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Hitmaker
Sega
Action/Racing
1
07.24.02

Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller


Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller was released in July of 2002 for the Microsoft Xbox. CT 3: High Roller was developed by Hitmaker and published by Sega. This game acts as a Crazy Taxi megamix for those who never got a chance to play the first two games on the Sega Dreamcast (or the first game, which was ported to the PlayStation 2 and Gamecube.) This game gives you a slightly revamped version of the original game's arcade level, called West Coast, and is based on San Francisco. CT 3 also gives you the Small Apple level from Crazy Taxi 2, which is based on New York City. An all-new level, Glitter Oasis, which is based on Las Vegas, Nevada, has been added for CT 3. This level continues the series tradition of all-out insanity for the levels. This level also adds a sense of pizzazz that the other levels lacked, it must be the neon. The levels from the first two games have undergone some minor changes in their transition to CT 3. The West Coast level now features buildings that are fully developed, with roofs and walls, the whole nine yards. Since the original game didn't feature the Crazy Hop (the jumping feature from the second game), these things had to be added in order for this level to be playable with the CT 3 engine. The Small Apple level has also undergone some renovations; it now takes place during the night time, which does add a certain bit of NYC-atmosphere to the level, since New York City is simply beautiful at night.

On top of giving you the main levels from the first two games, you also get each and every cabbie from the series. These cabbies are all bursting at the seams with personality, and the new set of cabbies for CT 3 continue that series tradition. As has been the case with every Crazy Taxi game, the character design for the cabbies is stereotypical. Angel, who is the first blatantly homosexual gaming character in history, is always up for a joyride, so pick him if you want an instant adrenaline rush. Bixbite, a former race car driver, who left that profession due to in being too boring, is much like Angel in that he too seeks instant adrenaline rushes. Mrs. Venus has to be one of the most unique gaming characters I have ever seen, you see, she is a 48 year old mother of seven kids, and she supports them with her cab fares. Needless to say, you had better get on the ball when playing as her, after all, if feeding seven kids isn't motivation enough, nothing is. Finally, we have Zax, a car-nut who drives a cab just to be near his ever-so-beloved car. Now if this rogue's gallery of social oddities doesn't tickle your fancy, you always have the eight other cabbies from the first two games to help you satiate your desire for the perfect cabbie. As you can probably tell, this is one game series that does not take itself too seriously. Just like in the first two Crazy Taxi games, each cabbie drives their own unique car, and each car handles differently. Each of the cabbies' cars have their own advantages and disadvantages, which you will probably need to learn if you hope to exploit the advantages and each car, and how to compensate for the disadvantages. If you want to get the most out of the game, you will take the time needed to learn them, a whopping five or so minutes. If not, you are only cheating yourself. Keep in mind that each of the set of four cabbies can only be used for their designated area, this makes perfect sense since they were all based on stereotypes of people from those areas, with a few exceptions of course. It would simply be weird to see B.D. Joe or Axel in Glitter Oasis, likewise, I can't quite imagine Mrs. Venus in the West Coast level. It would cause a nice little culture clash, come to think of it, maybe that could be beneficial. Enough about all the extraneous elements of the game, it is time to TESTIFY and talk about how the game actually plays and such.

Gameplay

The core gameplay has not seen one alteration since the anti-climatic Crazy Taxi 2, and I, for one, could not be happier. It does my heart proud to see Hitmaker letting this series run on a treadmill for the gameplay. As has been the case since the series' inception, the object of the game is to collect as many fares as you can within a certain time limit. In theory, this may sound like a cakewalk, but in practice it most certainly isn't. Many factors are prevalent that can determine success or failure. One of these factors is the price ranges for the fares in the game. Here's how the price structure breaks down: different price ranges, and subsequently the length of the ride for your customer are represented by colored circles around your potential customer, red fares will pay the least, but they have the shortest ride. Orange fares pay a little more than red, they want to go a little farther. Yellow fares offer the second highest payoff, they also want to go farther than orange fares. Green fares will pay the highest of the single-fares, but they require the most travel of any of the single-fares. Returning from Crazy Taxi 2 are the group fares. Group fares have a distinctive blue marker that varies in its shade based on how many fares there are. Group fares can have as few as two people, or as many of four. These blue fares have an ultra-high payoff, however, there is a the trade-off. You have to get each and every passenger in that group to their destinations within one time limit. It's all or nothing as you race against the clock. There is a lot of incentive for you to collect a ton of money since the game grades you after every run, there are many licenses to get, from the D license to the CRAZY license (only the best of the best will get this as it is the ultimate prize in the game.) This lofty license requires you to earn $20,000 in one run. This may seem simple, but trust me, it's not. There is a certain sense of urgency when you play this game, even moreso when you set your sights on the grandest prize of them all. This sense of competition, which is determined by you, the player, adds an element of excitement to the game. Sega has made the series' concept simple, and as such, it is up to the player to do what he or she can to keep that excitement level up. Hopefully, you will find that coming up with your own goals is fun and exciting; it certainly does enable the player to add their own personal touches to the game, and that is never a bad thing.

