The Gameslinger's blog, Games Obscura, is a blog dedicated to covering strange, obscure, underrated and overlooked games. Some games covered are amazing games that were simply overlooked or forgotten. Some are flawed or poorly received, yet have interesting aspects or concepts that make them worth a second look. Others are downright weird; but fun and interesting, too. In any case, all are worth digging up and taking a second look at, and that's what this blog is all about: In-depth second looks at games that are worth rediscovering, for one reason or another.
I take requests and suggestions! If you know a game that was underrated, obscure, strange, overlooked or poorly received, and you think that it is worth discovering and giving a good second chance, then let me know!
Kinetica was a blazing fast, sexily sleek and just plain beautiful futuristic racer, released relatively near the outset of the PlayStation 2 era; at a time when futuristic racers were still a somewhat popular niche within the racing genre. Kinetica stood out from the crowd for a number of very good reasons; an excellent sense of speed, great track design, beautiful visuals and design work, an amazing electronic soundtrack, generally great gameplay, and a truly unique set of characters based off of a highly creative, cool and appealing concept…..that the racers themselves WERE the vehicles. That is to say that, in Kinetica, you’re racers aren’t contained in some kind of vehicle; instead, the racing machine is literally a part of them. Wearing “kinetic suits” with wheels and machinery attached directly to them, and scant amounts of armor to protect (or inhibit) them save for helmets and a few other steel parts, the racers of Kinetica blaze around, right-side up, upside down, up, down and everything in between, through gorgeous futuristic land and city scapes, while performing stunts and duking it out in tense neck-and-neck battles for victory. Kinetica takes place in a beautifully realized futuristic setting, filled with everything from neon cyberpunk cities to desolate wastelands, and the cast of racers are some of the most genuinely cool, creative and appealing, I’d wager, in nearly any racing game out there; thanks largely in part to the fact that you are really playing as THEM, since they are the vehicles, after all. Pile on top of this some positively awesome track design and a mercilessly satisfying level of challenge, and you’ve got an often-overlooking futuristic racer that any fan of the sub-genre, or racing games in general, owes it to themselves to go back and take a real second look at……
Kinetica is a racing experience unlike any other. Get ready for an edge of your seat ride....
I’m a long-time fan of the futuristic racing sub-genre; ever since I picked up F-Zero X for my N64, I was utterly and hopelessly in love with this niche genre-within-a-genre. The blistering speed, the futuristic settings, the thumping techno and rock soundtracks and the ludicrously over-the-top track designs that were staples of the genre…..I loved the whole thing. THIS was intense, and downright fun, racing. After F-Zero X turned me on to the sub-genre, I was hooked, and it quickly became a favorite of mine.
Though futuristic racers were never a sub-genre that enjoyed huge popularity, they did have a bit of a heyday, from around the middle of the 32/64-bit generation to sometime around the middle of the PlayStation 2 era, when they hit their stride and found a niche. During this time, a healthy amount of very interesting and unique racers were released….
Right around the middle of this “heyday” was when Kinetica was released, about a year into the PS2’s lifecycle. Released alongside another futuristic racer, Extreme G 3, Kinetica was one of the first games of its kind on the system, and is still one of the very best. I was drawn to it, personally, by my love for the futuristic racing niche, but even more so for its strikingly unique premise and style. The concept and sharp, sleek look of its characters (who were, indeed, the vehicles themselves) was incredibly cool and fit right in with the extreme, cutting edge appeal of the sub-genre; and the whole game oozed style and creativity in every screenshot and piece of artwork I saw for it. When it met with a positive critical reception as well, it was very clear this was a game I, as a huge fan of futuristic racers, simply could not miss.
I was not disappointed, and when I did get my hands on Kinetica, I was instantly in love with it. As a fan, this was the best futuristic racer I’d played since F-Zero X, and probably a game of even cooler style and and an even more imaginative premise. With a good amount of content and a very stiff challenge, I was hooked on Kinetica for a long time as I squeezed every last bit of gameplay out of it, determined to dominate each race (a serious task for a game as tough and unforgiving on its harder courses as this one).
Kinetica is, frankly, a damn cool title, and a really good game. And it’s too bad, then, that the game has been largely forgotten over the years…..much as the futuristic racing niche itself has been, really. While Kinetica enjoyed critical praise upon its release, the title never really caught on, and what could have become a promising new IP slowly faded into the background and was forgotten. But, for those who never experienced it, it still isn’t too late to go back and give this great game a second look. Fans of the lost sub-genre of futuristic racing, racing in general, vivid sci-fi settings or, frankly, any game that is just stylish, fun, challenging and downright cool, read on: Kinetica is one title very much worth discovering.....
