Fatal Inertia Xbox 360
Published by: Koei
Developed by: Koei Canada
Release Date: Out Now
Fatal Inertia is all about futuristic, high-speed, hovercraft racing. It's a game that naturally draws comparisons with the Wipeout series and games such as Quantum Redshift because the game isn't just about racing at high speeds, it's also about combat and using your acquired weapons effectively in order to give you an edge in the races. In many ways Fatal Inertia sticks to the tried and test futuristic combat racer formula and it's the game's weapons that really give the game a modicum of originality.
The single-player options in Fatal Inertia are Quick Race, Career Mode and Training. The Career Mode is the heart of the single-player game and here you'll compete in three different leagues. Initially you'll only have access to the Exhibition league but once this is completed you'll have access to the Professional and Elite leagues. Each league has several series for you to compete in with each series comprising of several events. The Training mode offers three tutorial sections covering flight, combat and the different events. Quick Race allows you to setup a quick one-off race. You can either choose one of the four event types or simply a time trial if you just wish to practice a circuit. The multiplayer options are Split-screen Quick Race, Split-screen Series, Xbox Live (for 2-8 players) and System Link. There is also a Garage mode where you can paint your hovercraft, apply upgrades and emblems.
There are four different event types in Fatal Inertia and each has eight competitors taking part. Combat Race is essentially a straightforward race where you can fire your weapons (that you acquire from flying over weapon pads) to take out your rivals in order to move up a place. In Magnet Mayhem there are no weapon pads. Every craft has a constant supply of magnets to be fired at their opponents. Magnet Mayhem is essentially an event that requires you to attack and avoid being attacked. Velocity is an event that's all about raw speed. The only weapons you'll acquire in this event are concerned with helping you to accelerate and for this reason it's even more important that you acquire your items from the weapon pads in this event. Knockout is essentially an elimination mode which lasts for seven laps and where every lap sees the removal of the driver who is in last place. In every event type that you'll play, you'll have to pass through checkpoints. Failure to do so will essentially halt your progress in an event and you'll have no choice but to go back and pass through the checkpoint that you've missed. Whilst you're not completely confined to a fixed route in Fatal Inertia, there are sections of every circuit where you can cut the odd corner for instance; you are more or less bound to return to the main circuit because of the need to pass through these checkpoints.
How about the various hovercraft and racing environments in the game? Well there are four different craft classes in the game. The Mercury and Phoenix Class are what you'll get to race early in the game and these are quite straightforward to handle. The Mercury Class is more manoeuvrable but doesn't have as much top speed where the Phoenix Class offers better speed but isn't quite so easy to manoeuvre through tricky circuits. The Aurora Class is probably the quickest craft in the game but keeping control of this craft is going to take some real skill. The Titan Class craft can hold more weaponry than any other craft but it pays for this increased payload by not being as quick or as mobile. There are six different environments to race in. These range from canyons to glacial bays. Each environment offers a number of circuits. Disappointingly, not all of these circuits are enjoyable. Some are too simplistic and others are rather annoying, particularly the ones that are very dark and make navigation rather cumbersome.
We mentioned earlier that the weapons in Fatal Inertia are probably the most original aspect of the game. There are nine different weapon types in the game ranging from magnets to cables. Magnets stick to the hovercraft and essentially unbalance the craft. Cluster magnets can either be fired at enemy craft or at the ground and this will eventually explode releasing a cluster of magnets. Rockets can either be fired at your enemies or attached to your own ship to give you a temporary speed boost. Force fields give you a temporary shield against enemy attacks. As you might expect, smoke bombs are used to hinder the view of those who are racing behind you. The time dilator slows down every other craft except yours for a small amount of time so in effect it gives you a limited amount of time to either catch up on or pull away from your enemies. The force blast gives you a temporary burst of speed and it can also change the course of any craft that's within close proximity to the blast. The EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) sends out a charge that disables the hovering capabilities of the other craft as well as disabling any weapons that are in close proximity to the location where it was detonated. Perhaps the most interesting weapon is the cable. Basically you can either shoot this cable onto an opponent, which will then rocket you to their position, or you can attach it to the environment to do the same thing. You do have to be careful with the cable however as it's easy to pull yourself off course if you're not careful with it.
Of course having weaponry that's quite different from what you'll find in others games of this nature is all well and good but you really need the AI to take advantage of the weaponry to provide a challenging experience. Fortunately the AI does use the weaponry rather well and once you progress to the Professional league you'll definitely notice how aggressive the AI can be. Races are often close affairs and as you progress to the more difficult leagues you'll find there's little room for error. It's one of those games where it's quite easy to slip from being first to seventh through a simply misjudgment or attack. Of course this doesn't apply when racing in the Exhibition league and here the AI is more forgiving and you'll probably win the series in this league without too much trouble. The Professional and Elite league series are quite a different story though and it's a fair bet that it's going to take a lot of practice and perseverance to complete the single-player Career mode.
There can be no denying that Fatal Inertia looks good but with the game using the Unreal game engine you're not going to expect anything less. Whilst the game looks good though, it has to be said that the sense of speed you get from the game isn't as good as you might have hoped for. That's not to say that the game feels sluggish, because it doesn't, but it's not giving you the same sense of speed that games such as Wipeout and F-Zero GX do and that's a little disappointing. On the plus side, the load times are rather zippy and the frame rate is mostly impressive only dipping on rare occasions. The game only supports 60Hz which shouldn't be a problem for most but it's certainly worth mentioning.
Fatal Inertia won't cause deaf gamers any problems. All of the game's important information is shown through the use of icons or text. The game's tutorials are all in text so you'll be able to get to grips with the game and learn what each event requires fairly quickly. There are some nice touches here such as the text warnings you receive when you're in last place in a Knockout which stay on the screen until you've moved yourself out of last place. We reviewed the game on a HD display so we were fine with the size of the text in the game. It should be noted however that on the back of the case it's recommended that the game be played on a HD display as the text may be difficult to read on other displays, particularly TV's that are under 15". It's also worth noting that the game supports voice communications for online play which might prove problematic for deaf gamers.
Those looking for a Wipeout type game to play on their Xbox 360 should definitely give Fatal Inertia a go, especially as there is a demo on the Xbox Live Marketplace. For the most part it's an enjoyable game although it does have its shortcomings. There could have been more imaginative circuit designs included as there are too many that are rather simplistic. The game could also have done with a greater sense of speed. This would have made the game more appealing to those who are used to the blistering speed of games such as F-Zero GX. You have to balance these problems against the game's positives however and it's fair to say that the AI in the game is certainly good and provides a stiff challenge in the Professional and Elite leagues. The AI also makes good use of the games rather innovative weaponry and it's this weaponry that makes Fatal Inertia feel different to other games of this type. Whilst it's not perfect then, Fatal Inertia is certainly worth a look even if it's not the best game of this type that we've seen to date.
Interesting weaponry and smart AI opponents make Fatal Inertia a game that's both worthwhile and challenging. Some of the circuit designs are too simplistic however and the game doesn't give a good enough sensation of speed.