SRS: Street Racing Syndicate PS2 Review

The games industry has quickly become awash with street racing titles. EA’s Need for Speed series and Rockstar’s Midnight Club series, along with THQ’s upcoming speedy street racer, Juiced all assure that this sidetrack of the racing genre remains competitive, and most importantly: offer all of us gamers plenty of illegal racing choice. Street Racing Syndicate also wants a piece of the market.

Street Racing Syndicate has had quite a turbulent journey to the shelves, starting out under the wing of the now defunct 3DO and finally landing on Codemaster’s lap for the European release of the PS2 and Xbox version (the GC version was earlier published by Nintendo). Stable mate Juiced has ironically suffered a similar release mishap.

Taking its cue from Need for Speed Underground and Midnight Club, Street Racing Syndicate allows you to roam around cities (including Miami, LA and Philadelphia) seeking out and taking part in various racing tasks. A quick jump feature allows you to instantly dive into the current events on offer, meaning there’s not too much pointless mileage of driving around city streets to contend with. As the manual suggests, it does happen to be a handy way to learn the layout of each of the cities though and hopefully improve your driving ability as you roam.

Major points of interest throughout the cities include the garage, where you can trick out your motor/s with loads of additional performance and cosmetic upgrades. Then there’s the car showroom, where you can obviously purchase new motors and sell any other in your possession.

You don’t get anything for nothing though, and you must earn yourself some cash before you can even think about doing any spending. Monetary awards obviously come with the territory, which means continuous racing could make you financially rich. Most of the races require an entry fee from each of the competitors to up the ante in the money pot, although if you find that you don’t have enough cash to make ends meet you could always take part in the unsanctioned races to improve those dollar digits without having to pay an entry fee. Vehicle damage is also incurred whilst racing, which can be repaired at the garage or prior to events, it’s a sometimes costly process, but rarely did we feel that repairs were necessary, as we felt that even the more serious damage hardly affects the performance of the cars.

Unsurprisingly it’s all about the respect, in which you’ll earn for winning races as well as impressing the ladies. Earning respect will unlock further events and sparkling new motors to purchase from the garage as well as earn you a string of girlfriends on your arm if you are able to complete certain tasks (not quite as chaotic as OutRun 2’s Heart Attack mode). The 18 women in question are all real life models from the scene, and a bountiful of flesh-obsessive videos provide us with the evidence. No doubt a blatant marketing strategy to attract the consumer.

The main selling point should be the driving, and Street Racing Syndicate handles very well indeed. The motors feel satisfyingly lightweight and very arcade-like to control, which we feel is always the suitable method for such a title. The game does slightly falter in lacking a true sensation of tremendous speed, and when the nitrous is being employed the motion blur does its best to further convey this sensation, but it doesn’t really succeed in its mission. Don’t get us wrong, it’s fast, but just not fast enough.

Multi-player gaming is also offered, via online play and 2-player split screen. The latter offers some potentially good options including team racing and pink slip racing, it’s just a shame that there’s barely a soul playing online right now on this PS2 version. The split screen is serviceable enough, but the options are clearly lacking in comparison to the online mode, making us think that it was bolted on in the final days of development.

Street Racing Syndicate is a fine addition to the street-racing genre, and offers everything you’d expect from such a game. What it lacks in speed is made up in the feathery feel of the games motors, which results in vehicles that are satisfying to handle. It’s a good attempt then, but one that isn’t without its flaws.