Now there is a way to soften this: make use of the game’s clever system of alliances and rivals. Before each race you can request, accept or decline these ties, and the more alliances you build, the less Car-Fu you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of. However, the more alliances you have and the fewer rivals, the less boost you’ll earn through your own Car-Fu. This is a great idea, and helps give the game its own distinctive character. Does it solve the rubber-banding and constant clobbering, however? Not nearly as much as it should.
On the plus side, the difficulty level in later races helps to hide the game’s other major failing: lack of content. There are really only five tracks, even if the game has several variations on each. Despite changes in the theme and background scenery only one or two of them really stand out from the others, and you can’t help wishing both for more courses, and for those courses to be more memorable than they are. Multiplayer is limited to two players on the same console, with no online options, and once you’re through the three speed classes and their championships, the only thing to keep you coming back is the time trials. Compare this to the wealth of tracks, game modes and online options in Mario Kart Wii, and Speed Racer doesn’t seem like such a great package overall.
It’s a shame. Early on I had Speed Racer down as one of the least cynical and most accomplished movie adaptations I’d seen in years, and it was only once I found frustration in the later races and the same five environments repeating that my initial good impressions fell apart. Even given my reservations, I’ve no doubt that any kids who fall in love with the film and its world will get something out of the game, but they – and we – could have got so much more if only the AI wasn’t so aggressive and Sidhe had been a bit more generous with tracks. As it is, anyone with a copy of Mario Kart won’t see much reason to opt for this instead. And if you’re that desperate to play F-Zero, then you’re better off sticking the old GX disc into your Wii.
A fine family-friendly racer with a few intelligent tweaks on the classic F-Zero style. Sadly though, over-tuned AI and a lack of content hold Speed Racer back from achieving its full potential.