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Yaris


You get what you pay for...
Two days before the game hit Xbox Live Arcade, Yaris was announced by Microsoft as being the first advertising-supported, free game released for the Xbox 360. Toyota is the sponsor as the Yaris is their new model designed to compete with low cost competitors. I would wager the car is targeted at the 18 to 25-year old demographic due to its lower cost than a typical Toyota.

After I heard the announcement, I was certainly wary of the outcome. The last set of major advertising that hit Xbox Live Arcade was in the form of below average Burger King titles. On the other hand, itís a completely free downloadable title, which alleviated the risk. Built within 25 megs of data, Yaris is a car-combat title that pits the Toyota Yaris against a futuristic society of flying toasters, gasoline powers spiders, bulldogs riding on surfboards, and large men on small motorcycles. Additionally, the only mode of transit in this society seems to be giant half-pipe tubes filled with tons of enemies. Iím not quite sure whatís more believable, a futuristic society as I just described or that anyone will still be driving the Toyota Yaris in that distant future.

Gameplay
The core of the game is based around combat as the Yaris is fitted with a dangling cannon that appears to be in the shape of a flower. The cannon is attached to the hood of each model, which apparently doesnít effect the view of the driver. Iím willing to bet the ridiculous looking weapon was chosen as Toyota didnít want consumers to think their cars came custom fit with machine guns. In any case, alternate methods of fire can be picked up from downed enemies on the track such as shotgun ammo, grenades, sonic fire, etc.

The single player campaign is played over a total of eight tracks. The tracks resemble an uninteresting version of the tube that shot out the Governator in The Running Man. Each track is almost identical in design to the last, with the exception of obstacles and enemies. Similar to F-Zero, the tracks have blue speed-up markers on the track floor to help move the Yaris along.

The three versions of the Yaris are a hatchback and two types of the sedan. The sedans have to be purchased as well as any customization; paint job, custom rims, extra weapon storage, and shield boosting. The utterly insane cost of upgrading these machines will require hours upon hours of racing. Additionally, most of the upgrades are useless and donít help the actual gameplay.

As I mentioned earlier, the enemies are beyond strange. The majority of the enemies in the game are flying above your car in swarms. Taking out the entire group will result in a point bonus as well as a dropped gold coin. The ground based troops are a bit simpler to take out, but usually get in your way. In particular, the snakes that spew fire along the track are occasionally deadly. I have no idea that the developer was thinking (or smoking) when the oddball enemy character designs went into the game.

The controls are awkward to handle, especially the shooting mechanism. The left stick increases / decreases the speed of the car and controls left / right movement. The right stick aims the free form target reticule at the enemies. The triggers fire the weapons and the bumpers alternate the weapon in the main cannon chamber. Sadly, there is no option to invert the weapon stick. This makes adaptation tough for tons of gamers.

The multiplayer offers the standard Xbox Live options; ranked matches, player matches, leaderboards, etc.
The multiplayer mode pits two players against each other in a point race. While it helps to finish first, points are tallied up from the amount of enemies you take out. Weapon fire from the opposing car doesnít seem to effect your route. Unfortunately, I never got the ranked matches to work properly. As I launched the ranked match, a window popped up with a 5-minute countdown to finding a match. Every time I tried it, it kicked me out after 12 seconds and the message ďConnection LostĒ appeared. The game doesnít even let you hang out in a lobby waiting for a player. The regular, player matches worked fine though. Typically, a quick match came right along. I did notice a bit of lag when playing, mostly the opposite playerís car skipping forward and back.

The achievements are broken up into 12 tasks for 200 gamerscore points. While a dedicated racer can knock out most of the achievements in a few hours of frustrating play, attempting to rack up a million coins will take forever. The achievements are moderately creative though, perhaps the best quality about this arcade release.

Graphics
Visually, this title is fairly bland. While the character designs are varied, the overall appearance is fuzzy on my HD screen. The level layout is uninspired and the textures covering the track are just plain boring. On the plus side, the game does run smooth, the character library is fun to poke through and the fire effect is kind of cool.

Audio
The thumping, techno audio tracks really start to get old after the first few rounds of racing. That being said, they do fit the futuristic theme of the title. The sound effects are really sub-par and definitely lack any pizzazz. The weapon fire seems muted and severely needs a bass boost to imply power. There are no voiceovers in this title.

Overall
Iím amazed this title even made it out to Xbox Live arcade. This is easily one of the worst arcade titles Iíve played in a long time. While Iím sure Toyota is hoping for increased brand recognition, they need to be worried about brand hatred. Yes, I am now familiar with exactly who makes the Yaris and the types of models it comes in. Will I ever go purchase one? After this debacle, absolutely not. Well, maybe when the Flying Toaster Overlords attack and I need to escape in my nearby tube.

As the title is completely free, you should ask yourself different questions related to value. For instance, ďIs the title worth the 17.5 seconds it will take to download it?Ē Thatís a tough one. You could take out the trash in that amount of time, a much more rewarding task than playing Yaris. Hereís another question: ďDo I want to temporarily turn my gamertag into an advertising tool for Toyota?Ē Anyone with lots of friends and a well-known gamertag should be paid to advertise, in my opinion. Stay far away from this horrific Xbox Live release as itís completely devoid of entertainment value.