Review: Kinetica (PS4)

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Title: Kinetica
Format: PlayStation Network Download (791.7 MB) / DVD Disc
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Original PS2 Release Date: October 14, 2001
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: SIE Santa Monica Studio
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: T
Kinetica is also available on PlayStation 2.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Kinetica is a futuristic racer in the same style as Wipeout and F-Zero. What sets this little ol’ PlayStation 2 game apart is that you are your own vehicle. Instead of ripping through the futuristic speedway on a hyper fast hover vessel, your character wears an exo-suit that acts as a vehicle, complete with wheel attachments for your hands and feet.

Although the whole concept sounds silly, it actually was a pretty fun game in its time, and it makes for some visually impressive racing that combines stunt combos with incredible speed.

As a member of this racing league, you have a choice of a healthy number of racers, complete with their own color scheme and stats (more are unlockable as you progress through the campaign). Some racers focus on speed, others maneuverability… well you know the rest.

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Success in these competitions is not achievable with simple speed. In fact, I discovered very early into my first race that you will get your ass handed to you if you do not take advantage of the stunt combo system.

The courses are not horizontal affairs. There are a lot of vertical drops and twisting corridors, which open up opportunities to initiate stunts. Successfully landed stunts add to your boost meter, which in turn gives you an advantage over your competitors.

… a very Tron-like display of lights …
I would have preferred these stunts to be a combination of Tony Hawk-like buttons presses and joystick turns, but instead stunts are initiated by pressing the joystick in various directions, almost like Street Fighter special moves.

This is all well and good, but it does break the fluidity of the race when you are leaning and turning, only to have to stop what you are doing to quickly tap a series of directions. It doesn’t kill the fun of Kinetica, and you will eventually get used to it, but it’s a design decision that I would have preferred the other way.

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Visuals:
Kinetica was an attractive game in its time, but more for its speed than its actual detail. Prettier games certainly existed back then. What it lacks in visual integrity, it makes up for in speed. I have to admit that I don’t remember what the initial framerate was back when I played it on PlayStation 2, but I also don’t remember having any issues with it.

Well now on PlayStation 4 the framerate is definitely not a problem, and you cannot blame a racing loss on crippling choppy frame issues. Flashy particle wooshes decorate the screen as you and the other racers execute combinations in a very Tron-like display of lights.

The game even holds up well in split-screen mode. Racers populate the screen without a sign of slowdown, and for a PS2 era game, Kintetica stands the test of time.

… the atmosphere of a futuristic racer …
Audio:
The audio’s not bad, particularly in the music direction. I can’t say that I could name any of these bands, but they certainly complement the atmosphere of a futuristic racer. One thing I could always hand to Sony-published games of that era was their quality of sound, and absolutely awesome soundtracks. No exception is made here.

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Online/Multiplayer:
Well (spoiler alert) it’s not online. But it does have splitscreen, and it works well, even offering the option for horizontal or vertical screen configuration. Obviously, it will hinder some enjoyment, particularly with the type of speeds this game reaches, but just sit closer to the TV.

… still a fun game to play …
Conclusion:
It’s a tough business reviewing a fifteen year-old game, but I’m assuming a large percentage of folks buying this will be more concerned with the emulation, since they probably played the game back in 2001.

That said, Kinetica holds up well. And more than that, it’s actually still a fun game to play. It looks sharp in HD, what with the silky smooth framerate. If you were a fan of this game, which was the first use of the engine eventually used in the God of War games on PS2, by the way, you will not be disappointed in this emulation.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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