Hey look! Another racer on the Xbox 360 trying to differentiate itself by offering multitudes of customization options to appeal to the gear heads out there who just might be among the gaming population. Import Tuner Challenge is Ubisoft’s evolution of the Tokyo Extreme Racer series, but the term “evolution” is used somewhat liberally. Import Tuner Challenge utilizes the same method of play and goes as far as using the same rival racing teams, and it even races on essentially the same course as TER.
The game itself is actually quite limited when it comes to racing options. You select a starting point on the freeway system of Tokyo, and from there you drive around a loop hoping to run into a rival whom you can then challenge with a quick flash of the headlights. As you beat these rival racers, you tick them off your rival checklist, and once you clear out all members on a team of racers, the leader finally will come forward to challenge you. Beat enough leaders, and (*gasp*) a boss racer will challenge you as well. Oh, and the best part about the whole thing is when you choose where you want to race, you also get to choose when: Night, Midnight or Daybreak — apparently different race personalities only come out at night — and must be home by midnight. The tracks show no difference aside from a varied level of lighting; supposedly there is a difference in the amount of civilian traffic, but I had no problems weaving in and out of the surprisingly empty roads in one of the three largest cities in the world.
As the game starts you have enough funds to pick up a car and modify it slightly before hitting the boring track. However, the choice you initially make can either make or break your career. Yes, even this early on. In the first round I chose poorly. Thanks to choosing poorly, hours were spent trying to beat rivals to no avail. Once I did find someone I could actually beat, the payoff was so pitiful that in order to get an upgrade for the car to actually make it to higher-paying races, I would have had to race this particular loser nearly 20 times. Not worth it. So I bit the bullet, erased my profile and rolled the dice on a different car. Right out the gate I could beat the easier rivals and actually earn some cash, and before I knew it, even more long hours passed and I finally met my first boss racer. And was pulverized. Once I gathered my wits and decided I wasn’t quite ready to tackle the boss, I spent even more time upgrading the car.
The upgrading options in the game are a bittersweet experience. They’re sweet because of the myriad options, both cosmetic and functional, that can be made to your car: more than 5 million possibilities, if I remember correctly. However, the bitter part comes in and really takes over. Rather than actually have meaningful names for upgrades, you get to select from the oh-so-ingenious options of Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and so on for upgrading your vehicle parts. Sure, a scrolling description at the bottom of the screen and a visual upgrade go onto your car, but for a game that appeals mostly to people who want to get their hands dirty inside the car, the upgrades are insulting.
Even the races themselves are an odd thing, with most rival races being tied to a meter that slowly falls for the racer who is not in the lead, or whenever your car touches a barrier or another vehicle. The racer whose bar touches the bottom first loses, so as you become more accustomed to the tracks, it becomes quite easy to force your opponent into obstacles without touching them to speed the races up. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.
When it comes to audio and visual components the game again is bittersweet. The audio is substandard, unless you like the high-pitched revving of engines and some standard Japanese techno music to keep you moving. Graphically, the game seems caught between two worlds: one a highly detailed world of import cars, the other a blocky and undetailed version of Tokyo. I prefer the detail, especially for a game on a high powered system like the Xbox 360.
Quite honestly, I do not see any reason to head out and play this game. It’s a very poorly executed attempt at capitalizing on street racing, and doesn’t even come close to harnessing the power of the next-generation console it graces. Even taking the game online is an exercise in frustration, as the people who are online have spent an exorbitant amount of time investing in their vehicles, so unless you’ve done the same, expect to get your ass handed to you quickly. And to be taunted quite heavily, as well. In other words: Leave this import on the lot; it’s not worth a test drive.
- Overall: 3
- The millions of customization options are great for gear heads, but the actual racing is monotonous, and the diversity in locales and time of day is nonexistent.
— Jeff Paramchuk