System Rush

One of the major attractions of playing games is the fantasy. You can pretend you’re Frank Lampard curling in a shot on goal in FIFA, storm the beaches at Normandy during WW2 or fight as an alien tripod in War of the Worlds. Hacking into a computer, though, doesn’t have quite the same attraction to it. It isn’t glamorous (despite Sandra Bullock’s best attempts in action flick The Net), dangerous (you’re sat in an office chair, for Pete’s sake) or action packed (excluding the ever-present dangers of RSI, obviously).

But that’s evidently going to change, because in the future hacking will involve racing a little jet-shaped vehicle around the circuitry of a computer and attempting to beat small purple shapes to the finish line. At least that’s the System Rush view of the future, anyway. You play a hairless hacker called Virt who’s been framed for a crime that he didn’t commit and the only way to clear your name is to team up with Ikko, your female chum, and break into the computer systems of various multi-national corporations using your N-Gage QD.

Thus begins a series of short races where you, in your co-vec (short for code vehicle, the tool of choice for futuristic hackers), must finish first, ahead of the local network security code. Quite how finishing ahead of them enables you to break into the computer network you’re invading is never really explained; finish second or worse, though, and you’ll get nowhere. As you proceed through the levels and get deeper into the network, other hackers will appear, paid off by the evil corporation you’re hacking into and tasked with stopping you by beating you to the finish line. Yes, plot holes are as plentiful as the silly names. To aid you in your efforts there are power-ups lying around (something else that’s never explained) that give you speed boosts, shields and weapons to slow down the opposition.

You’ll need them, too, as the opposition is stiff. The featureless purple outlines that represent enemy code don’t sink so low as to resort to using weapons themselves but they are canny and rapid enough to scamper off into the distance without them. But there’s little satisfaction in winning as you don’t get anywhere that you’ve not really been before. All the levels within a country, while looking spectacular at the beginning, soon look repetitive and you’ll struggle to tell the difference between any of them. The handling of the co-vecs, which is seemingly based on that of a hovercraft, is another hindrance and it’ll be an hour or two of play before you begin to feel comfortable at the helm of your steed.

All this gets in the way of what could have been a really good game. The visuals, borrowing heavily from the movie Tron and the Blackpool Illuminations, are like nothing we’ve ever come across before and the on-screen action is fast and fluid. Viewed from behind your co-vec, the 3D networks you race through are colourful and themed on the countries they represent. Race in the Russian network, for instance, and everything’s red (representing the communist flags of China and the old USSR) and there are neon outlines of missiles and the like hovering above the track. Finally, the multiplayer game, whether it’s via Bluetooth or N-Gage arena, is the highlight of System Rush as you’re racing against a recognisable foe rather than a faceless coloured outline.

But as a racing game System Rush is flawed; there’s just not enough motivation for you to continue playing or to get better. Having to finish first in the story mode quickly becomes tedious when there’s little reward for doing so and the featureless competitors and repetitive tracks quickly rob the game of any fun. The additional Grand Prix mode where you face off against rival hackers is more entertaining but it’s too little, too late. If you want fast-paced action with plenty to keep you entertained, we suggest you wait for Asphalt Urban GT 2, which should be far better.

System Rush

Don’t be swayed by those good looks; at its heart System Rush is a confused and unfulfilling game