• Gamers that are old enough to remember days gone by should certainly remember the pinnacle game that was Wipeout on the Sony Playstation back in the mid 1990’s. I played Wipeout for many hours always with a big cheesy grin on my face. Blistering speed, superb looking tracks, awesome audio tracks to boot… and race craft that looked and handled like a dream. To sum up Wipeout only took one word – amazing.

    Why the history lesson? Well many a game has tried to better the Wipeout formulae and none have, and now Koei have thrown their hat into the futuristic racing world with Fatal Inertia on the Xbox 360. So… leads me to the part with my role to give you the full low down on what you can expect and of course to give you the nod to purchase this game or to avoid it like the plague.

    Fatal Inertia like Wipeout is set in the future where huge global corporations sponsor competitors to race around the world in futuristic hovercrafts. There are four classes of race craft each having their unique plus sides and downsides with some being quicker than others, and some being built to withstand more abuse. The reason for this is that with any futuristic racer, weapons come into play so not only do you need to keep your eye on the track but you need to keep your eye on your opponents looking for any opportunity to take them out.

    Fatal Inertia

    You will compete through varying types of races across three series classes, namely; beginner, professional and elite. As mentioned each series contains various race types and these include; combat races where it is a straight forward mad dash to the finish and being able to pick up any of the available weapons on each track. Then you have a knockout race with seven laps and the loser on each lap being eliminated, there is also a velocity race which is all about getting around the track at hyper speed where the available weapons are to be used in their secondary function to increase your speed. Then finally you have magnet-mayhem where your ship is automatically equipped with the magnet weapon and you can fire them almost on a constant basis trying to attach them to your competitors to slow them down and to allow you to maintain your lead… of course you will also have to deal with your AI opponents firing them at you, and as such magnet-mayhem is probably one of the best race variations available in Fatal Inertia as it makes for some crazy fun.

    Weapons in Fatal Inertia come in a few flavours and I have already mentioned the magnet weapon which is used to fire and to be attached to your AI opponents with the aim to slow them down. Magnets can be fired from the front or back of your craft. Another fun to use weapon is a tow cable which can be used in multiple ways by attaching it to a craft in front of you which slows down that craft but catapults you forward. You can also attach the tow cable to two craft by using the primary and then secondary fire to cause them some mayhem and you can also fire the cable into the race track to propel you forward. Other weapons then include the likes of rockets which can be used forwards to fire at an opponent or with secondary function to boost your ships speed; you then also have a smoke screen, a weapon where you can slow everyone down but yourself and a weapon to disrupt the power of any craft near by. The weapons in the game are superb and simply collected by flying over weapon pods as you race around the tracks… they can be the make or break of you winning or losing and you will without doubt have great fun with them. My final point with the weapons is that of course you will have them fired at you but Koei here have implemented a rather neat feature here with you being able to shake the weapon off through either a barrel roll or by utilising the break boost feature.

    Controlling your craft in Fatal Inertia is pretty straight forward, with one of the face buttons used to accelerate and another acting as your break, combining both buttons together allows you to perform a break boost and is best used in a corner to allow control with releasing the break button to give you – yep you guessed it a few second boost over your normal speed. The shoulder buttons operate the weapons and the triggers allow act like a rudder and allow you to get round a tight corner without having to lose any speed, use the break or smash into a wall (sometimes that is – more on that later). Your thumb stick controls normal movement and also allows you to get some more air on your craft, which is particularly useful when going up a hill and as such avoiding dragging your ass on the floor. And finally on your craft you will as you mooch through your career unlock extra parts for your craft with the aim to improve your ride and to outclass your opponents.

    The courses you will race on are pretty lush to look and you will find yourself bombing around from forested areas through to icy glaciers through to volcanic areas. The problem with the courses is in that some way it makes the experience end all too quick as most races end up appearing as if you are only racing around in a circle and do not seem to offer any real amount of shortcuts or options and as mentioned don’t last long enough as in my opinion the courses are just not big enough and certainly no where near comparable to the courses you faced in Wipeout. They are not horrible in any shape or fashion… but I just got left with the constant feeling of wanting more.

    The biggest flaw with Fatal Inertia and the point I promised to expand on, is the way the crafts behave – physics if you want to be smart. Yes they bounce around as you would expect hovercraft to do, but the physics here are best summed up as twitchy. If you corner too hard or slightly scrape any object your craft is sent spinning faster than a yo-yo and leaving you with no clue as to which way is up. You should have been able to zip around a track banking in and out as you go – but quite often your experience will constantly boil down to the slightest mistake causing you to lose and as such totally frustrating you.

    The second problem here and one that is tied into the physics is that your AI opponents are amazingly accurate and very, very aggressive. Now you may say this is superb and about time – and I would agree but when you tie this point with the above the slightest bump or mistake on your part will quite simply mean… you lose the race. So as such summing my point up, the game is incredibly unforgiving.

    Everything usually happens in threes and well Fatal Inertia is no different as my final bug bear with the game is that a futuristic racing game should appear as if you are racing at break neck speeds yet this is never apparent. Now you may think I am crazy to say that a game that is hard to handle should have been made quicker, but you want the feeling you are moving at hyper speed and well you don’t get it.

    Trying not to grumble too much I will move swiftly on to the full Xbox LIVE multiplayer support that Fatal Inertia offers. Races here are comparable to your career choices and LIVE supports up to eight racers always placing AI into the game should the numbers fall short – which well is most of the time as I struggled to find many people on. That said I never experienced lag and as such gets a gold star.

    Fatal Inertia is good, but it certainly is not great or even close to superb. The games plus points are in the looks department and in the main; the weapons as they alone keep your gaming from being hum-drum. The problems I have highlighted however make for a frustrating affair overall and this game is certainly one I would say is fun for the occasional hour of gaming here and there but is also one I would label as “I can take it or leave it”… and therefore would be classed as a TotallyGaming recommended try before you buy.

    Score: 6/10

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