• Shutokou Battle X Review - Xbox 360

    Shutokou Battle X is set within the counterculture of illegal street racing on and around Tokyo's Shuto expressways, and although fairly unique on the 360, this is actually the tenth game in the Shutokou Battle series (hence the "X" in the title). It has to be said that Genki have taken something of a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach for the next-gen debut of the series. Indeed, when compared with the previous PS2 release (Shutokou Battle 01), some elements have actually regressed - the selection of cars available is much smaller than before, plus, amongst other things, the variable weather conditions have also been dispensed with. Improvements have been made in other areas though.

    The handling style remains unchanged however with the game still employing a feel that falls somewhere between the arcade and simulation ends of the racing game spectrum. It's realistic in terms of dynamics such as grip and weight transfer, but leans more towards the arcade side of things with an inherent "drifty" nature - more akin to an early Gran Turismo game than, say, Ridge Racer.

    It's in the quality of SBX's audio and graphics that the most obvious improvements over previous games lie. The game features some excellent lighting effects and each car model is extremely detailed and looks and sounds very much like the real thing, plus the amount of modifications and tuning options available is even more staggering than before. The most significant change however is via the game's online modes as this has never been a feature in any of the previous console games.

    Two main options are available when connected to Xbox Live: Network Time Attack, which is just the same as the normal (offline) Time Attack mode with the only difference being that laptimes are automatically uploaded to the online leaderboards; Network Battle mode, which is a good deal more interesting and allows you to challenge other players from around the globe to a one-on-one race, either just for fun, or with ranking points at stake. Cars unlocked in the main game can also be used here, along with unmodified cars to help level the playing field, but it's a pity the mode is limited to just one-on-one races instead of facing multiple opponents at once.

    Live modes aside, Shutokou Battle X is still a very compulsive experience if confined to the offline Quest mode. This is the main body of the game and sees the player become immersed in the "Fast and Furious" world of street racing with 3,000,000 credits burning a hole in their virtual pocket. This starting budget allows around half of the initially selectable cars from the dealership to be instantly affordable - all real Japan domestic market (JDM) models from licensed manufacturers such as Nissan, Subaru, Toyota etc.

    Once a car has been chosen, it can be tweaked, styled and modified in almost every way imaginable by adjusting various components, or by buying new upgraded parts from authentic performance-tuning specialists if the funds allow. Indeed, the range of customisations available is so comprehensive that it's unlikely you'll ever run into a car that's identical to your own on Xbox Live.

    Along with being able to tailor the car's appearance to individual taste and preference - which is an absorbing experience in itself - the tuning side of things is actually quite an important element to the gameplay. Tweaking damper rates, gear ratios and the like can allow you to eke out every last bit of performance available, but it doesn't take long to realise that a standard car will only get you so far before some of the more serious modifications are needed. These require serious amounts of money, which is earned by defeating rival drivers.

    Races can be arranged in two different ways: either by visiting one of the many car parks and speaking with the drivers directly, or simply by cruising the highways to find opponents at random and challenge them by flashing headlights.

    Once a race has been arranged, it can be one of two types: a Time Attack race, where the objective is simply to reach the predetermined goal in first place, or the more common SP Battle, where there is no set route or finish line. Instead, both drivers have a SP (Spirit Points) meter, which is gradually depleted when not in the lead, with the winner being declared once someone has no SP left.

    These latter type of races are the more exciting of the two, and even though the races take place on highways which are mostly straight, the battles can still be extremely tense and drawn-out affairs where one mistake is costly thanks to good opponent AI and a well-judged difficulty curve.

    Ultimately, it's the game's finely-balanced nature of progression that is its strongest point and the reason why it's so hard to put the controller down once the game is underway - the knowledge that an expensive engine upgrade might be affordable with just another race win is often too hard to ignore and a thoroughly compelling reason to stay out on the highways, looking for more rivals. This addictive element is further enhanced by the fact that there are no real easy races. Even once your car is in a very highly-tuned state, considerable effort and skill is still required to win each race all the way to completion as rivals too get progressively faster and harder to beat as progress is made.

    There is much to admire about Shutokou Battle X, particularly for those of a "petrolhead" nature, but it's not perfect. As mentioned, the list of selectable cars is pretty small (although, the array of customisation options almost makes up for this), plus it isn't as flash-looking as other racing games on the system - especially since it only runs at 30fps and features some sloppy technical faults such as scenery pop-up and occasional slowdown. It's certainly not a bad-looking game by any means, but we expect better things from the 360. In the grand scheme of things though, these are just minor gripes that fail to put a serious dent in this excellent game.

    Text by John Henderson / Kubrick
    Comments 11 Comments
    1. prinnysquad's Avatar
      prinnysquad -
      Now that was a gam!

      Loved just cruising around, flashing people.
    1. Hirst's Avatar
      Hirst -
      A welcome entry in one of my favourite game series ever, but the short car list really scuppered the appeal.
    1. prinnysquad's Avatar
      prinnysquad -
      Just play it twice. Double the cars.
    1. QualityChimp's Avatar
      QualityChimp -
      Is this "Import Tuner Challenge"? in PAL-land?
    1. prinnysquad's Avatar
      prinnysquad -
      Yeah. There’s a making-of featurette hosted by Rose Wetherspoon to watch, so you don’t have to play the game.
    1. QualityChimp's Avatar
      QualityChimp -
      Quote Originally Posted by prinnysquad View Post
      Yeah. There’s a making-of featurette hosted by Rose Wetherspoon to watch, so you don’t have to play the game.
      Mate, I can tell you're hurting because your missus made you watch Legally Bland 2. You need to stop lashing out at those who care about you.

      Does "Import Tuner Challenge" work as a title, if you're driving Japanese cars in Japan?
    1. Leon Retro's Avatar
      Leon Retro -
      I have the PAL version, Import Tuner Challenge, and it surprised me how good it is. The graphics looks pretty clean and attractive, and the atmosphere created draws you in. It also plays well enough, so I enjoy speeding down the highways against all sorts of opponents. It's well worth having in a 360 collection if this type of racer appeals to you.
    1. QualityChimp's Avatar
      QualityChimp -
      Yeah, agreed. I got it after Van P suggested it and I hammered it and then my 360 stopped talking to the wireless pad, so I got a wired pad with the BRIGHTEST lights, then my 360 got RRoD.




      It's not backwards compatible on the One and is one of the games making me consider buying a 360 to play that and some of the others that didn't make the BC list.

      Are there any games current gen that are anything like this?
    1. prinnysquad's Avatar
      prinnysquad -
      Genki used to put out some great stuff. Kaido Battle and the like. They’re a big miss.
    1. shinobi7000's Avatar
      shinobi7000 -
      I liked the second Dreamcast game. Looked lovely and the music that played when a rival turned up. The reflections were memorable.
    1. shinobi7000's Avatar
      shinobi7000 -
      Quote Originally Posted by prinnysquad View Post

      Loved just cruising around, flashing people.
      HOW did everyone miss this. Not a freudian slip, more hiding in plain sight.