Kinetica's unique brand of racing, where the racers ARE the vehicles, makes for a truly original and wild racing experience.
History, Release and Reception:
Kinetica was developed by SCE Santa Monica Studio, a game development branch of Sony Computer Entertainment based out of Santa Monica, California, as a branch of SCE Worldwide Studios. The studio was founded in 1999, on the eve of the PlayStation 2’s arrival, with the purpose of developing new and revolutionary first-party titles exclusive to Sony’s upcoming juggernaut. In the coming generation, SCE Santa Monica would become a major player in game development for Sony, tasked with development of some huge first party exclusives over the life of the PS2 and, eventually, the PS3.
But before it truly became one of Sony's greatest assets, SCE Santa Monica began with work on a new game for PlayStation 2, running on a powerful next-gen game engine of its own in-house development: that game was Kinetica, and that engine was, appropriately named, the Kinetica game engine; an engine that would see a lot of use in Sony’s AAA first party titles in the years to come.
Sony Santa Monica Studio was conceived in 1999, as a development branch for first party Sony titles. They developed the Kinetica game engine, which was actually first seen in the non-Sony Santa Monica developed Twisted Metal Black, and then a few months later, in its namesake game, Kinetica.
In fact, Kinetica was not the first title released to be powered by the Kinetica engine….it was another Sony-published title, and one of the PS2’s first real killer-apps: Twisted Metal Black, developed by Incognito Entertainment. Released in June 2001, a few months before Kinetica itself, the game was an early example of what SCE Santa Monica’s handiwork was capable of.
It wasn’t until a few months later, in October of 2001, when SCE Santa Monica would show the world what they’d be developing with their new game engine; and in October, Sony released the first title to be developed by the up-and-coming SCE Santa Monica development branch. Kinetica, of course, was that game. Kinetica saw very favorable coverage and reception from the press upon its release, with most reviews from major sources ranging from good to excellent; likewise, the game was released very close to another futuristic racer of similar concept: Extreme G 3, the 3rd installment of Acclaim Entertainment’s modestly successful series that saw its first two entries on the N64, and was now making the jump to PS2 and GameCube. Released little over a month and a half after the late August PS2 release of Extreme G 3 (and little under a month before its November GameCube release), Kinetica found itself frequently in direct comparison and competition from most publications and websites with Extreme G 3.
Kinetica's (pictured right) release date placed it in direct competition with another futuristic racer; Extreme G 3. (pictured left) In the end, both titles fared very well with critics, and were met with similarly positive receptions.
But, though Extreme G 3 was part of an established and moderately successful franchise, and fared very well with most critics, Kinetica was neck-and-neck with the game critically. Nearly all major video game websites and magazines praised Kinetica; GameSpy gave it an 85 out of 100, while Game Informer and IGN both awarded the game an 8 out of 10, with IGN calling it “one of the most original racing games you’re going to find on a console.” Meanwhile, Official U.S. Playstation Magazine rated the game an exceptional 4.5 “discs” out of 5. And gaming website GameZone has even gone as far as saying it “practically annihilates Extreme G 3 and the last two F-Zero games.” A small percentage of other sources gave the game slightly lower scores, in the above-average range, including Game Pro, who rated the game a 3.5 out of 5, and Gamespot, who gave Kinetica a 7 out of 10. Kinetica had almost no unfavorable reviews to speak of from major sources, with the single exception being Play Magazine’s review, the lone oddity which gave Kinetica a 2.5 out of 5.
Kinetica fared very well with the gaming press, but, while not a financial failure, it never achieved particularly great success or popularity in terms of sales or awareness upon its release, and soon faded into general obscurity. SCE Santa Monica, on the other hand, and the Kinetica game engine, moved on to great successes and popularity. Using the Kinetica game engine, SCE Santa Monica went on to create two of Sony’s most successful series of the PS2 era; the Jak and Daxter series and the God of War titles. In addition, SCE Santa Monica’s popular PS2 engine was used in a number of successful Sony titles not developed by SCE Santa Monica, including the SOCOM series, Wipeout Fusion and Sly Cooper. SCE Santa Monica itself became one of Sony’s biggest players after the huge success of the Jak and Daxer and God of War titles. The development house was given more status and responsibility by Sony, especially into the PS3 era, and an external development branch was added to SCE Santa Monica, which funds and supports the development of an array of games, including many titles from independent developers……such as some of Sony’s biggest indie game releases like Flower, Fat Princess and Journey.
