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Ben ( Bellz ) Howenstein December 03, 2001 Review Feedback

Wave Race: Blue Storm




Release Date:





Game Details

When Nintendo released it�s N64 in the fall of �96 there was an extremely limited list of launch titles. But with Mario 64 initially and then Wave Race 64 a few weeks later, many were content - myself included - with being among the earliest adopters. After all, being home to the greatest 3D platformer and one of the best racers wasn�t too shabby for a console only a few weeks old. So now there�s this new-fangled thing the kids are calling Gamecube, which was unleashed to throngs of camping gamers just over a week ago. Once more a version of Wave Race leads as the first racing games - dropping �64� from the title in favor of �Blue Storm� - and once more it brings to this machine what the original brought to N64. Early adopters have for months been counting on it to wow, and along with Rogue Leader and Luigi�s Mansion, warrant braving the opening day lines to snag a Cube.

The biggest notable improvement in this otherwise significantly derivative sequel is the upped complexity of water appearance and physical modeling. In fact it�s almost breathtaking the way the water now reacts to individual craft movement, rolls and crests more convincingly, and is significantly more complex to anticipate and navigate. It�s the last quality that provides so much replay value in a racing game with a relatively short list of tracks and racing modes. Whereas a game like Gran Turismo is deep in terms of an immense vehicle selection, dynamic and constantly changing wave conditions make each course of Wave Race: Blue Storm subtly different each time they�re played. Additionally there are now variable weather conditions including sunny, cloudy, and stormy, each significantly affecting the wave height and visibility of each course. So success in Wave Race hinges not only upon simple memorization of the various course layouts, but a mastery of the intuitive wave and craft physics.

The analog stick controls craft direction while acceleration is mapped to single throttle button. The side analog buttons control lean and combine with the stick to provide a range of very subtle to very extreme turning radii. Yet the controls are so simple and intuitive that the game can be picked up and played immediately, though it still requires plenty of practice to master. It�s one of those rare titles that fills both roles of instant playability and long-term depth. Control and convincing physics are married perfectly; simply skipping across wave crests or carving deeply into the water for a pinpoint turn are pleasurable. Across three separate race series with smoothly ascending opponent A.I. and course layout difficulty, progressing through Wave Race: Blue Storm�s main racing mode is a joy.

Visual splendor of the water has been greatly upped for this incarnation, complete with real-time reflections of nearly every peripheral object, character, and craft. Running unyieldingly at a smooth 60fps, it�s not difficult to understand why the courses aren�t heavily decorated with complex, high-poly count objects. This isn�t to say there�s barrenness, but plenty of sprite based work that looks rather stiff and ugly close up. For tearing through the courses at healthy speeds, fixated primarily upon the next ridge of waves or tight passage through some rocks, the backgrounds suffice however; you won�t spend much time inspecting them anyway. The rider models are decent looking, though animate a little stiffly, while their crafts look great. No jagged edges and plenty of colorfully adorned sponsor logos are a nice touch. In all the backgrounds, rider, and craft textures are generally bright and vibrant, giving the game a less realistic and more animated overall look. On the plus side each track features a distinct visual theme, from the nighttime city to a half-frozen artic-inspired course. It�s all generally pleasant to look at, though with less immediate �wow� factor than Rogue Leader or Luigi�s Mansion. But with true-reflection wave texturing, absolutely fluid movement, and consistent 60fps performance, Wave Race: Blue Storm is no less visually impressive. Water has never been done this well, period.

Most impressive about the sound design is the excellent splashing effects played perfectly as a craft plunges into the water, lightly treads a smooth surface, or lands hard and flat from a jump. Each situation carries a subtly different sound, and when the realistic drone of multiple directionally accurate jet-ski engines is added, there�s a recipe for aural delight. Music on the other hand is forgettable, ranging from slightly cheesy, particularly synth-sounding tracks to some pleasantly ambient ones. But with the splish-splash of water set to the sonorous hum of your own craft in concert with a fast approaching opponent from the rear, there�s scarcely a time or reason to notice it.

Wave Race: Blue Storm is superbly extended from the original, with emphasis placed primarily upon greatly improved fluid physics and water appearance. As with the first, simply feeling the way a craft moves in the water is quite pleasurable and frankly addicting. Even after finishing all three race seasons and mastering the stunt mode, you�ll go for yet another spin. Also, four-player support makes this one of the first and best multi-player experiences for the new machine (until Smash Bros. is released). For racing fans, this is a good reason to seriously consider purchasing a shiny new Gamecube. For those who�ve already set down the cash, shelling out another $50 is highly recommended.

Game Title Stats
Take the superb original, greatly improve water physics, add a new level of visual polish; what’s made is a great sequel.

This one’s a joy to play; just feels good.
The backgrounds are sparsely decorated, rider animations pretty stiff, but water appearance stunning.

Sound effects are clear and well utilized, while the music is only marginal.

Replay Value
Not much time is tied up in clearing all of the race seasons, but I guarantee you’ll dig this one out long after the box has begun collecting dust for another go and then some.

A superb, relatively unique racing game that does for GameCube what the original did for N64.

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