Written on: 04/04/2006 by TOMLEECEE (121 reviews written)
You could play online
Appalling car handling
No single player challenge whatsoever
Before you read this review, please read my review of the original Speed Devils located on this very site in the Dreamcast reviews section. I ask you to do this because I want to give a fair comparison between the two variations of this game and to let you know that, contrary to what the rest of this review points out, the original is an exceptional piece of software.
Now, on with Speed Devils Online.
Speed Devils Online was released some time after the original when Sega had finally sorted out the gaming aspects of the Dreamcast's online capabilities. When the console launched, it was possible to surf the net but the gaming network had yet to be completed, and so many titles that were originally intended to be playable with other gamers over a net connection were released with all of their online features removed.
Speed Devils Online therefore is basically Speed Devils re-released with the added promise of online racing with other Dreamcast owners around Europe. Now, due to the fact that this game has only just come into my possession, I have missed out on the chance to sample the online aspects. This is because since the Dreamcast is now a niche machine and not in any way in the gaming spotlight any more, most of the servers that allowed gamers to play over the net have been either shut down or scrapped altogether.
This is a shame because I am assured that Speed Devils Online, when the servers were still active, was a pretty good game. It took all of the aspects of the first game's Championship and instead of trading off against AI controlled opponents and accepting vendettas and challenges; it was all against other players. This actually sounds like it was a lot of fun, making bets etc and trying to win other players' vehicles. Sadly, as explained, this is no longer possible and if you own Speed Devils Online, do yourself a favour and get rid of it in favour of the original.
I bought Speed Devils Online thinking that, due to it being the pseudo sequel, it must at least have better graphics and a similar single player Championship mode to the first title. The online mode, I figured, would just be an added bonus to an already excellent game from the early days of the Dreamcast's short life. How wrong I was.
When loading up, you are asked whether you want to play 'online' or 'offline.' Again, due to the explained circumstances, I chose 'offline,' expecting to be confronted with the usual 'Arcade,' 'Championship' and 'Time Attack' options from the original. Sadly not. What you get with Speed Devils Online in 'offline' mode is pretty shocking.
You get the most rudimentary of menu screens where you choose to play in either practice or arcade mode (which equate to time attack or single race), choose your vehicle and track (all the cars and circuits are already unlocked from the beginning) and then start a race. That's it. No Championship. Just a single race mode with everything already unlocked.
I don't know if Ubisoft expected that everyone had already played through the Championship in the original, but if you were new to the series and had never played the first game, on the basis of the options here you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a load of rubbish.
But it gets worse - when the race starts, you get the feeling that while everything looks familiar, something is missing. I don't know how the developers managed it, but the graphics in the online version (in offline mode sorry if this is confusing!) are definitely of a much lower standard than in the first game. Everything is displayed at a much lower resolution and the tracks have taken on a very 'grainy' appearance. Again, I don't know for sure, but can only presume this was done on purpose by tweaking the game engine so that it would run more smoothly in 'online' mode; but changing the handling of the cars is just plain bizarre. In Speed Devils, the cars were very manageable and cornering was not really an issue. The cars were responsive and in conjunction with the handbrake it was possible to get around even the tightest of hairpins with relative ease. This simply isn't the case in Speed Devils Online - all of the cars handle like tanks and pushing hard in either direction has very little bearing on the direction your car goes in. It's simply a case of hitting the barriers and scraping around on most corners, and this slows you down inevitably leaving you in last place.
It's a bit weird playing Speed Devils Online - it's like a severely cut down version of the original with everything good removed. There is no single player longevity here at all which is simply unacceptable when you consider that Phantasy Star Online was designed to be played online but had a totally playable single player adventure included too.
For this reason, I would thoroughly recommend that you steer clear of Speed Devils Online. Even Dreamcast completists will get very little enjoyment out of it, so buy the original instead.
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