This game continues the series' tradition of giving you multiple time limits (three, five, and ten minutes) for you to complete your goal, they also allow you to get more familiar with the cities in the game. As I mentioned before, the game features three distinct levels, each with their own fare locations, and each of them features their own unique look and feel. The West Coast level features a multitude a hills, while the Small Apple level is chock-full of city blocks, so many that your brain will be bursting just trying to remember where they all are. The all-new Glitter Oasis does Las Vegas proud. The endless neon and bright, often exaggerated color scheme highlights the very soul of Vegas. Each of the game's levels allows you to take your fare (or fares, as the case may be) to a variety of real-life locales such as: Burger King, The Gap, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and the Hard Rock Cafe. The real-life locales help to add a sense of reality and normalcy to the game, which helps to add a sense of irony to the game since it is rooted in reality, yet it allows you to do out-of-this-world things.

The control for this game keeps with the series' tradition of near-perfection. Each and every technique in the game, from the simplest Crazy Dash, to the Crazy Hop, can be done with surprising ease. Sega's development teams have always had a knack for keeping in-game controls simple, yet, at the same time, enabled you to do a nearly endless amount of things with them. This tradition goes back to the Sonic the Hedgehog series on the Genesis, and it continues on with this series. The button layout is a breeze to learn for those who played the first two Crazy Taxi games on the Dreamcast. This is definitely a game that benefits from the many similarities between the DC and Xbox controllers; these similarities make the transition from the Dreamcast control scheme to the Xbox one painless. The controls themselves have been spruced up a bit from the first two games. The controls are now a bit more responsive, which was a pleasant surprise for me because I didn't think it was possible for the controls to be any more responsive. The enhanced controls certainly do make playing the game even more enjoyable than before since they make every technique in the game even easier to execute. Kudos to Hitmaker for improving upon near-perfection.

Graphics

The graphics in the CT 3 are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the worst aspect of the game. The in-game environments look great thanks to nearly everything featuring a smooth look, as well as some carefully placed lighting effects that help to bring the Las Vegas atmosphere to life. However they certainly don't do anything that hasn't been done before. The game looks to be more of a refined Dreamcast game rather than an Xbox game. The car models are richly textured, as are the many buildings in the game, but the rich textures do come with a hefty price tag. The frame rate in the game is far too inconsistent, and can vary wildly depending on how much on-screen activity is taking place. While this kind of problem was understandable on the Dreamcast, it simply should not be a factor considering that this game does not push the Xbox to the limit. Now don't get me wrong, the game is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an ugly game, but, it is a game that simply does not look like a lot of work went into the ascetic aspect of it. It's a shame that this game doesn't take better advantage of the Xbox's power.

