It’s hard to understate just how much of an impact Crazy Taxi made when it first hit arcades back in early 1999. Developed by Sega’s legendary AM3 team, the game was an instant hit with players of all ages thanks to its easy-to-grasp mechanics and untouchable style. It spawned countless home console ports, sequels, and mobile phone variants in the years following its release. The concept proved popular enough that rival studios cashed in with their own variants, most notably The Simpsons: Road Rage. That particular project was so close to Crazy Taxi that Sega filed suit against Electronic Arts for patent infringement in a case that was later settled out of court.
The folks at Team6 Game Studios have decided to revive this style of game in the form of Taxi Chaos. It shares much of the same foundational DNA as Crazy Taxi, including some notable enhancements and omissions. Ultimately, Taxi Chaos aims to cash in on nostalgia for the legendary arcade classic but falls short in so many areas that it fails to inspire excitement and, most likely, the ire of Sega’s legal department.
Nothing changes cause it's all the same…
Taxi Chaos drops players into a fictionalized recreation of New York City. This is particularly fitting, as the town is known for its abundance of cabs and plethora of potential fares. It also served as the backdrop for both of the fictional cities in Crazy Taxi 2. Taxi Chaos draws heavily on that sequel for the larger chunk of its gameplay mechanics, including the cab jumping ability.
At its core, players are tasked with picking up fares spread throughout the city and delivering them to their destinations as fast as possible, with the potential for bonus cash payouts for earning style points. Narrowly dodging or jumping cars in traffic is the easiest way to earn these bonuses.
Taxi Chaos offers only two drivers, Vinny and Cleo. Vinny is your typical Italian stereotype driver who has years of experience navigating the gridlock. Cleo is presented as a young up-and-comer who often speaks like a Youtuber. Each has multiple lines of dialogue that play in conversation with various fares and offer some hints at personality, but nothing substantial.
Unlike Crazy Taxi, the available cabs are not bound to specific characters. Either Vinny or Cleo can make use of the vehicles and additional rides can be unlocked by completing specific challenges such as delivering a fixed number of fares or traveling a set distance through the city. The cabs offer some variance in handling and speed, which is the only real variety in gameplay offered for those who have aspirations of hanging in for the long ride. Using a map based on New York City also limits the potential for fun due to its flat geography. Crazy Taxi’s choice to stylize San Francisco and its varying elevations was a huge boon to the gameplay. The endless flat grid of Taxi Chaos fails to inspire.
At the outset, players can make use of the King Vic, a cab that resembles a combination of a late-90s BMW M3 coupe and a Fox-body Mustang. The next ride, the 55 Tocsin, bears a strong resemblance to the mid-50s Chevrolet sedans that most people think of when you mention a New York City cab. Other models resemble classic muscle, modern super, or iconic cab styles. The unlockable cabs are materially better than the early set, meaning you will need to complete tougher challenges. I would have preferred the ability to independently level each cab.
You pick up fares by driving into highlighted circles and race towards the destination shown by the overhead indicator. The game offers a Pro Mode that removes the indicator and requires cabbies to memorize the city layout for any hope of success. The individual fares are incredibly nondescript outside of a few special examples. These special fares have small narratives that can be advanced by shuttling them around town.
The fares will talk with Vinny or Cleo, though the dialogue is repeated so often that it becomes grating on the nerves. Early in my playthrough, I picked up a lady who had an incredibly thick northern Minnesota accent and spoke about how she was looking forward to retiring to an old folks home. The very next fare I picked up was a very young woman with dyed red hair that delivered the exact same dialogue, except in a different accent. At first, I thought the game was using pitch-shifting to offer fare variety, but it sounded like the lines were read by an entirely different person. I felt like I heard this particular anecdote hundreds of times.
The city itself is incredibly barren. It doesn’t quite feel like I Am Legend, but it's not that far off. The people you do encounter will attempt to dive out of your way like in Crazy Taxi, except they all share the same odd animation where they tumble forward without bending their knees. They all kind of look like bowling pins being flipped and most of them make no noise. The city is oddly silent much of the time, lacking any ambiance players may expect of a city modeled after The Big Apple. No one yells at you when you smash into their car. Chaos is likely the last word I’d use to describe the proceedings.
The music is also a major disappointment. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting to hear Offspring or Bad Religion, but the odd doctor’s office/electronica combo on offer feels incredibly out of place. The game got a patch while I was playing that added in an array of rock-style tracks, but they all feel as bland as the music they were supplementing. The entire game suffers from this off-putting lack of cohesion. It clearly has all the ingredients of an appetizing meal, but what comes out of the oven resembles burnt roadkill.
Graphically, it looks better than Crazy Taxi on technical merits but falls short on style. Everything other than the cabs themselves is as bland as can be. Some objects are cartoonishly bright and colorful, while others portray a more realistic tone, leading to a visual mess. The frame rate also dipped while I played and random points, which was disappointing considering how bland the presentation is.
The same old cycle’s gonna start again…
While some additions to the old formula provide value, particularly the ability to leap onto buildings to shave time on fares and online leaderboards, falling short on all the other parts of the experience drags the entire game down. The lack of Crazy Box-style minigames further reduces any replay value. Crazy Taxi succeeded by offering players the feeling of chaos and excitement, either through its then-novel gameplay mechanics or its untouchable sense of style. Taxi Chaos brings neither to the table and offers only minimal appeal to folks who might have missed all the hoopla twenty years ago. 3/10 beaded seat covers
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game. The game key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. Taxi Chaos is now available for PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
- Cabs not tied to drivers
- Shortcuts can be taken over some buildings
- Online leaderbaords
- Lacks all of the style of games it imitates
- World feels quiet and empty
- Music is out of place
- Dialogue is repetitive to the point of inducing stress
- Extremely limited in modes or replayability
Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Taxi Chaos review: Extremely light on the chaos
Another disappointing attempt to recreate Crazy Taxi magic. Bummer.