Rig Racer 2 (Wii)

Rig Racer 2
Nintendo Wii (2007)

They’re big, slow, cumbersome and hard to control. Welcome to the exciting world of big rig racing. For gamers who are drawn to racing games for their selection of exotic cars, high rates of speed and exciting racing action, get ready: Rig Racer 2 has none of those things.

Rig Racer 2 is the spiritual successor to Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, released in 2003. Big Rigs received a 1/10 rating from GameSpot, a 1/10 from Thunderbolt Games, and a 0.0 from NetJak before being voted the worst videogame of 2004 by GameSpot. Rig Racer 2 appeared on the PC in 2005, and has been released for the Wii in 2007. Rig Racer 2 is slightly better than the original, which still isn’t saying much.

The biggest hurdle racing game developers have is conveying a sense of weight and speed to the player. Pixels don’t inherently conform to physics; they have to be programmed to do so. Nothing in Rig Racer 2 feels real. The trucks do 0-60 in just under 3 seconds, which leads me to believe none of the programmers have ever been stuck behind one at a traffic light. Even when you are cruising along at 120mph, it looks and feels like you are only doing 30mph. The slow pace gives you plenty of time to stare at the crappy, Gamecube-quality scenery.

Rig Racer 2 uses the conventional Wii “ExciteTruck” control scheme: the Wiimote is held sideways and turned to steer, with the 1 and 2 buttons serving as gas and brake/reverse. The trucks are automatic (which is good, I think, as real semis have something like 17 gears) and extremely nimble (I was able to do a u-turn in a two-lane stretch of track). The A button acts as a hand brake (which I didn’t even even know semis had) for sliding around corners, although the minute you release the button, the truck stops sliding. When you are at a stop, the brake button also propels your truck in reverse — of course doing so instantly switches the camera to a rear view mode, which is kind of like backing a boat while looking in a mirror. It’s just one of many instances within the game that probably looked good on paper, but doesn’t work right in the game.

The tracks are fairly uninspired; the game’s first track, “Paris,” might as well take place in Montana. The track is lined with trees, chain link fences and billboards, none of which budge an inch if your rig happens to plow into them. Each track is surrounded by grass (which slows your truck down even more) and sand pits (which practically stop it). Sand takes you from 120mph to 30mph in a split second — who knew? They should sprinkle sand in school zones and parking lots. Along the sides of each track are dollar signs that can be collected along your journey and traded in for new rigs and race tracks. Unfortunately they cannot be used to purchase another Wii game. Each track also contains a pit row, where your rig can be repaired at 80mph.

Rig Racer 2 is filled with tons of annoyances. For example, the menus use the conventional Wiimote control scheme (pointing and clicking) but the game itself doesn’t. If you pause the game and want to make a change you’ll need to point at the TV, unpause the game, and then quickly rotate the Wiimote sideways. I’m not being nitpicky; it’s more annoying than it sounds. Another problem I ran into more than one was, in 3rd person view, having trucks get between my rig and the camera. In most cases, only some of the polygons are drawn, resulting in weird boxes and triangles blocking my view. These are things I ran across within minutes of firing up the game, which makes you wonder just how long (if at all) this game was tested.

So far, Nintendo’s Wii has been able to keep up with the more technically powerful PS3 and Xbox 360 by releasing innovative and fun games, but not-so-fun games such as this one make the gap obvious and hurt the system as a whole. If Rig Racer 2 were the only game available for the Wii, I’m still not sure I’d play it again. Anyone considering purchasing Rig Racer 2 should keep on truckin’.

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