Reviewed: December 3, 2003
Reviewed by: Arend Hard

Big City Games

Dreams Interactive

Released: October 21, 2003
Genre: Arcade Shooter
Players: 1
ESRB: Teen


System Requirements

  • Windows 98/2000
  • 300 MHz processor
  • 64 MB RAM
  • 8 MB 3D video card
  • DirectX 8 or service pack 4
  • 4x CD-ROM
  • Sound card

    Recommended System

  • 400 MHz processor
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 32 MB 3D video card w/ Hardware T&L

  • To be honest, I know very little about Space Haste 2. I mean, I’ve played it quite a bit the last few days, but I think that finding the Holy Grail would be easier than finding useful background information regarding Space Haste 2 – the newest budget title from Montreal’s Big City Games, a low-rent division of Strategy First, Inc.. For the most part, Big City localizes and distributes older, imported PC titles at value prices for North American consumption. From what I gather, Space Haste 2 is a repackaging of Space Haste 2001, which was first released in Europe around the turn of the century. This century, that is.

    We all know that there have been considerable advances made in PC technology in the past few years, so it’s not a surprise that a game engine circa 2000-2001 is going to appear a bit dated compared to the current releases. But that’s not all bad. I mean, yes – you have a dated game engine which doesn’t quite measure up to today’s graphical standards. But, on the flip side, people like myself, who can’t financially justify upgrading their PC at the drop of a hat, have a game that is relatively fresh, yet doesn’t require a souped-up PC in order to run. Although having one would be nice.

    Space Haste 2 is yet another futuristic racer. Without a twist. Well, I take that back – there is a twist, but not a big one; this time the hovercraft are big 30’s style sedans. Why? I don’t know. Maybe a take on the whole “alternate history” steampunk/sci-fi world? Your guess is as good as mine, but it looks cool so we’ll go with it. Other than that, you’re not going to find anything but the standard futuristic hovercraft stuff that was made popular by the Wipeout, Quantum Redshift, Rollcage, F-Zero and Extreme G games. I was once a huge fan of these types of games, but the genre has been waning for some time now and my interest level has dropped accordingly. Does Space Haste 2 have enough oomph to bring me back to the future? Read on.

    This is my first PC review, so it will be difficult for me to refrain from making comparisons to Space Haste’s console counterparts. Especially since these counterparts far surpass Space Haste 2 in overall quality and design. Don’t get me wrong – I have the utmost respect for any designer who can make a playable game, particularly if they can pump it out at a budget price and it’s not a total coaster – and Space Haste 2 has some shining moments, but it’s obviously a low-budget fish in a big-budget pond.

    Let’s go over the list of features, quoted directly from the company’s website:

    • 4 hovercrafts to choose from.
    • Each hovercraft has 8 levels of enhancement.
    • The better you are at driving, the quicker your hovercraft will enhance.
    • Depending on your driving skills, the game keeps adding to the maximum speed of the hovercraft throughout the race.
    • Hovercrafts actually have no speed limits.
    • 11 pickups: Energy, Cloak, Bounce, Pilot, Blast, Boost, Flash, Stun, Drain, Shield and Haste.
    • 3 race modes: Normal Race, Time Race and Shadow Racer.
    Just looking over the list, there isn’t much there that hasn’t been done before – and better. And really, other than the oddly chosen ship design, the one single aspect that Big City is hyping to differentiate Space Haste 2 from the competition is the idea that the ships continue to gain speed, with no limit, until you hit something or someone to slow you down. On paper this might sound like it adds something new to the genre, but in execution it’s hardly noticeable – especially given the technical glitches I experienced which rendered precision driving all but impossible to accomplish.