Sony Santa Monica has gone on to create and fund some of Sony's biggest first-party titles of the PS2 and PS3 eras.
Unfortunately, though, amongst the studio’s rising success, Kinetica, its first game, has been left in the dust and largely forgotten, by both gamers and seemingly the developer itself. While SCE Santa Monica has gone on to great things and made a slew of exceptional games since that have met with much greater popularity and success, it is well worth going back to their beginning to experience this inspired and original game.......
Sony Santa Monica has moved on to great success, but Kinetica has been left behind by the studio and most gamers....however, this title is as fun and high-quality as their best works, and is deserving of a second look....
Kinetica is a well-made, polished game on the whole, and so there isn’t much bad to say about it, nor are there any kind of major flaws that were the cause of what held it back or kept it in obscurity. That said, there are a few quips to address before we discuss the bulk of the game, which is excellent overall.
One strike I could issue against the game is that, especially with later tracks/races, the game can feel a bit “trial and error” sometimes, and chances are that you’ll spend a good amount of time replaying some of them to learn memorize track layouts and seek out shortcuts before you can really work on kicking ass in these later races. This is not a huge flaw with Kinetica, though, and is honestly something you could say about very many racing titles…..it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, where one side of it is that “practice makes perfect” and you don’t want tracks or races that are too simple, but the other side is that this can lead to repeat plays that begin to feel like trial and error more than practice. Still, it’s not a thing that ever becomes a huge issue in the game, and more often the need to replay for perfection is a result of the game’s stiff and satisfying level of challenge than simply “trial and error” game design.
Some tracks are rather complex, and will require some practice to dominate them.
On that note, one thing that may deter players is that Kinetica has a very steep learning curve, and in particular, learning to effectively control your racers can take a bit of time. Don’t expect to be great at the game right when you jump in, as you’ll likely find the controls are a bit tough to master and that you’ll need some practice to maintain tight control over your character on the game’s wild tracks. The computer AI is pretty unforgiving as well, and races will usually wind up neck and neck; so the learning curve associated with the game could be a potential turn-off for some gamers.
While the game does have a satisfying enough amount of content, the other thing worth noting is a general lack of different modes to mix things up…..there’s not much beyond the core racing/career mode besides a (albeit helpful) practice mode and split-screen multiplayer, as well as an obligatory single race option. This isn’t a huge issue, but the game could have used a bit more content in the form of extra modes or tracks to extend longevity. However, there is still a good amount of content as far as racers, tracks and general core content go, even if it’s not, perhaps, the simply massive amount of content seen in, say, F-Zero X or GX; and the unforgiving challenge will keep you playing and perfecting your techniques for a long time as it is.
A few more modes or seasons would have fleshed out Kinetica a bit more, but as it stands, there is still a satisfying amount of content and extras.
Likewise, the game could have perhaps used a few more offensive weapons in its “pick-up” repertoire to flesh that area out a bit, but I’d say that its simply more that direct “combat” racing isn’t really Kinetica’s style; and the deep and exciting stunt system does more than enough to make up for that.
Outside that, there’s very little to complain about….Kinetica is a brilliantly crafted and great-looking game, but the one minor technical issue is some occasional slowdown in extremely busy moments, specifically when there are numerous racers on screen, and thus a lot of activity, at once. Slowdown is hardly a prevalent issue, however, and never was enough to hurt the actual gameplay or experience.
Besides these small quips and concerns, Kinetica is a great game with a hell of a lot going for it. Sit tight, because this game is definitely a ride worth taking.
Kinetica is a beautiful, original and exceptionally creative game.
Why it’s Worth a Second Look….
Kinetica is an awesome futuristic racer, well worth a second look, especially for fans of the niche, but even for those unfamiliar or impartial to it, as well. A game filled with style, beauty, creativity, challenge and just flat-out fun, Kinetica is a forgotten gem that gamers would do very well to rediscover.
