Spikeout Xbox Review

Sega's Spikeout never pretends to be anything more than update to a seemingly lost genre. It doesn't have a gimmick like the disastrous Rise to Honor on the PS2, choosing to instead put the focus where it belongs. It's a true beat-em-up for the hardcore crowd, and it doesn't need to be anything else.

Online play is the big draw in Spikeout, allowing four players to play cooperatively through the arcade mode. Solo players can take on the disappointing story challenge. To prove just how hardcore the game is, there are no save points. You either play through it all or don't bother playing it at all. It's about a two or three hour ride straight through.

Replay value comes from the unlockable characters, adding to the initial roster of four. The story mode is the only way to do this and it offers no continues. Once your single life bar is depleted, it's game over. You'll have to restart the entire game. That's harsh and a little unnecessary. At the very least, players should be given some lives to get them through, especially since this is a one-player only fight. Playing through the arcade mode doesn't earn anything, but that's where all the multi-player options come into play. You can select unlimited continues and just enjoy the game this way.

The gameplay itself is simple, with a basic combo system in place to keep things from getting too repetitive. The mechanics are spot-on for a beat-em-up, hit detection is perfect, and the variety of enemies has to be close to setting a record. The controls are poorly mapped and should immediately be adjusted before actually playing. Even then, performing tasks like picking up an object requires multiple button presses though there are unused buttons. That's sloppy design, and the main complaint against this title.

Backgrounds really use the Xbox well, with some nifty lighting and reflection effects. Textures are clean, smooth, and there's no slowdown. Animation is about average, but the walking/running loop is unintentionally hilarious. Bosses are menacing, at times twice the size of the player controlled characters. You'll pay for this detail with long, constant, and annoying load times.

The music blaring in the background keeps the proper pacing, but it's terrible. It's monotonous to listen to even for a short time. Voice acting during the cinematics is bland, and can mercifully be skipped. Punches land with an effective thud.

Though you'll read otherwise, there's no reason Spikeout needs to do more. It's not a bad game simply because the gameplay is patterned off older titles. That's where the appeal lies in the first place. Either you'll understand or you won't. If not, then dropping $30 is not worth it. If you still need to beat down countless enemies with a press of a button, Spikeout does it better than any other game this generation.

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