There is no shortage of excellent driving games for the PC, such as Carmageddon 2 and Grand Theft Auto, so any new one being introduced into the market, and this densely populated genre, has to be pretty special to make itself noticed.
Breakneck hopes to do it by supplying the player with fast, attractive cars that have missiles strapped to the hood. So, the outcome of the race will be decided by aggression and firepower, rather than by driving skill and/or horsepower. Sounds promising...unfortunately, Breakneck tries to be clever by attempting to be more than a driving game with guns and it tries too hard.
The game looks and feels impressive. From the opening titles, you can tell the graphics are going to be colorful, well-defined, realistically rendered and attractive. However, as soon as you try to play the game, you'll be reaching for the large game manual. Complicated games are by no means a bad thing; the enjoyment of a game can often be strengthened by having to invest some gray matter into learning the ropes, but, in the case of Breakneck, the learning process seems deliberately designed to only allow a selected few onto the track!
There seem to be almost ten screens to negotiate before racing and it is never made too clear which options are supposed to be clicked upon and which aren't. There are 40 impressive vehicles from which to choose and you get to race in eight locations on 24 tracks, with a simulation mode available for practice before the real thing.
Eventually, after tooling up with a variety of weapons from an extensive armory, you'll be racing -- and mighty impressive it is too, especially if you've got a 3D graphics card and surround sound on your PC. However, driver skill will get you onto the high score table, but, as with other games that concentrate on parameters such as firepower to get you onto the winner's podium, it isn't a smooth game to play.
You will be annoyed at other racers blasting you when you aren't even aware of their existence and the biggest problem of the racing experience is that your vehicle flies into the air as soon as anything solid hits it. This is annoying and uncontrollable and happens far too regularly to let you enjoy the ride.
Breakneck is recommended for first-time entrants into the driving game genre because of its impressively rendered graphics and the novelty of its gameplay, but driving fans will get bored and frustrated very easily.
Graphics: Impressive streets and landscapes, especially when using a 3D graphics card.
Sound: Realistic battle and driving noises
Enjoyment: Good racing gameplay, although the car driving controls can be over-sensitive and the vehicle bounces when hit.
Replay Value: 40 vehicles and 24 tracks make several combinations possible and worthwhile
Breakneck is an entertaining and worthwhile racing game. During testing I enjoyed the "tongue-in-cheek" which is displayed throughout the game. Like its predecessor NICE 2 does not take itself too seriously. Matching 250CC go-karts, Formula 1 racers and monster trucks, Breakneck is (needless to say) a unique racing experience. It is extremely unfortunate that NICE 2 is so poorly done. Whereas a funny, creative and involved racing game could have been is destroyed by a terrible menu system, random crashes and less than an hour of replay value.
Breakneck, like NICE 1, has put deep stock into its graphics engine. The car models and courses are rendered crisp and detailed. Damage modeling and reflective surfaces are just two of the many visual enhancements. However once you get past the initial "Nice" graphical features the unfinished and mediocre underbelly of NICE 2 shows through. Probably the worst of these flaws is the terrible pixilization on the tree and cockpit models. Steering wheels, track-side details and branches are jagged and discolored. Also there is only three modes of view: ground level, in-car and above. Synetic certainly should know better than to skimp on view modes.
The voice of Eddi, your mechanic and pit crew will give helpful and interesting assessments of the current race. Some of my favorite one liners are: "Hey do you have the wrong tires on? Why do you always drive like shit?" and "You're driving pretty good, for my grandma." The rough English and heavy sarcasm work well in the whole structure of the game. The off track sounds, ranging from chirping birds, cheering crowds and sitar music all help "sell" the atmosphere of each of the tracks. I was unhappy with the engine sound. When letting off the gas all vehicles will switch into a something-must-be-dragging-underneath-the-car clip that gets annoying very quickly. Also, more effort could have been made to change the tire/surface contact sound. Racing over sand, asphalt, cobblestones and water all produce the same "road" sound. Though not a major issue, this lack of attention to detail in the sound is echoed throughout the entire game.
Gameplay is split up into two separate segments, Arcade and Standard, which are run from two separate executables. The arcade mode works fine, you can race single and circuits against up to 16 other cars. You have your choice of also racing against the clock on your own and replaying best laps. The best part of the arcade is the access to all the cars and tracks. Rather than forcing a player to unlock the 30+ cars and 15+ courses arcade lets the gamer pick and choose. For those gamers who like to earn access to their games there is the extremely buggy and overly complex Standard mode. In standard a player can compete in full race circuits, obtain a contract to race with a sponsorship and play a strange deathmatch mode which allows you to blow up the other cars on the field with a number of weapons and armaments.
Proof that lots of variety in cars and tracks cannot automatically equal success, Breakneck needs some heavy work at the shop. NICE 2 is a clunky and simplistic racing game. Its lacking in so many areas I cannot bring myself to recommend it to anyone, except perhaps go-cart racers. In the extremely cutthroat world of computer gaming that is it is refreshing to see a title that is willing to laugh at itself a little.
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