On paper, the premise of Iridium Runners is, well, dumb. It’s a futuristic racing game with weapons - in other words, a blatant rip-off of Wipeout - but instead of driving hovering ships, you’re running. On foot. As in the films The Running Man or Run Lola Run. Except that no one’s trying to kill you or make you put your shirt back on, you’re just running. Running, running, running.
It's not the premise of Iridium Runners that's its undoing, it’s that the game fails to fulfill the most fundamental requirement of all racing games: making you feel like you’re going fast. With some brief exceptions, which come when you run over the glowing arrows seen in most every other futuristic racing game, or get an "Iridium Boost," which lets you button-mash the X for added speed, you mostly feel like you’re out for a jog. A nice, leisurely jog.
Were it not for the lack of speed, Iridium would be a decent racer. It looks okay, with a fun, bleak spacey art style, and it's pretty deep as far as play modes go. There are twenty-four distinct, curvy tracks, complete with jumps (though these are more distraction than a challenge), twenty different runners, tons of events in the circuit-styled “Cup” and “Championship” modes, and three kinds of races. There's the self-explanatory “Standard” mode; “Survival,” where last place at the end of the lap is eliminated until there’s only one left; and “Collect X-Tras” where the winner is the one who finishes with the best standing and the most collectibles.
There are also two split-screen multiplayer modes for two-to-four players: an “every man for himself” race, and a second mode in which you’re teamed up. It even throws the existing template for a loop by giving each racer a chance to pick a pod that follows them and determines whether you’re more able to pick up a defensive weapon or an offensive one.
But none of that matters much because you never feel like you’re going fast, no matter what track you’re on, what racer you’ve picked, what pod you’d chosen, or what event or mode you’re playing. A racing game without speed is just plain pointless.
Mar 4, 2008