Publisher: Empire Interactive
Developer: Supersonic Software
Release Date: 10/2002
Antz Extreme Racing, huh? Interesting. So, like, its Antz, with racing … is it just me here or does the combination of the words “Antz” and “Extreme Racing” seem strange to anybody else? Didn’t Antz come out in theatres, like, over four years ago? How desperate does a publisher have to be to resurrect a half-decade-old franchise that was never really that popular to begin with, and couple it with something as cliché as “extreme racing”? It boggles the mind. Truly. Nevertheless, it’s here, it’s weird, and PS2 fans everywhere can now get a taste of kart racing as portrayed by the cast of a relatively aged series based on introspective insects. Too bad the developers didn’t use any elements from the film outside of the character aesthetics. Some voice-clips or any amount of dialogue might have helped to alleviate the frustrating redundancy of the sloppy game play mechanics and cookie-cutter courses. Oh well, there’s always Antz Extreme Volleyball, right?
In stark contrast to the movie on which this game is based, Extreme Racing has virtually no plot whatsoever. You simply choose to play as either Z or Bala (four more characters can be unlocked) and begin a set of racing courses that range from foot-based frolics to the finish line, to racing atop various bugs. The variety of racing methods is somewhat redeeming, aside from the aforementioned methods of transportation you can also ride on flying bugs, makeshift lawn-item vehicles, and get down with some cool boarding via an “ant-made” snowboard. Upon completion of each race you will be given a certain amount of points based on how well you did, the more points you accumulate the higher ranked you will become. While this may initially sound somewhat interesting, the whole ranking system is quickly thrown to the curbside since it makes no difference whatsoever how highly you are ranked, because unless you come in first place on every race you won’t be able to compete in the championship race. It’s all or nothing, and the obvious lack of attention to depth in this regard is deplorable.
The courses in Antz, which are comprised of everyday outdoor locations, like the backyard, are generic and, more often than not, so dubiously rendered that you’ll often find yourself unsure as to what direction you need to turn or whether the “road” ahead of you is, in fact, part of the track or just an invisible wall. To add to the chaos, you’ll be racing against a handful of other insect opponents who you’ll be constantly bumping into, slowing the pace of the game down considerably. Actually controlling your character in the various races is simple enough though: accelerating can be done with either the X-button or by pressing up on the D-pad (depending on race type) and maneuvering is limited to swerving left and right. Basically you’ll just be smashing on the acceleration and attempting to avoid various objects that blend into the background.
The one bright-spot on this otherwise dismal racing game are the various power-ups and weapons that can be collected on the courses. These include such things as bugs which can be shot at your opponent (both standard bullet-type and homing), a shield power-up which makes you invulnerable to opponent attacks for a short time, a smoke screen that trips up racers behind you, and a turbo bug that can quickly propel you forward in short bursts. None of these will actually be required since winning a race is simply a matter of holding down the acceleration until you get to the goal-line, except for the last race which is needlessly difficult and requires that you memorize the location of every turbo power-up in the race in order to win, an obvious attempt to prolong and otherwise 20-minute experience.
The multiplayer mode does marginally extend the lasting-appeal, but only 16 of the 60 courses are available in this mode. And while up to four players can simultaneously compete via split-screen there are no variations of racing outside of the straight-forward race-to-the-finish-line style of play.
Visually, Antz Extreme Racing consists of lots of low-polygon-count objects and environments that don’t look nearly as good as the film on which this game is based. The texture quality is rancid and often makes knowing where to go an intimidating feat. The courses seem to differ from one another only marginally, with displaced objects here and there. The audio presentation is equally shameful with virtually no emphasis on the subject-matter that it is attempting to purport. Don’t expect any clever quips or any comments at all, in fact, from the various characters. Sound-effects seem limited to the obligatory aural representations of the on-screen action. The theme song, which constantly repeats throughout the entire experience, mind you, is an ever-looping urban-style beat that is only vaguely reminiscent of the film. The whole package just feels like it was thrown together in a day by the same people (or person) who developed E.T. for the Atari 2600.
Unless this game is being targeted for the five-and-under group I see no redeeming value in it whatsoever. The races, while varied, get old quickly, and the sloppy game play mechanics coupled with the dreadful audio/visual presentation relegates this game to the bottom of the junk heap. I take the mere existence of this game as a personal affront to everything pure and decent about the videogame industry. “Antz Extreme Racing”, pfff.