There’s a lot of great stuff to say about this game. For starters, the game is really gorgeous. Especially for a game which came out less than a year after the launch of the PS2, Kinetica looks absolutely marvelous; no doubt a mixture of a quality game engine, solid craftsmanship and, perhaps more than anything, lovingly inspired and creative design. From a technical standpoint, the game looks surprisingly beautiful for its time, and easily holds its own against even later-generation PS2 titles. The Kinetica game engine went on to power some of the PS2’s best, and best-looking, titles, throughout the generation, and Kinetica easily stands right alongside those titles technically. Graphics are smooth, sleek and colorful, with a surprising level of detail, and lack the ugly blemishes of some other early-gen titles such as jaggy edges or generally low polygon or “blocky” models or environments…..again, things look smooth, rounded, detailed and natural; and, basically, just great overall. Likewise, animations look equally great, and in general, the game looks as excellent in motion as it does in stills; better, even. In general, everything moves very fluidly, backgrounds and environments are filled with detail and action, and characters especially move with both swiftness and grace, in all their actions, from simple movements to elaborate stunt maneuvers (an essential part of the part which I’ll detail in a moment). Kinetica is a technically polished and well-made game, and it shows very much in its graphics.
Kinetica's graphics are bright, smooth and vibrant.
Of course, all the technical prowess in the world means little without high quality, creative and exciting visual design, and Kinetica absolutely nails it on this front….Kinetica is filled with immense style and remarkably creative visual design. It’s hard to even know where to start when speaking on Kinetica’s visual design, as it is such a huge and amazing part of the game. The overall look of the game is fresh and unique, and its immensely creative futuristic style permeates throughout the entirety of the game…from its tracks and environments, to its character designs, even throughout its menus, loading screens and various pieces of character and environmental art that highlight the menus and screens outside gameplay.
Kinetica is absolutely bursting with creative and stylish visual design.
The whole design of Kinetica’s world is compelling and filled with imagination and detail. Environments, both the tracks themselves and the areas in while they take place, are bursting with excitement, life and attention to detail. Tracks themselves are intricate, well-designed roller-coaster rides of increasing intensity and challenge, but likewise look sleek, exciting and natural within their environments as well. Tracks are well enough designed that they often feel like (or actually are) an extension of the environment they take place in, not just a roller coaster floating above a landscape or around some skyscrapers, as can sometimes be the case in other futuristic racers. As you race through its tracks, you encounter all manner of futuristic racing challenges; insane jumps, tracks twisting and turning upside down and right side up, massive hills and extreme drops, half-pipes and whole-pipes, loops, and plenty of other extremes one would hope for from a game of its kind. Tracks are well-designed, offering a stiff challenge but with great reward, and make for insane, neck-and-neck, totally extreme racing at all times as you speed through them.
On that note, the world itself in which Kinetica takes place is an exciting amalgamation of different futuristic styles, and the environments themselves in which races take place both reflect and communicate that, creating a game filled with style and atmosphere, taking place in an exciting and unique setting. Kinetica’s futuristic setting mixes a number of styles and different types of environments to create a sleek future setting which blends hard technology with the organic, in a world where both mix and exist as extensions of one-another. Kinetica’s world is one of towering technology meshed with organic life, with environments including towering neon, cyberpunk cities, vast expanses of desert, and stations high up in the atmosphere and in orbit above Earth. These stylish environments are gorgeous and lovingly rendered, a treat for the eyes as you blast through them at top speed; from the bright neon lights of the city, to the gloomy, mechanical expanses of high atmosphere stations, and plenty of organic and man-made places in between and beyond, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an environment lacking at all in imagination or style in Kinetica.
Tracks mesh well with the environments, and feel like natural extensions of them....and you'll be hard-pressed to find a track or environmental design that is less than excellent.
