Import Tuner Challenge Xbox 360 Review

Now almost one year old the 360 maybe still be lacking in some genres but racing games is definitely not one of them. These days, developers have to release something very special to keep up with the ever increasing pack of racers hitting the shelves… so without dragging this intro out any further let’s just say Import Tuner Challenge (a glorified addition to the Tokyo Xtreme Racer series in all but name) is not special in any way. Now let’s explain why!

Ok first off… the game’s name is a damn lie! The game is called Import Tuner Challenge but you are racing a selection of Japanese built cars on the streets of Tokyo in Japan. I am sure the name change was an attempt by Ubisoft to try and tap into the large community of auto fanatics who love to tinker with their cars but they could have come up with something better. When you think about it; Tokyo Xtreme Racer is not that great of a name either… what’s “Xtreme” about this? And why the “X” is it supposed to scare us or something?

Most races in the game are started by flashing your car’s headlights once you position yourself behind one of the cars when driving around on sections of streets that form a loop around Tokyo. Of course just driving around in circles would be very boring so the game gives you lots of other options to try and take your mind of its basic linier approach to street racing. First off is the fact that many of your possible rivals form separate groups. If you beat all the members of one group you can start to unlock new items (decals, stickers, new streets, and cars) to pimp your ride. The further you get into the game and the more rivals you beat the more you open up. It is also possible to get the chance to take on bosses once you complete certain objectives. To find certain rivals the game makes you check your rival list which is accessible in the garage. Sadly making you go to the garage every time you want to find someone disrupts the game’s presentation, is very aggravating and ruins any bit of fun you were trying to have with the game to begin with.

Of course as with most of these tuner-type games there are loads of options to tinker with and new cars to buy as you get deeper into the game. Some races in the game are almost unwinnable if you don’t set your car up correctly so some thought needs to go into how you spend your money. The game tries to amp you up for upcoming races by displaying a silhouette of the racer and a line of text that sums up the driver’s personality. Sadly this is another very boring part of the game and it in no way motivates you for the upcoming race. Also while on the track all the cars seem to race the same and share the same AI…even after many hours racing there is nothing to distinguish beginner racer from advanced/expert racer only that they are slightly quicker.

The above two paragraphs were speaking about the game’s “Quest Mode” but some other modes are also available. Time Attack is your basic time trial mode where you can set times for others to try and beat (it is also possible to unlock achievements in this mode). Free Run allows you to just drive around locations in Tokyo. Multiplayer options are also included, with both split-screen and Xbox Live options available. The game’s Xbox Live options feel very tacked on and just offer one-on-one SP Battle or the option to try and post the fastest times on the Live leaderboards. Good Live features could have really helped this game but that hasn’t happen and we are just left with another feature to complain about.

Import Tuner Challenge is no where near what most would class as “next-gen” in terms of visual. In fact I remember being more impressed when I first saw Gran Turismo 3 when it was released during the first year of the PS2’s lifespan. Most of the tracks in the game are bland with static scenery and the road/track design are nothing to write home about. All the car models are very basic and seem to lack any sheen when out on the road. Crashes into barriers or rival cars also seem to lack both impact and any sense of realism.

The game’s framerate is solid, locked at 30fps with no slowdown but early on in the game (the first 4ish hours) cars seem very underpowered and move along at what resembles a snails pace. This is rectified one you get further into the game, but it is unlikely that many gamers will persist that long. If there was one notable visual plus point in the game it would have to be the amount of customizations available to tinker with to make you car look just the way you want to, but if you take that into context with the mediocrity of the rest of the game it’s more an exercise of grabbing at straws in looking for something to praise. In terms of audio the game is also a big disappointment. Sound effects have no base behind them as all cars sound like cheap ride-on lawnmowers stuck in first gear. The music is also terrible but that can be rectified with custom soundtracks, but once again that’s grabbing at straws.

With the likes of; Project Gotham Racing 3, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Burnout: Revenge, Ridge Racer and Full Auto already available to buy (some with a significant price drop if you search around) and the likes of Forza 2, Need For Speed: Carbon, Burnout 5 and more gracing the 360 in the near future it is very hard to recommend Import Tuner Challenge. It has the feel of a budget title but with a £50 price tag and it just does not do enough things right to be held in the same regard as any of the other 360 racing games available. It’s bland, lifeless, uninspired and every other description of dull that you can think of. All in all it is just not a very likeable game.

About as fun as the theory section of a driving test.

5.2 out of 10

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