Retrospective: Taxi 2 (French-exclusive Dreamcast title now translated to English)


Thanks to the efforts of Derek Pascarella and his team, for the first time in history we can enjoy the obscure French-exclusive Dreamcast title, Taxi 2: The Game, in English. Derek has released the English translated version of the game just a few weeks ago and as a result I thought it was a perfect time to dive into this curious Dreamcast game that I’d never played before.

Before we dive into the game itself, let’s have a quick recap of the movie it is based on:

Taxi 2 is a French action comedy film directed by Gérard Krawczyk, released into French cinemas in 2000 with pretty significant commercial success. According to their website, the film attracted more viewers in its opening week than the latest Star Wars movie! Taxi 2 would go on to enjoy 10.3 million admissions in France, underlining its relevance. After discovering just how popular the movie was, maybe it isn’t such a crazy thing that this game exists after all!

As you’d expect, the plot of the game follows the storyline from the movie. Things get pretty wild. In a nutshell, the overall plot is that the Japanese minister of defence is traveling to Paris to sign a weapons contract between Japan and France. During the visit he is kidnapped by a group working for the Japanese Yakuza. Throw in some more kidnappings and law-breaking incidents before our very own protagonist, Daniel the taxi driver, has to step up and save the day with his high speed driving skills and blatant disregard for the law.

The game itself is broken up into 12 different missions, which each take a specific section from the movie and turn it into a race against the clock as you complete the objective outlined to you on the mission intro screen. I’ve personally not watched the movie (although with CeX offering the DVD for a single Pound, I could be tempted), but each mission starts with an FMV sequence which I assume is directly lifted from the film (now subtitled in English thanks to the translated version) and compressed to the point that it feels like a Mega CD interactive adventure. Nevertheless, it does the job of trying to explain what the hell is going on. Interestingly, the GameBoy Color version of the game also features FMV. Perhaps they got the files mixed up?!

The game lacks any real variety, although I must admit that I did enjoy the ridiculousness of the mission where you must get to the hospital by taking a shortcut through a live rally racing stage - complete with a real rally car which you have to race against. I’m not making this up. The Peugeot rally car model looks like it was lifted straight from the PlayStation version of V-Rally or something and looks completely out of place, but it’s just so ridiculous that it makes you smile, albeit briefly.

In addition to the Mission mode, an Arcade mode is present although is bizarrely locked from the beginning. I was very confused to see this locked as Arcade mode in games of this era is usually the causal starting point! It soon became apparent why. Arcade mode is an exact replica of Mission mode but with the added "bonus" of racing the same stage against a rival. Why they felt the need to call this Arcade mode is beyond me.

Graphically, Taxi 2 is very disappointing. There is not an awful lot in the way of texture detail and the car models themselves are very “boxy” - something that certainly would not look out of place on the PlayStation. Backgrounds appear to be just static images that are stretched around the action, but probably the most inexcusable aspect of the visuals in the game is the dreadful pop-in that you experience when playing. On some of the stages, mountains literally appear a few yards ahead of you as you are driving and I had some strong Atari Jaguar-inspired nightmares from a similar draw distance experience. 

There are a few different viewpoints, including an in-car view that makes the car controls look literally like a cardboard cut-out. There is absolutely no feeling of depth at all and whilst they were clearly trying to use photographs to make the inside of the car look realistic, it actually meant that things ended up looking laughably bad. Stick to the chase cameras from behind the car as not only does it make things easier to control, but it is also slightly easier on the eyes.

Gameplay-wise, it’s just very forgettable. There is nothing inherently wrong with the handling - indeed, there is an argument that the car in Taxi 2 handles somewhat more predictably than those in games like Roadsters or Exhibition of Speed - but it isn’t exhilarating by any means. Probably the most frustrating part of playing Taxi 2 is the boredom that it brings. You’re basically just driving from A to B (I guess it is a taxi game after all…), with very little in the way of visual feedback to help you progress. There is no map at all, no checkpoints marked on the road and the waypoint marker only seems to pop up when it feels like it.

One of the later missions involves you destroying a rival car, but this isn’t promoted at all during the gameplay. You’re just left to carry on racing through the course until you get to the end where you have nowhere to go. If you carry on driving forward or if you turn around at this point, it is an instant game over. After multiple failed runs, I’d had enough and this was the point where I just needed a little bit of an arrow pointing at the rival car to at least give me a clue what to do! Your car also has a turbo feature which you unlock after a while, but use it too much and your taxi overheats resulting in an instant game over. Similarly, take too many hits from traffic or scenery and you meet a similar fate.

It is no secret that here on the Junkyard, I possess a sadistic pleasure in exploring the “trainwreck” titles that found themselves onto the Dreamcast. Whilst I was able to find some positives from Taxi 2, I found it so incredibly dull that it is impossible to recommend. I’ll probably go back at least once more just to say that I’ve beaten all of the missions that the game has to offer, but beyond that there is absolutely no depth or replayability on offer.

Due to its single-territory release, the PAL copy of Taxi 2 has become one of the rarer ones for collectors to find, with current prices around the £100-mark for a complete boxed copy. Please don’t be tempted to pay this and instead source Pascarella’s English translation just to scratch that curiosity itch and play through all of the missions before never booting it up again. At least this way you can laugh along with the hilarious dialogue and have a good understanding of what is actually happening.

As a closing comment, I can’t help but wonder if there were any poor little French boys or girls who’d asked for the rather sublime Crazy Taxi 2 for a birthday or Christmas present, only to find Taxi 2 wrapped up instead. 

Sacrebleu!

I recently streamed Taxi 2 over on Twitch. You can rewatch it here.



5 comments:

Tom Charnock said...

Great write up James, and an equally great stream! My knowledge of the Tax franchise is limited although I was aware of its popularity in France (actually because of the existence of this game prompting me to investigate the source material back in the day). I'm pretty sure I've endured the Hollywood remake starring Queen Latifah too, but it appears my memory has wiped most of the details. Funny, that!

Lewis Cox said...

Great piece! Regardless of the game’s quality, it’s still a tiny fascinating part of the Dreamcast history.

🚕🔥🔥🔥🔥

DCGX said...

And yet, I still wish I hadn't sold my original copy.

Jaz said...

Not surprised - price will only go up!

Vince said...

I'm glad I was able to help on this project. I watched the junkyard's stream and I can't believe the game is actually worse than I imagined. It could have been a fun movie tie-in kind of thing, not Goldeneye 64 but at least solid, and it wasn't..

The Taxi series was a big success in the early 00's in France and I do remember watching Taxi 2 at the cinema. There are 4 Taxi movies in total, the original concept is from Luc Besson (the Fifth Element anyone) but by the mid-2000s the actor playing the taxi driver was already more famous for his criminal record than his acting career..