Character design is just as impressive as that of the environments and world, and is especially critical to what gives Kinetica such a fresh and creative style amongst its peers. One of the coolest things about Kinetica, which extends into the gameplay to make it a truly unique experience, is its amazing and remarkably creative character designs; which are also its vehicles. As I touched on earlier, each character is, essentially, their vehicles, with each of them sporting unique “racing suits” that serve as vehicular extensions of their own bodies. Each character’s design is thoroughly unique and interesting, with both the characters themselves and their suits each being uniquely individual and intricate in their design, and, frankly, just downright cool. From the massive, hulking Vigor, who’s torso extends upright from a motorcycle-machine where his legs would be, to the tiny Xia Covault, one of the characters who’s suit is essentially nothing more than a slightly armored and minimalist outfit with four wheels on the hands and feet, to the mechanical and spider-like appearance of Siba Castron, who’s suit has “limbs” extending to two wheels at her head and feet, the character designs, and the very concept of them, are full of imagination and style. There are a total of 9 characters in Kinetica, but each also has an “alternate” version which is, more or less, something like its own character as well; with an alternate color scheme but also a totally different name, as well. At any rate, Kinetica’s characters are each thoroughly unique and interesting in their design, which scream personality and style, and there is a well-rounded cast of male and female characters, who run the gamut from hulking to sexy to strange; and all are remarkably sleek and full of style, imagination and individuality. Fusing the organic with the mechanical, and making the characters the vehicles was an extremely creative and unique idea, and the idea was pulled off with a remarkable level of sleek, sexy style which made for a concept and visual design that was truly original; and something I’ve still yet to see anything else quite like. There’s no other game with a style quite like Kinetica’s, and the character designs truly are a huge part of what makes Kinetica’s visual appeal something really unique.
Kinetica's character designs are incredibly creative and stylish; these are just a few examples.
Kinetica really is pure style throughout, and even the menus, HUD and 2D character art ooze style. Right from the intro movie before the title screen, Kinetica engulfs you in its sleek, stylish world and doesn’t let you go. Menus are filled with style, and character selection features beautiful 2D art, while all the menus are presented and animated with slick, futuristic style. Even your in-game HUD looks sleek and stylish; it’s honestly hard to find a moment in Kinetica that is not lovingly detailed and presented with pure style and beauty.
Each character has an "alternate" version of themselves to select.
Of course, a great visual experience begs for an excellent aural one to accompany it……and Kinetica is every bit as brilliant in the sound department as it is visually. Sound design is excellent, and accompanies the game’s futuristic stylings perfectly. The severely digitized, almost garbled, sound of the voice with accompanies the player through the menus and gameplay as the sort-of “announcer” lends a unique sound to the game, and the likewise “digitized” screams of crashing racers, sounds just right, lending a strange, robotic sound to things. Sound effects follow suit, with a similar effect to much of them that sounds a bit mechanical, computerized or robotic. Sound design is excellent across the board, but but speaking of the aural design, one of the greatest highlights of the game is the excellent musical soundtrack…..
Kinetica features incredibly stylish visuals, great sound design and an absolutely excellent electronic soundtrack. The game's intro features just a sample of the aural and visual excellence you can expect.
Made up of an excellent and varied selection of electronic music across a number of electronic genres such as trance and house, Kinetica’s musical soundtrack is nothing short of phenomenal, featuring an amazing selection of licensed tracks from unique electronic artists including Hybrid, Way Out West and Meeker, amongst others. With a variety of both vocal and instrumental tracks always pumping through the menus and the gameplay, Kinetica’s excellent soundtrack, alongside its brilliant visuals, does so much to keep you immersed in the game’s constant stream of pure style. There simply is not a bad track amongst Kinetica’s musical selection, and its soundtrack both fits the game and adds to its futuristic style immensely, while simultaneously being excellent music all on its own. To call Kinetica’s soundtrack great would be an understatement; it isn’t just a great soundtrack, it’s a huge part of the game which adds to its style and entertainment value.
Kinetica's soundtrack is sublime and fits the game to a tee. Featuring a range of licensed electronic musical tracks of various stylings, it is truly a feast for the ears. Here's a sample, and you'll find more in the links after the video.
Both visually and aurally, Kinetica is a knock-out. Its smooth style and the way it combines its visual and aural elements to create a game where the style permeates throughout the entire experience with such grace and effortless skill is something remarkable. I’d compare this excellent weaving of pure style into the game to the likes of Jet Set Radio, to reference a game of similar visual and aural excellence which similarly weaves an expertly stylish experience through the brilliant and seamless meshing of its audio and visuals with gameplay.
Of course, all the style in the world would be wasted were Kinetica not a fun game to play……but I’m happy to say that Kinetica’s amazingly stylish presentation accompanies a fun, intense and challenging gameplay experience, as well.
