Graveyard: Extreme G

Out back of the Hardcore Gamer office you’ll find our Graveyard, where countless long-dead classics lie. We come here to pay our respects, to reminisce, and to wonder aloud what a passing mad doctor might be able do with all these corpses and some high-definition lightning.

Sometimes you just want to go fast; very fast. But not only do you want to go fast, you also want to shoot missiles, leave mines and otherwise explosively ruin fellow drivers’ days. Don’t worry we’ve all been there and I can tell you that Extreme G for the N64 would have you covered. Extreme G is by no means a classic, but what it does right still manages to pull me in for hours and is easily the one racer that I’ve dedicated the most playtime to outside of F-Zero and Super Mario Kart.

Speaking of F-Zero and Super Mario Kart, Extreme G is as close to combining the two as you could get in its own unique way.  Extreme G takes the sense of speed of F-Zero and gives the player pick up items, most of which are explosive in some way (and one particularly cruel item that warps you backwards), shields, an onboard gun for firing when you don’t have readily available pick up ammo and extra nitro boosts in case you didn’t feel like you were going fast enough already.  If that sounds somewhat chaotic, that’s because it is; in a good way of course.  There is no story other than “win races” and theres a few extra modes thrown in for good measure, but the only real reason you should fire up Extreme G is for the single player racing goodness.

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Extreme G is set in what can only be interpreted as the future. Your mode of transportation are sleek futuristic motorcycle looking vehicles that go ridiculously fast. The odd thing is,  Extreme G doesn’t quite get good marks for much of the standard metrics of a videogame when looked at individually, but it works cohesively to give the player a fun and addictive experience when taken as a whole. Take the visuals, for example. They are not anything to write home about, even back when Extreme G first came out I felt underwhelmed by the slight blur everything seemed to have and the muddy textures of all the surrounding structures.  But when the race starts up, none of that matters as the race quickly becomes a fist clenching-seat of the pants flying brawl for the finish line.  There’s only two speeds in this game: not moving and fast. Extreme G pulls off the fast part amazingly well as you positively feel like you’re just hurtling through the tracks at breakneck speeds.

The only distinct problem with the game is the controls. They’re tight and responsive, but not in a way that actually helps you navigate the track.  The “normal” turn is too wide for almost all turns, and the “sharp” turn, which is turning while holding the R button, is too sharp for most turns. So what ends up happening is you turn as best you can and generally end up hitting the wall at some point in the turn. It doesn’t take too long to get used to the controls, but they are practically impossible to master.  The player just needs to accept the fact that running into the wall is practically a guarantee on every track and then how best to manage that without losing too much speed as it’s not a hindrance to winning.

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Even with not so great controls, what would a racing game be without its tracks?  And that is one of the places that manages to Extreme G excel. While the surrounding environments may not be all that wonderful, with an overall theme of dark and bleak, the layouts of the tracks themselves are great.  There are loop de loops, corkscrews, sharp drops, split paths, multiple levels (think upper or lower level) and other variants that really add to the enjoyment of going blisteringly fast in your future bike. The bikes themselves all are very different, with different driving, shield and weapons characteristics. Experimenting will be key to figuring out which configuration is best for you, but you will unlock better bikes as you win which will greatly enhance your ability to win. Another area where Extreme G managed to do well in is the music. The electronic “techno” soundtrack is definitely a throwback to the era in which it was made, but is done well enough that it stands the test of time. It’s unlicensed unlike in Wipeout 64, but still manages to be immersive and fits with the visuals.

With its bleak visuals and stiff controls, Extreme G still manages to shine with an almost unparalleled sense of speed, great track layout and quality soundtrack. While Extreme G didn’t come close to winning any game of the year awards, it certainly achieved what it set out to do, which is to feed N64 gamers craving for speed and explosions. Because who wouldn’t want a game built around those two things?