When it comes to kart-racing games, it's hard not to draw comparisons with the definitive Super Mario Kart for the SNES. This is due largely to that game's sheer excellence, and also because no subsequent kart racer has been able to improve upon the formula set out by Super Mario Kart in any appreciable manner. Furious Karting, Infogrames' new kart-racing game, makes some superficial changes to that formula, but this is a case where different does not mean better.
Furious Karting makes some superficial changes to the Super Mario Kart formula, but this is a case where different does not mean better.
While most kart racers have also served as showcases for game-company mascots, Furious Karting is cast with a ragtag group of very British-sounding extreme-sports types. At the outset of the game's career mode, you can choose between one of eight different racers, who are divided up into two teams, the TNT clan and the Yellow Sharks clan. Once you're on your way, you'll compete in an increasingly difficult series of races against your teammates, against single opponents, and in mixed company. Since you'll be racing alongside your teammates in many of the races, you'll often play a support role, making sure that your teammates place high in the races instead of just lone-wolfing it. The game's rubber-band AI--which will cause the computer-controlled racers to speed up or slow down, depending on your own pace--is pretty blatant, and the computer's generally simplistic tactics take a lot of the challenge out of the single-player component.
As is to be expected from a kart-racing game, Furious Karting features some multiplayer action as well. The classic mode plays identically to the single-player game, while the jam mode has players hunting down a CD that's hidden on the track and maintaining possession of it for a certain amount of time. These modes are reasonably entertaining, but the lack of any real customization options or variety keeps the multiplayer game in Furious Karting from having much longevity.
The core gameplay in Furious Karting stays pretty close to the conventions of the kart-racing genre, though with a few notable exceptions. Obviously drawing inspiration from the classic Road Rash games, Furious Karting arms each racer with an aluminum baseball bat from the start. Your use of the bat will directly impact your karma meter, which in turn affects how the other racers will treat you from race to race. Oddly, though, the game features an apologize button, which you can use to counteract the antisocial side effects of the bat, which seems decidedly un-furious. Along with the bat, you'll find some basic power-ups on the track. There are standard nitro boost and oil-slick power-ups, as well as some not-so-standard power-ups like flammable glue and a chicken, which, when tossed at an opponent, will slow him or her down. The bat is a fairly unique addition, but it just doesn't make up for the anemic selection of power-ups in the game.