Street Racing is the in thing in gaming at the moment thanks mostly to Midnight Club and Need For Speed Underground, not to mention the Fast and the Furious films. It's not just street racing though, the racing games have all bases covered at the moment with games like Burnout, Project Gotham, Gran Turismo and Forza spanning all the sub-genres.
The problem is - where does Street Syndicate fit in? What separates it from the more than competent competition? Unfortunately, thatï¿½s the game's problem.
Usually I like to judge a game on its own merits, something thatï¿½s made harder when racing games have less room to be artistic, and more importantly when this game uses the NFS Underground template. You start off as a no name and progress through the races winning money and more importantly respect. You can earn extra respect in races by driving like a maniac, near misses, two wheels and all that, just like any self respecting post-Burnout racer.
In-between races you are free to roam the city streets. You can compete in extra events by challenging other cars for money or just amuse yourself driving into the dense traffic. Be careful though as there are also cops driving about aimlessly, if you get pursued you'll have to do a runner. This usually involves driving around chaotically watching your pursuit metre and hoping that you evade the cops rather than getting a ticket. The result seems a little random. The city is no San Andreas though, in fact it's a bit of a bore but thankfully you can go through the menus and jump straight into a race.
Talking about menus, in this game they are awful, selecting anything is a real chore! When you're selecting cars for example, I hope that you have a good book or magazine, as pressing left for the next car takes a good couple of seconds. I ended up just selecting things because I couldn't be bothered scrolling through the whole list.
Once you get into the races pretty much everything is where it should be. Turning left turns you left, right turns you right. Accelerating into a wall gives you a dent. Coming first wins you the race. It's all perfectly playable, the problem was it never excited me! I have played many bad racing games, and this isn't bad, however there was no passion. I didn't feel connected, I was never 'in the zone'. Part of this is that the sense of speed isnï¿½t really there and part of it is that the cars handling could be better ï¿½ I never felt I was pushing the cars to the edge, that one mistake and I would be smashed up against the wall. Everything seemed a bit sterile and surgical to be honest.
On a positive note the cars here are all real cars from real manufacturers. To a lot of people this is a big deal, to me it does make things that little bit more interesting. Thankfully all the different cars do actually handle differently as well which is something a lot of racing games seem to forget. The AI cars arenï¿½t too bad either, they move around the track and occasionally make mistakes. It does seem like they are racing you instead of sticking to the lines and ignoring you completely. The only problem is that they do suffer from the 'rubber band effect' which means the better you drive the faster they drive meaning they always seem to catch up regardless of your performance. Most racing games do this and it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, however that's what human opponents are for and with a network you can have 4-player races in this game.
Graphically this game is pretty sharp. To start with you would be forgiven for thinking you were playing NFS Underground 2. Itï¿½s all wet concrete, neon signs and skyscrapers, however you can play some daylight races too which does make things a little more interesting. The car models are pretty good and resemble the cars they are modelled after. The damage is a little lame however. The best you can do really is put a few dents in your car which doesn't really affect the game play at all. I'm a bit of an aggressive driver and was trying to force the other cars off the road but all the crashes in this game are unsatisfying, usually just resulting in your car or another car spinning out.
Street Syndicate isn't a bad game at all. It just lacks passion, is a bit on the slow side and trails behind the competition without any unique features to make it stand out. It's hard to recommend this when the competition is frankly brilliant. Maybe if youï¿½ve played all the other racing games? If this came out a year or so earlier it would have stood a better chance.