In the year 2000 there was much excitement of what the future held for gaming. What we did know at that time was that if anyone had a handle on futuristic racing it was Psygnosis. Busy with their flagship title, Wipeout, they left a new series to another development studio – Attention to Detail. The racer that had you quite literally turning your world upside-down was going to flip it over once more.
Never heard of Rollcage? You get to drive futuristic cars with wheels so big that if the car flips you continue driving. It’s a simple concept, but throw in a bunch of weapons and you end up with a futuristic Mario Kart with an awesome soundtrack.
Gone is the prototype feeling of the original Rollcage and in its place you’ll find a futuristic game with a whole wack of extra modes. Your first point of entry will be the Type 1 Campaign. You have the option of deciding on TOTAL Racing or Classic Racing – TOTAL Racing now includes league points for accurate weapon use, while Classic Racing plays like the original whereby you’re awarded league points for finishing first. Come first overall and you open more leagues and various levels to race on.
Each vehicle comes with its own unique stats that makes quite a big difference when it comes to your driving style. It’s important to keep an eye on the power, acceleration, top speed, strength and grip of each car, but more importantly is getting a good understanding of what weapons the car can pick up. A novice vehicle is your only option when you start. These cars come with low speed, but great grip and can only pick up four weapon types that include Mini Rockets, Time Warp, Shield and Turbo. Of course your competitors will have access to all the available weapons. What a bunch of cheats! Persevere and you’ll unlock more cars and leagues. Once you get access to the other weapons the real fun begins. Laserblades shoot our of your wheel hub and should any car pass you it’ll cut them to bits; Wormhole will have you shoot our a wormhole that placed you ahead of the car in front of you and Tazer Ram will surround your car with lightning-like sparks – any for that touches you gets a shock and flies into the air.
The track design is what keeps you coming back for more as there’s always a shortcut you’re missing out on and preventing you from coming first. It’s just that in this game it’s not your typical shortcut. Sometimes you need to be up the side of a wall or racing with your car stuck to the roof to get access to the shortcut, which sounds a lot easier when you don’t have a missile closing in on you. Knowing when to use your weapons is also important, especially when you finally make it to Type II Campaign.
In the visual department Rollcage Stage 2 has not aged very well at all. At times it suffers from an absolutely terrible frame rate drop combined with a pixelated mess on the PS1, and when a game has you driving upside-down and in all directions you’ll often find yourself driving in the wrong direction if you got a good hammering from a foe. The good thing about Rollcage Stage II is that the focus is not placed only on racing.
Once you’re done with the campaign you can give Arcade, Time Attack and Training a go (though I guess you really should be doing the training before anything, unless you’re a rebel). Where you ultimately will end up is on a new mode called Scramble. Scramble is essentially Rollcage’s version of Trackmania. The controls aren’t quite as precise as Trackmania, but the overall concept works when you consider that the game is now 17 years old. It seems it was a great concept ahead of its time. Because your car can attach itself to just about any surface you’ll often find the stage flipping all over the show while trying your best to keep the car on the track, roof or wall.
Rollcage Stage II is still a great game to play, with up to two players, but the shoddy frame rate and ageing graphics has really taken a toll on the once classic title. Perhaps we’ll one day receive a Stage III, but for now this is the last of this once classic series that threw the racing genre on its head.