Driving games--especially the subset of driving games that go after the import tuning and underground street racing scene--are on the rise. Thanks to the success of films like The Fast and the Furious and games like Midnight Club 2 and Need for Speed Underground, this subgenre is now in full swing. The British developer Eutechnyx has developed several racing games over the years, including Test Drive Le Mans and Big Mutha Truckers, and now it has an import driving game to call its own in the form of Street Racing Syndicate. The game tries to deliver an authentic street racing experience, but the racing itself tends to be rather unexciting.
Street mode is where you'll spend most of your time.
Street Racing Syndicate breaks down into a few different modes. Arcade mode lets you choose a car, a race type, and an area so that you can get right down to business. The multiplayer mode lets you race on a split-screen, and it functions pretty well. But the game's depth is found in street mode, which starts out with some inkling of a story but quickly boils down to a fairly standard career mode. Here you'll buy cars, you'll buy parts for your cars, and you'll engage in a variety of races for cash, respect points, girlfriends, or some combination of the three.
When you enter a race, you can also make side bets with the other racers in an attempt to make more money. Money is probably the most important element in SRS, because you'll need it as an ante to enter races. You'll also need it to pay for repairs for your car between races. This makes driving cleanly pretty important, since it's definitely possible to squander most of your race winnings on repairs if you smash into walls and other cars a lot during a series.
The girlfriends aspect of the game is about as shallow as it could possibly be. As you work through your racing career, you unlock respect challenges. Each one is a specific task that is attached to one of the 18 girls in the game. You'll do things like complete checkpoint races, catch air for a long period of time, or follow a car closely without passing or hitting it. If you complete the challenge, you unlock that girl. You'll have to race well to keep girls interested, but bear in mind that you can also steal girls from other drivers by winning races. You can then head off to the warehouse to change girls at any time. The girl you're currently "hooked up" with serves as the flag girl when you race, and she can be lost if you drive poorly, but if you drive well, you can unlock hilariously awful videos featuring these real-life import models.
There are 50 licensed cars in Street Racing Syndicate that come from manufacturers like Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Lexus, Subaru, and Volkswagen. The lack of the Honda brand sticks out like a sore thumb, especially given the fact that cars like the Civic have, for many, become synonymous with the import racing scene. Still, there is a decent variety of vehicles, and each one handles fairly differently.
You can even further alter the way the cars handle by tricking them out. In street mode, you have access to a lot of different customization options, from weight reduction to exhaust systems. The game uses real brands and lets you run your car on a Dyno to get a look at how it's performing in its current condition. Unfortunately, the impact of a part on your car's horsepower, acceleration, top speed, or other statistics isn't shown as plainly as it should be. If you aren't paying close attention when moving from part to part, you'll miss the numbers as they change. A simple "+2" or "-0.4 seconds" that shows exactly what each part does would have been a huge help here.