Kinetica features a grand total of 15 tracks spread across 3 “seasons,” and, as I previously stated, a total of 9 main racers (3 of which are unlockable), each with their own alternate personality of sorts, with a different name, color scheme, etc. In a simpler or easier game, this might not sound like a particularly large amount of content, but Kinetica demands practice and perfection, and has a unforgiving learning curve and difficulty that make it very tough to just jump in and start winning. You’ll practice and perfect your skills with your favorite racers for a good, long while before you’ll truly dominate Kinetica, and this is one of the greatest strengths of the game. Never was I dissatisfied or angry with the stiff challenge of Kinetica; on the contrary, it was one of my favorite things about it. I don’t like feeling like the computer AI is cheap, but I dislike even more the feeling that I’m just flying by the competition in a racer of any type…..and Kinetica balances a grueling, unforgiving challenge without ever feeling cheap or hopelessly impossible to create an extremely challenging but immensely satisfying racing experience. You’ll be retrying the game’s toughest courses for perfection and the first place position many times, over many weeks or even months, but it’s not frustrating…it's exhilarating. And when you finally do dominate them, the satisfaction is immense. Kinetica’s stiff challenge is truly a great strength.
Kinetica offers a stiff challenge, and practice will make perfect.....expect to find yourself fighting for victory, especially on the harder tracks.
Touching back on track and racer design for a moment, it’s certainly worth revisiting the subject to emphasize that they are designed just as well from a gameplay standpoint as they are visually. While I went into some detail on them from this perspective earlier, it’s worth reiterating, on the subject of gameplay, just how well-designed and balanced the collection of racers and tracks are. Each track felt like a unique challenge, and while even the first series of tracks will put you to the test, the later ones will push you right to the brink……when I finally placed first in the last track of the final series, it was after months of practice and still in a neck-and-neck battle to the finish….and the challenge and awesome design of the tracks has a lot of to do with Kinetica’s tough but rewarding challenge…..and furthermore, they’re all just plain cool, intense and fun. I had a blast racing through all of Kinetica’s tracks; I’d honestly say there’s not a low-light in the bunch, with each providing a unique and balanced place amongst the selection. The length and structure of tracks provides a constantly intense challenge, without ever dragging on too long….races are quick affairs of a just a few laps, but never feel too short, either, partially because each one provides a unique burst of challenge and entertainment, and few dull moments at all. Racing through a variety of exciting environments adds to the experience, but the intensity and excitement of the tracks themselves, with a constant assault of huge hills and long drops, jumps, loops, half and whole pipes and so many other exciting and intense features, is at the core of Kinetica’s excellent gameplay…..great track design in a racer is essential, and Kinetica nails it.
Tracks are intense and intricately designed. There's rarely a dull moment on any of them.
Next to the tracks, the other truly integral part of any racing game is, of course, its racers. And just like its tracks, Kinetica’s racers are as well-rounded, balanced, varied and fun to control, as they are visually striking and imaginative. Just as each character has a strikingly unique persona and design, each also feels unique to play as, with their own strengths and weakness, and equal out to a cast that is as well-rounded playably as they are visually. This is a game where you’ll have to truly find “your character” and learn to dominate with them, as each character’s strengths and weaknesses vary widely enough that mastering your favorite racers is integral to ultimately winning.
Excellent track and character design and balance contribute heavily to some truly great gameplay, which is rounded and perfected by several other essential elements which solidify Kinetica as a great and unique futuristic racing experience. The computer AI is likewise well-balanced, equally intelligent while never feeling cheap. The computer AI is tough-as-nails, but doesn’t feel superhuman, and while races, especially later ones, are guaranteed to be neck-and-neck, this is, again, due to quality game design made with a satisfying, if unforgiving, challenge in mind, and not simply cheap, “slingshotting” computer AI seen in some racers.
Completing a season with a character will reveal their appearance without their kinetic suit.
Sharp gameplay would be hard to achieve in a game such as this without adequate controls, and thankfully Kinetica’s controls strike the perfect balance of “easy to learn, tough to master.” Controls all feel natural, but learning to control your racers perfectly will prove a challenge worthy of practice and concentration…..and this works well for the game. Learning to properly time moves and stunts, and corner effectively, amongst other techniques, is what will lead to mastery of your racers, and victory. More than likely, when you jump into your first race, you’ll notice right away that the controls have a feeling of required precision, and that cornering and navigating tighter parts of tracks requires thought and precise control. For Kinetica, its precise yet challenging control scheme fits the game like a glove, and gives the player a sensation that feels very true to its subject matter…..which is to say that, the precise yet challenging controls give a sensation that feels “true” to the intense experience of controlling its racers in their kinetic body suit at high speeds.
