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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Jaleco's futuristic driving title Pulse Racer adds a few interesting twists into the genre. Players performance is tied to their vital signs and while the game seems rather strange, the mix of kart racing and speed works well. There are some cool power-ups and the track designs seem cool as well. Players can either race solo or against their friends using the exceptional split-screen mode. Pulse Racer is an oddball title and you can find out more by reading our review.

Pulse Racer is a strange meld between futuristic racing and kart racing merging to create a game that has a unique feel. Players have all the usual options and there are some cool power-ups that lets you knock an opponent off the track. Doing this allows you to pass these disabled riders easier. Before each round begins, players can select which of the 10 characters they want to race as, and each character has their own strengths and weaknesses. After you choose your alter-ego, the next step is to choose the vehicle, and each character has a couple of these available to them as well. Pulse Racerís structure is straightforward and easy to understand. .

Pulse Racerís game modes are divided into several play areas. Players can choose between Single and Career races. Time Trial and Multiplayer modes are also included and these allow you to play on a very effective split screen. Each Career race consists of several Cups or a series of 6 courses that you can race. In the career races, finishing in the top three allows you to unlock the next track and finishing in the final races means you can advance to the next cup. After each race is completed, you are also given points that you can earn by placing in the race, beating the best lap or winning the championship league. Players can also gain extra points by running over points power-ups in each race which can give you anywhere from 50 to 5000 points. As you progress through the game, you will also unlock different engine classes, ranging from 500 to 1500cc. These become increasingly faster and the races become more difficult to win with slimmer margins for error.

In addition to these standard modes, Pulse Racer features a cool track editing mode which you can use in a variety of ways. You can have the

Pulse Racer's controls are fairly decent and most players should have little trouble with the interface after a few races. The key to the game is to use your body to lean forward or back, which can give you extra momentum. This isn't as complex as it sounds, yet gives Pulse Racer an added dimension which is somewhat interesting. Of course, the other main consideration is your health bar. Trying to keep your vital signs under the red-line can be quite challenging. This is pretty hard to master initially, especially during the heat of an intense race. The best approach is to use your speed boosts sparingly, since overuse can be a big factor in losing races. On the othe hand, you don't want to underutilize the boosts, as your opponents will then leave you in the dust. Achieving a good balance is hard initially, but once you get into the flow, Pulse Racer's controls become much easier to master. Players can choose to play using either the standard controls with the D-pad and face buttons or can play using with the left and right analog sticks steering and accelerating the vehicle. Either method offers decent controls, though getting out of a spin and getting back in the right direction can be tricky. The controls feel decent though the kart-style approach makes the vehicles feel a tad over-responsive, which can be frustrating. Using the power-ups is intuitive. Since there are several types of power-ups, it adds some strategy to the races because you have to save them maximize their effectiveness. The gameplay is fairly decent, and the races move at a good clip, but there aren't any really groundbreaking techniques. As such, while the game is competent, it doesn't really offer gamers much they haven't played before.

Pulse Racer is a decent title, though it suffers from somewhat bland, choppy graphics and a derivative feel. The vehicle and character designs are decent, though some of the levels become monotonous after awhile because they offer little variety. This is especially true early on as you race in very long laps through tunnel after tunnel, which makes the initial stages seem claustrophobic. However, later levels are more open and imaginative, a reward for persistence. It's lack of imagination or innovation doesn't make it a bad game, just somewhat uninspiring. Players used to the polish of Quantum Redshift and Blood Wake will probably be disappointed by the game's anemic appearance, and truth be told, Pulse Racer is far from the ideal showcase for the Xbox console's abilities. The soundtrack is fairly generic with undistinguished techno and beats making for acceptable, if unexceptional background noise. and slim gameplay modes, but the track editor is decent and goes a long way in mitigating these.

You can be forgiven for thinking, upon initial play that Pulse Racer is a bit of a strange game. However, the action is somewhat enjoyable once you get your head around its juxtapositions. The biggest problem with the game is that the play quickly becomes monotonous and dull. Once the novelty wears off, Pulse Racer is a slightly below average kart racer at heart. There are some interesting ideas, but the poor implementation, subpar visuals and unimaginative level designs consign the gameplay to merely average. While it isn't horrible, Pulse Racer isn't as polished as other racers on the Xbox, and is definitely not recommended. It has some interesting ideas, but it gets old in a hurry and there is very little in Pulse Racer that hasn't been seen or done before, in much better form. Overall, Pulse Racer is a disappointing game that probably won't hold your interest for very long.

- Michael Palisano

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