wondering what sights are in store for me. These memories started to fade quickly when I reached to the pre-game configuration screen. This screen reminded me of many other bad conversions from consoles. Still I pushed those demons back into the darker recesses, and ploughed on to the game.
After the Configuration screen the signs were not good, I started to feel a great unease as the splash screens started to flicker as they faded in and out. I didn't grumble, because they're just splash screens and might not have any reflection on the game. Then the title screen hit, like a ton of bricks. Strangelite did not even bother to change a few minor aspects of the game, such as the flashing 'PRESS START.' So familiar on the console games but really this is the first thing which should be changed in the conversion. I should have realised this while on the configuration screen when I was redefining the start key.
The graphics here were not touched, not one iota, the chunky low resolution graphics essential for display on a television, just looked like Horse crap. Every menu is exactly the same as the X-Box version, well except for the 'Exit' option. It seems to me this is just a case of lazy programming. It would have taken a few days for a competent artist to clean up and recreate some of the menu graphics to reflect a reasonable display resolution. It was I this point I got a sinking feeling in my lower intestine (at least the game prompted some emotional response).
The Mini Games
This is where I started, and the wave of disappointment settled in. I knew now this would be a game I would not need to play for long before a review would spew forth. I remembered in the Dreamcast's Crazy Taxi, some of the mini games were fun. Here the fun had been drained like blood from a hanging corpse. After many attempts at some of them, I just gave up. It seams that every mini game requires 100% perfection; one mistake would lead to failure. Missing a perfectly timed 'Crazy Dash' meant I had to start all over again. I can understand the need to make some of the mini games harder than the previous versions. But if you're a new player to this, things will soon get on top of you until you can prefect various manoeuvres.
It was here I noticed that many of the graphics are very sparse, not much additional scenery or special effects. In fact the best detail is on the car, the mini games levels are very basic and look very square and uninteresting. I hoped for better once in the main game, so I gave up on the mini games and headed to the city.
All I can Say is if you own the first game on the Dreamcast don't bother buying this game unless you want to complete your selection of boxes. There's little or no improvement here over the previous titles in this series. The first game play options is 'Normal Rules', where you have to build up time, reach the goal and next fair before your time runs out, I would have called this 'Arcade Mode.' Also three timed run settings of 3, 5 and 10 minutes, exactly the same as the original version. With no 'Free Ride' to explore the city this limited set of options will eventually drive a player to drink. So you have to keep restarting to find all the fairs and other goodies that have been hidden around. Quickly checking all the cities and something evil knocked me sideways when realised that every one had exactly the same options, so very limited game play here.
Once into the levels, I drove around, trying to find anything to keep my interest, anything just one small thing, some blood smearing the windscreen from a dead pedestrian would have bee nice. Other than picking up groups and dropping each group member in a different location and a few other tweaks this is exactly the same games as the previous versions. Pick up a passenger, Drive at a rather sedate pace to the destination and drop them off, repeat until you slit your wrists.
There are many improvements they could have made to this game especially in light of other driving games on the market and coming out over the next year. It seems the developers of Crazy Taxi 3 haven't played or even read about any of them. If they were trying to make a Retro game, then they could have giving the whole thing a 1970's feel or something to make it look dated. But this looks dated because of the poor graphics and rather spongy and unrealistic game play. Okay the game is not meant to be realistic, but if they had added a 'Realistic Mode' then it would have been a bit more fun, even new missions or multiplayer would help.
All in all a rather poor effort compared to GTA3 and forthcoming Driver 3.
The Conversion Blues
I think any game which has been converted from one platform to another should contain a warning to those who buy these games. The warning should state in simple terms what has been improved if anything. The shocking lack of work on this game has made me come to realise that creating a game for one platform first, then converting it to another, will risk being a big disappointment to buyers.
In recent year I have tried to avoid buying conversions as they are almost always converted with a lacklustre approach. In saving money and probably time, they do an injustice to that game and any subsequent conversions on that platform.
If only they had spent another 6 months tweaking the game for the PC platform, they could have turned a rather dull game in to something worth playing. Cutting corners in developing and converting games is very obvious to many folk and in this conversion it's almost depressing that a company did not put any thought or care in to this one. So you the punter should not put any thought or care in to buying it.
A Word of Warning
As I was working from review code, I presume the game was close to being finished. Yet going through the read-me. I discovered that if you own Geforce 4MX you will not be able to play this game. All other cards even the ATI's are said to work but why exclude a graphics card which is probably in millions of PC's around the world. Gamers with higher end cards would cringe at the graphics in this game and those who might want a bit of fun with the lower end cards are sadly excluded.
The keyboard setup, and problems the read-me warns, some combinations of keys will make it impossible to pull various manoeuvres. This makes me think this game will disappoint many people and frustrate many more.
Also with the review code the game had a tendency to drop to desktop at the most inopportune and random moments, sometimes only after a few minutes of play. As I said this is only review code and might not reflect the finished product.