Other core elements of racing in Kinetica include stunts and boosting, both of which can be essential to winning when used properly. You’ll encounter on each track “boost strips” of differing size and length, that will let you either immediately gain a quick boost as you go over them, or will let you "siphon" boost from them to save for the right moment later on. The other way to gain boost is by performing various stunts throughout the race; stunts can be performed at any time, but will slow you down as you do them, and severely limit control/steering of your character, so it is important to time them correctly. Performing stunts is a unique and well-implemented element of gameplay that both becomes essential to racing and cleverly adds another layer of style to Kinetica’s already immensely stylish racing experience.
The almost acrobatic nature of racing in Kinetica strongly contributes to the sense of style.
Of similar important to stunts and boost, are also the “crystals” you’ll collect throughout races, and the offensive and defensive effects they will yield to aid you in getting the upper hand. Typically, collecting five orange crystals, or one purple one, will randomly give you one of several effects to use. Including such things as a super-boost or the ability to electrocute your opponents, slowing them to a crawl, this element adds just enough extra flavor to Kinetica to really round out its competitive racing experience.
Also worthy of mention is the game’s two-player split-screen mode, which works well and plays smoothly throughout, even with the occasional slow down. Overall, this mode manages to replicate the standard feel of a single player race in Kinetica without feeling dumbed down or inferior; another element many racers can struggle with at times.
Cleverly fusing its sleek and constant sense of style with its edge-of-your-seat gameplay creates an absorbingly stylish and enjoyable game across the board, and Kinetica nails the balance of style and fun like few others manage to do. I can think of few games with such an emphasis on pure style and gameplay the way Kinetica has it, which likewise manage to so seamlessly merge that style with the entire experience, including the gameplay itself. You’ll not encounter much plot during Kinetica, but this is no weakness: Kinetica is all about pure style and gameplay, and truly, it’s a strength that it doesn’t try to shoehorn in too many story elements, which in a game of its nature, can often feel tacked-on, contrived or just silly. What’s more impressive is that Kinetica simply lets the entire experience speak for itself in that way; there’s no need for long monologues or story sequences to explain Kinetica’s world and characters, because all its stylish visual, aural and gameplay elements are so well-implemented that they simply speak for themselves, and manage to absorb you in Kinetica’s world in a much more subtle and effective way.
Kinetica is a well-rounded and absorbingly stylish racing experience.
Kinetica is a game of immense style and intense gameplay, crafted expertly to create an absorbing and truly unique racing experience…..and the fact that it managed to slip through the cracks and fade away into obscurity, even amongst its studio’s success, is a shame. Sony Santa Monica has since gone on to great success, heading up development of some of Sony’s biggest exclusives on both the PS2 and PS3, but it’s worth taking a look back at where they came from to discover Kinetica; a game every bit as solid as their more popular titles, which is still one of the most unique and purely stylish racing experiences on any console. Kinetica is an inspired, stylish, addictive and extremely original game, and not just that, but one that has aged remarkably well, and remains gorgeous and thoroughly enjoyable, as much today as when it was released. Few games achieve a level of pure style the way Kinetica does, and even fewer merge that so well with great gameplay…..but Kinetica skillfully succeeds in a way few others manage. If you’re one who misses the lost genre of futuristic racing, and have yet to experience Kinetica, you’d be doing yourself a disservice to pass over this hidden gem any longer. Kinetica can be found for relatively expensive prices today, and is still one of the best and most unique entries in this sadly forgotten sub-genre of racing. Fans of futuristic racers, or just those looking for a game that is fun, stylish and just flat-out cool, should make a point of it to experience Kinetica. The futuristic racing sub-genre may have been left in the dust these past several years, but Kinetica is a relic of this forgotten niche that begs to be rediscovered…..one of the most purely stylish and just-plain-cool racers out there. Kinetica is every bit as fun, stylish and unique as the day it was released…..a true stand-out title in a lost gaming niche, and an expertly-crafted, and downright cool, game that deserves to be dragged out of obscurity.
Kinetica is perhaps one of futuristic racing's most unique, fun and stylish titles; and any fan of this niche sub-genre should make sure to check out this forgotten classic.
Who Should Play It?
Any fan of futuristic racing games, or racing games in general. Those who really appreciate a strong and absorbing sense of style in their games; especially those with a love of great visual and audio design. Fans of sci-fi settings, especially cyberpunk-style ones, or even fans of electronic music. Gamers looking for a unique, fun and challenging racing experience.