Street racing continues to be a popular genre in the States. New editions of Need for Speed: Underground and Midnight Club fly onto store shelves on what feels like a yearly basis, and as expected, versions were quickly created and released for the PSP. There’s obviously a lot of cash generated by the genre, so new entries in the field should come as no surprise.
Street Supremacy is an ambitious attempt to breathe some new life into the genre. As with nearly every street racing game, the basic premise of the game is to buy and tune up a sweet ride, and race it against other competitors. In Street Supremacy, you’ll join a team and race against fellow members for a spot in the lineup, and then you’ll take on other groups in the aptly named “Team Rumble.”
During each one-on-one duel, each competitor is given an energy bar which decreases when you make physical contact with a car or wall. In addition, as you or your opponent put more distance between each other, the bar will decrease in a way that fans of Genki’s PS2 Tokyo Xtreme Racer series will be familiar with. Once the energy bar hits zero, the race is over.
The “Team Rumble” is an elimination format involving the top five racers from both teams. The lowest remaining racer on each team races in one-on-one battles, until only one team is standing. If attacking, the winning team takes the territory, and if defending, then you retain control of your turf. Both the energy bar system and team battle format seem cool in concept, but the execution of the game destroys any hopes of making them fun and interesting.
The gameplay engine is horrible. I have never played such a slow racing game in my life. It feels like the entire game is in slow motion, and gives me no feel of speed. Let me put it this way: I feel like I can run faster than the cars in this game. When compared to Burnout Legends or Ridge Racer, the speed issue becomes even more apparent. The control is equally atrocious, the steering in particular. Despite pulling your analog stick to the right or the left, your car barely moves, making it difficult to maneuver around the one or two cars you might pass on each stretch of highway that you’re racing on. Taking a sharp turn requires a lucky drift, banging into the wall, or slowing down to a crawl.
The levels lack variety in that some of them feel like you’re just racing down a strip. A turn here or a turn there, and maybe a bridge or a car, and that’s it. Sure, you get to choose which sections you’re racing, but it doesn’t matter when there’s no big difference between them. This leads me to the game’s balance, which combined with the poor level design, creates the biggest faux pas in all of video games: the elimination of skill as the primary way of succeeding in a game. To succeed in this game, you must toil and tune. Nothing that you will do outside of continuing to race, gaining experience and upgrading your car with the cash that you earn, will allow you to be successful outside of being cheap, and being cheap only works in a close race. Bumping a wall at high speed and carrying the momentum while your opponent slows down can give you a victory. Early on, you will lose nearly every race to a higher-level opponent until your car is totally pimped out. It’s essentially a drag race, and without a strong car, you lose. It is not fun.
Even the execution of the “Team Rumble” system was botched. When your CPU teammates are racing, you’re given the option to watch the race or view the results. Viewing the results requires a fifteen-second load per race, meaning you’ll spend a minimum of a minute watching your PSP load if you’re the top car on a team, or are eliminated early from the Team Battle. You also can’t dodge Team Battles, which means once you’ve worked your way up the ranks on your team, you’ll be forced into races where you’ll just get smoked because of the previously mentioned imbalances.
The graphics of the game are okay at best. The entire game takes place at night, pretty much eliminating the need for any lush backgrounds. There are buildings, trees, the road, and cars, and they all look decent but are nothing spectacular, and from time to time, black gaps will appear in the road when racing, which seems like a glitch in the engine. The music is nothing to write home about, and the sound is fairly generic. There is an Ad-Hoc Battle Mode for you and a friend, but we were unable to test this option for the review.
With so many racing games out for the PSP, I’m not sure how this one got green-lighted for release. A quick side-by-side comparison between nearly every other racing title on the PSP would’ve shown that there’s something wrong with Street Supremacy. Yet here it is, on the shelves. There’s potential, but unfortunately you have to take the “Team Rumble” and energy bar system and drop them into completely new game if you ever want to see it.