Genki brought us such games as Tokyo Xtreme Racer and now they are back with Ubisoft and a new racing game titled Import Tuner Challenge (ITC). Don’t be fooled by the game cover, if you are going to buy this game and you don’t plan to use the disc as a overpriced drink coaster, you have just wasted a lot of money.

Let’s start with the only mode worth playing, Quest Mode. First thing your going to need is a car. You are shown a list of 18 different cars and have enough “credits” to choose between 8 of them, which makes it pointless showing the other 10. When you select a car you are brought to a screen which shows you a 3D model of the car and allows you to view the specs. Pressing the left and right buttons will toggle through the cars. At this point I’m trying to figure out what the first screen with the list of cars is for and the only conclusion I can come up with is to hide the fact that there are long loading times to show each of the cars.

When you have picked you car, the colour and custom number plate you are shown a quick cut scene…Get ready for the most intense and original story line ever! The greatest street racer named as King Speed suddenly took off and left Tokyo. Now everyone is out to become the new ruler of the racing scene, including you. Sounds really gripping doesn’t it?

ITC places you on Japanese highways with other Japanese cars. For a good 2 hours the only course you will hear of is the C1 highway. All the courses in ITC are just round highways with some slight bends in them. From each track you can expect a long straight then at some point you need to turn left or right depending in which way round the highway you are going. Along this track are other street racers. These racers are known as your rivals and each rival is part of a team. Defeating all members of a team will bring out the leaders boss. To challenge a rival to a race you just drive behind them and flash your headlights with the A button. Your car will automatically drive by the side of them at the same speed ready to begin the race.

Unlike other racers ITC doesn’t follow the same rules. It’s not all about who gets to the finish first, most of the races are SP Battle races. In these event’s you will notice that 2 bars will pop up at the top of the screen that look like health bars from any basic fighting game. Genki call this the Spirit Point meter hence the game mode SP Battle (Spirit Point Battle). One of these bars is your bar while the other is your rivals, more bars will pop up depending on the amount of rivals you are competing against, these matches are called Gang Battles. This bar will deplete when your rival gets so far ahead of you or if you hit another vehicle or wall. So even if you are in front of your opponent you still have a chance of loosing if your driving isn’t up to par. As long as you get in front of your opponent you have a 90% chance of winning. It’s not hard to hit anything when on a circular track and chances are with the poor AI they will mess up and hit a vehicle.

Winning races unlocks upgrades for customising your car, new roads and cars. You are also rewarded with credits which are used as currency. The first 2 hours of the game are the most boring as you have no money to upgrade the stock car you are driving, after that you should have enough credits to buy a new car or upgrade your current one. Customising your car can liven the game up. Most things are free like changing the cars colour which is nice as you can save that money for upgrades. Adding decals is your basic “layers” feature. Overlapping and changing colours of individual decals for a nice finish. You can add flashing neons and L.E.Ds to give your car that racerboy look aswell. While they maybe a good amount of customising options, your finished car can still look bland. There’s no shine and polish like you might find on other racing title on the Xbox 360.

There is a good amount of car’s to choose from. No where near close to the amount of cars available in games like PGR3 and TDU, but at least you have a choice. Upgrades to your car go up in levels and you can upgrade pretty much every part of your car. Engine, Muffler even the Clutch can all be upgraded. They all come at a price though, so you have to be careful what you spend your money on. For the gamer who is unfamiliar with their way around a car choosing the right upgrade can be a chore. The only way you can find out what part does what is to wait for the appropriate loading screen, or when choosing a part watch the ticker at the bottom of the screen slowly scroll by.

Fair enough you can upgrade your car but does it actually have any effect? You would be surprised to know that every upgrade changes the feel and handling of your car. This is very important in the game as you will learn that your rivals will have some sort of advantage over you. They could have a better tuned CPU or just a lighter car. You can learn about your rivals in the PA (Parking Area). Here you can select other racers and get some gossip. I should add that there is NO speech in this game, it’s all text. When you are in the PA you can challenge other racers and have a look at the specs of their car. With this in mind though it’s hard to feel if this game is a arcade or simulation genre. It can’t be a simulation because cars don’t handle realistically on the track, but it can’t be a arcade racer as you can tune your cars, something which stops the “pick a car and race” aspect.

As well as SP and Gang Battle there is also Point to Point and Chain Battle which is a survival type mode, racing against rivals one after another. Other modes not in Quest mode are not really worth bothering with unless you want to unlock Achievements points. On Xbox Live you will find 2 different modes. One is your standard SP race, the other is Time Attack which will upload your race time to the global servers. I didn’t get to play the standard battle mode online as there wasn’t anyone on it. That should sum up how good online must really be! Offline you have Free Run mode and Time Attack mode. As I said earlier you only really need to play Time Attack to unlock achievements.

ITC doesn’t look like it was designed for the Xbox 360. The gameplay and graphics make me believe the game was originally a sequel to Tokyo Xtreme Racer for the Dreamcast. The highways are dull and boring with textures that are just plain grey colours. Cars don’t really have any “wow” to them and don’t take any damage. Traffic seems to be light for what I would have thought to be a busy highway, only coming across 2 cars every 30 seconds. Engine sounds are not very realistic and music and game menu tunes are light techno, so it doesn’t really make you feel pumped up for racing. The game does have different times of the day which you can select, but this only changes who your rivals are and the light effects.

To sum it all up then, this is a game which should not have been released. Tokyo is all about drifting, not racing round a boring track. If you need 1000 gamerpoints then you could rent this game out, but it might take you a while to unlock them all. You pick up the game and play for an hour before going off to read a book. You then come back to the game thinking you might unlock a mode called “Extreme Hardcore Fun Racing” only to be disappointed and go back to your book. This game should of been titled “Burger King Racing” and branded with Big Macs on the side of the cars. I might have been impressed had I parted with less than £10.

Originally Written By: Toby Bodman

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