3... 2...1... Stage 2. Psygnosis & ATD strike again. About a year after the release of the first part and some two to three months after the first screenshots appeared pointing out that something new was cooking, we face the sequel of the legendary rolling cage. The "legendary" goes in the name of all the people who regained the will for playing games thanks to rollcage, which ran smoothly on their less than decently powerful PCs...
If you are still wondering what in the world a Rollcage might be, it is just another one of the ridiculous futuristic ultra-rapid races with shoot-em-up elements. An attempt to make the thing original in a way was made by letting the vehicles move regardless of weather they are turned upside down meaning that the cars look absolutely same from both sides and they are indestructible, so that you can shoot as much as you want and nothing will happen to the car (nor, presumably, to the driver).
Now, lets get back to the frustrated owners of weaker and older machines who must be rubbing their hands by now... Rollcage works perfectly even on slower machines in spite of the great number of lighting effects it has. In fact I cannot remember a single game that had that quantity and quality of visual effects.
There is an outstanding number of sparks, smoke effects, lightning, rockets, fog, explosions, changes of the Field of Vision... The dynamic lighting creates a perfect ambience. Apart from the cars participating in the race there is a vast number of accidentally passing by crafts and vehicles... now if you combine this with the already mentioned ultra-rapidity, you will realize what sort of an impression Rollcage leaves on all video-game fans. It is indeed a proof that there still are some skilful programmers left in this world.
On the other hand I must point out the complete lack of quality textures. In the first part all textures seemed to be smaller than 150×150 pixels. The situation in the second part is slightly better. Most textures can be said to be bearable, but the rest still manage to spoil the general impression. Some of the ugly textures have been used a lot unfortunately, like the ones that say "3...2...1..." before the race starts. I still can't figure out why they have used the same pictures for palm-trees that they used in the first part. Some levels look absolutely pathetic, like space for example, where the surroundings consist of just a couple of small pictures repeated thousands of times. I could only say that I don't think ATD (Attention To Detail) serves its name right. Playability is somewhat better than in was in the first part (where it was disastrous at moments). It would happen quite often that you make a minor mistake when running at 400kmh and hit a rock or something and the camera zooms you in that much that you completely loose orientation - you have no clue where you car is, or rather should be heading. This usually made you end up last. This frustrating detail has partially been removed: Your cage is now more immune to your minor mistakes and the camera is less stupid than it used to be. The number of vehicles has increased from eight to twenty.
Weapons and powerups basically remained the same. In fact there were eight of them and now there are twelve. Some have been replaced, some modified, and some remained exactly the same. The old available powerups include Turbo (in fact I think I never saw a racing game without it), the shield, a clock that slows down your opponents, a rocket that automatically locks onto the leading car (my favorite) and teleporting mirrors... The visual appearance of these powerups has not improved. New powerups include the chain gun, and some new projectiles and lasers. The biggest novelty about weapons is that every weapon has its 'super powered' version. For example: if you pick up two 'Leader Missile', they will take up only one weapon slot and they will fire together, the first one will destroy the victim's shields (if any) and the second will finish him off. Super Chain gun will last much longer than the ordinary one and the bullets will be half-guided... All these improvements will not be made available at first, they will unlock as you progress through the game.
There are several single-player modes. First, there are two types of championships: Total Race and ordinary championship. In Total Race you get combat points for damage induced on your opponents and surroundings, and best lap points for finishing first, then you add it up and face the results. Every championship takes three races to be won after which you enter a knockout race (the last racer in every lap gets eliminated). You just have to take care not to be last in any of the laps and there's your medal for you... By the way, every first place you win in the first three races brings you one "retry" possibility in the knockout race.
Apart from this I liked the 'Scramble' mode. It is a sprint on futuristic tracks floating in air (Dethkarz; Thrust, Twist'n'Turn players know what I'm talking about). There are no adversaries; it is just you against the clock (set usually to no more than 10 seconds). There are more than twenty tracks and they are very interesting. Pay heed that they are not two-dimensional, meaning that you can use well-practiced jumps to drastically reduce the time needed to finish the track.
Multiplayer mode is also very good because it supports all possible forms of competition. Apart from the standard Internet, serial and LAN connections, there is also a split-screen option supporting up to four players. Modes include: Deathmatch (running around gathering ammunition and shooting rockets at your opponents), Demolition, Pursuit and Rubble Soccer modes (which have to be deserved first!). I won't comment the sound. It is quite mediocre and consists of engine, projectile, breaks and tire noise, with no announcer. The music is brain-smashing techno rave, so I will refrain from commenting that as well. I can not say that techno inspires me or fills me with energy, nor that I have any clue about it but those of you who do may recognize these names: E-Z Rollers, Technical Itch, Omni Trip, Aquasky, Flytronix, Dom & Roland that provided the music background for the game.
Rollcage Stage 2 is something you should try out, in spite of the fact that it probably wont be interesting for longer play. One of my buddies compared it to a blonde: it looks good, it's a good ride, but it bores you to death after a day or two...