    OK, so a disclaimer is needed. I was picked to review Space Haste 2, partially because I have an old HP Desktop, running at around 733mHz, with 8Mb video RAM and 192Mb RAM, which is just fine according to the company line. However, even though my PC’s specs were well-within the minimum requirements, I couldn’t get Space Haste 2 to run without serious drops – or stops – in framerate, major clipping, and loss of polygons. And yes, I made sure I had absolutely nothing running in the background, and even removed the photos from my desktop for fear that they were robbing me of precious video RAM. I just couldn’t get this game to run well. Maybe I’m a console snob, where – barring any serious defects or cleanliness issues – the presentation quality is identical from machine to machine, but I was quite disappointed with the fact someone may have paid cash for this game only to find out too late that the listed minimum requirements won’t suffice. True: I need to upgrade my PC and get into the 21st century, but there is a principal to be made here, and I’m sure there are millions of kids who have hand-me-down PC’s in their bedrooms who might spend twenty hard-earned dollars on Space Haste 2, only to find that it doesn’t work as promised for them. OK, I’ll get off my soapbox and get back to the review.

    Space Haste’s circuits are quite short in comparison to the competition. So short in fact, that during one of my first races I suddenly realized that a particular section of track looked awfully familiar – in my surprised realization that I must somehow already be on my second lap, I happened to glance at the lap info on the HUD and noticed that I was, in fact, already finishing lap number three. Comparing Space Haste’s courses to the competition’s offerings is like comparing your local go-cart course to Le Mans. Really, some laps were clocking in at under a half minute each. When you’re used to the two-to-three minute laps that most console racers supply, Space Haste’s design is a bit underwhelming.

    The biggest challenge with Space Haste is keeping it from degrading into a simple aggravating game of pinball-racing. With the short, twisty courses, achieving the promised levels of speed is nearly impossible, especially given the sloppy keyboard control scheme. I don’t know what, but something just didn’t flow right, and just about the time I thought I had a groove going, I’d either plow into the rear end of a competitor or slam into a wall. Sure, this pinball stuff happens in all of the racers, but I can usually get tuned in – here I couldn’t. The game boasts the ability to play with controllers, and even force feedback wheels. I can’t say I tried either, but they might make the gameplay a bit more palatable.

    I mentioned the graphical glitches I experienced on my PC, but as a whole Space Haste 2 does well with the whole dark-future concept common to racers of this ilk. The racing surfaces and surrounding structures are vibrant with color, but when contrasted against the dark empty skies of space, they convey the sterile, lonesome future that Hollywood has deemed to be our inevitable fate. Black space is always a careful, easy design scheme, but it would have been nice to see a little more organic landscape like we did in the recent Wipeout Fusion and Quantum Redshift releases.

    Regardless of any issues I have with the rest of Space Haste 2, this title has probably the best music of any futuristic racer out there. The norm for games of this genre, Space Hast 2 injects you with a healthy dose of techno to get you in the proper mood for high speed space racing. However, the techno you get here is really, really good stuff. I fancy myself a bit of a music snob, and this stuff has some real drive and emotion which is often absent in the standard electronic fare. As for the sound effects themselves, they’re exactly what you’d expect from a space-racer; decent quality but otherwise fairly ordinary.

    How can you go wrong with a $20 game, eh? I guess when it doesn’t work as purported – that would be one way to go wrong…right? All jokes aside, I do accept that the problems I experienced were partially due to my being a cheapskate, still that whole issue really soured me on the Space Haste 2 experience. Still, I must admit that there is a solid, albeit unremarkable game here. Really, the value on this one is going to be completely on the shoulders of the reader. Would I personally go out and buy Space Haste 2 for $20 knowing what I know and having already played the game? No. Would I buy it for $10? Maybe – only if I didn’t know that there were so many other, better racers available for about the same amount of cash.

    If you have a console at home, you have much better choices you can make for around the same amount of cash. For the PS2, you can easily pick up a new copy of Wipeout Fusion for around $10-$15. Xboxers have the stunning Quantum Redshift which is also around the $15 price point. As for the few PC-only gamers out there: you may want to give Space Haste 2 a whirl, but don’t be surprised if it ends up filed away in the drawer next to those encyclopedia and system restore discs that came with your PC.

    I hate to sound negative about any game, and Space Haste 2 does have its moments – but nowadays, $20 isn’t really a deal, and a two year old localization of Space Haste 2001 just doesn’t cut it for its price. There are plenty of newer, better games available for around the same price and I’d be inclined to steer you towards one of those.