Sound

The pulse pounding punk music of the Offspring and Bad Religion, as well as the fast-paced music of Brain Setzer, sets the tempo for the white knuckle excitement that you will feel when you play this game. Each band (or person, as the case may be) has about three songs in the game and thanks to the diversity offered in the game, they all fit the game in some way, shape or form. The Offspring and Bad Religion fit the white-knuckle gameplay perfectly, while Brian Setzer's tunes fit the partying Vegas atmosphere for the Glitter Oasis. It's not all great though, due to the limited playlist in the game, the soundtrack does get repetitious after you have played the game a few dozen times, but it doesn't bother me in the least. The soundtrack for the game might bug others though, especially those who do not like the music offered up in the game. As has been a recurring theme for this series, the cabbies give the game an added dose of personality. The cabbies' voices are clear, and fit the characters. They all have many humorous comments to make, as do the fares you pick up. Those wishing for the ability to make your own soundtrack in this game will be extremely disappointed; however, I for one am glad that you can't make a custom soundtrack for this game. It just wouldn't feel like a Crazy Taxi game without the Offspring. Plus, Hitmaker has done a great job in picking music to use for these games. The music offerings always end up, for me at least, adding quite a bit to the game. The sound really enhances the feel of the game, and it just wouldn't be a Crazy Taxi game without the stirring punk soundtrack and humorous voices.

Replay

The replay value for Crazy Taxi 3 is through the roof. This is one of the most addictive games that I have ever played. And since Hitmaker has given you, for all intents and purposes, every game in the series, you will not stop playing this game until your knuckles are a bloody mess after hours upon hours of playing, or until you have gotten a CRAZY license. Either way, you are in for quite a treat. Now the game's concept of "Take people from point A to point B" may seem a bit limiting, but there is a surprising amount of stuff to do in this game. The Crazy X mode (basically the Crazy Box mode from the previous games), gives you a chance to refine your skills, and helps to keep this game fresh in case the main game gets a bit monotonous. This collection of mini-games is, without a doubt, the best yet. You will be able to do such things as take a football player from one side of the field to the other, all while trying to dodge cars that try to knock you off of the field. Keep in mind that you will get exactly what you put into this game. So if you give it 20 minutes to WOW you, and it doesn't, oh well. You just decided to not partake in the gaming bliss that is Crazy Taxi 3. It is your loss, and you caused all of your in-game torment. If you don't enjoy the game, it will be because of your own doing. Either you did not come into the game with an open mind, or you had unrealistically high expectations that no game could match up to, or some other thing.

The challenge of the game depends solely on how much you know the level layout, the game does give you arrows to help guide you, but you need to know the layout so you can take advantage of the game's many shortcuts. In the end, your own gaming skill will decide your fate (what an astounding concept!) If you choose to not put in any time and effort to learn the subtle nuances of the game, then you deserve to have a game that is far too challenging for you, since you didn't do a signle thing to remedy the situation. After all, the game does provide an in-game tutorial mode, and it is up to you to take advantage of it. If you choose to not take advantage of it, you will be cruisin' for a bruisin' after a few play sessions. However, on the other side of the coin, if you decide to make use of everything that you are given. Meaning, if you decide to read the manual to learn the controls, and you use that Crazy X mode until you know each and every game technique there is; you will be rewarded for your efforts in the form of the ever-so-elusive S class license, and, if you really practice, you will get the CRAZY license.

Bottom Line:

All in all, Crazy Taxi 3 is a game that will give you quite a bit of bang for your buck. If you are new to the series, this is the perfect game to get started with. If you are a Crazy Taxi veteran, you will be able to jump right in and explore everything the game has to offer. If you loved any of the previous games, you will almost certainly love this one. Be sure to space out your extended playing sessions of the game, or else you will seriously risk getting tired of the game. The old saying, "Too much of a good thing will make you sick" works perfectly when describing this game. If you want to get everything out of this game, you will have to pace yourself accordingly. The game's addictive gameplay ensures that you will, at the very least, get your money's worth out of it. As does the Crazy X mode, which is a fine extension of the core gameplay with just enough changes shrewn about to make it a fresh experience each and every time you play it. The game's graphics are the only black eye on the game. CT 3 looks like a spruced up Dreamcast game, and that is simply inexcusable given the power of the Xbox; these graphics would have been good had the game been a launch title, but since it was released about eight months after launch, there is no excuse for the graphical qualms in the game. However, I'll take a game that plays great and doesn't exactly look like a million bucks, over a game that looks fantastic, but plays like a piece of garbage any day of the week. The game's eclectic soundtrack continues the series' tradition of great music that only adds to the game. The same can be said with the characters in the game. The controls are also spot-on perfect, as one should expect from a Crazy Taxi game. If you are looking for a game that guarantees a good time, then check this game out as soon as possible. Believe me, you will not be disappointed.

-Jeremy Peeples




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