Speedrunning My Favorite Video Game Was Surprisingly Difficult

GIF: Syscom / Midas Interactive / Kotaku

I’m not a speed runner. In fact, I never loved a video game enough to try to run it until recently, when I discovered the strangeness of PlayStation 2. X-treme Express. But after almost a week of seeing my promising efforts slip away at the last second and feeling my affections for the game turn sour, it’s safe to say this will be a matter of time. pm.

In case you lose it, X-treme Express Was an eccentric PS2 train racing game it might just be one of my favorite video games of all time. I like its old-fashioned presentation, I like its range of locomotives and I love its rumbling, messy, tripping racing action, far from the balloon aerodynamic action. traps are dominating the genre. It’s simple, X-treme Express It was a really fun time that I couldn’t pass up.

Read more: Trains crash through empty worlds in my new favorite racing game

While writing my previous love letter, I discovered that the game has an entry on, the official home of the speed run leaderboard for pretty much every video game under the sun. It’s sparse, with just one full Grand Prix mode run and sporadic singles records, but it makes me think about putting my name on the lights for a game I’ve spent a lot of time in. recently.

X-treme Express speedrunning is divided into two categories: the aforementioned “Long Grand Prix”, which includes all 10 stages in the game, and “Short Grand Prix”, which requires only the completion of the first six races. I quickly realized that there was no way I would win the Long Grand Prix record from Welsh speed racers match— Who used to be undisputed champion of the X-treme Express since 2017 — without some serious training. But maybe I can do something about the Short Grand Prix.

That category, you see, currently has no entries.

“If I only participate in a Short Grand Prix,” I thought to myself, “I would instantly become a world record holder by default. Freaky fun, Ian. “

A speedrunner is born

So began my life as a speedrunner. I got X-treme Express ready for recording (the leaderboard requires video proof), learned the basics of a speedrunning program called LiveSplit to accurately track my time ( thank you, Linkus7), and sat down for what I assumed would be a brief evening of casual attempts at world records. Less than a week later, I still haven’t completed a successful run.

X-treme Express strict about what it takes to “beat” a race. The first six stages of the Short Term Grand Prix require you to finish in the top three to qualify for the next leg. First, this is not a problem; You simply outsmart your opponents and outpace them to the point where you just have to rely on your own skills to win. Don’t make it hard for once and you’ll be fine. Easy as pie.

But in later races, rival trains are more aware of messing up your balance, sending you off track. One small mistake can mean the difference between moving to the next stage and having to try again, resulting in a few minutes of lost time on a speed run that is almost impossible to make up for.

Maybe it’s my obsession, a bit of perfectionism, or just the inherent “complexity” of achieving a world record in an untested category, but I can’t bring myself to think about it. submit to a glaring flaw X-treme Express run in which I lost and had to retry a level. While I’m sure I still have a lot to learn about the game’s unique mechanics, it’s kind of weird not trying in the best possible time, even if my end goal is just have something to post on the leaderboard. Every night before I go to bed, I warm up carefully X-treme Express, tried running a few times, and finally ended up going to bed without anything I thought was worth sending.

I noticed my attitude towards X-treme Express started going in a worse direction. Where it used to be something I would use to decompress after a long day of people telling me I was in a concentration camp to write fiction. a pretty basic one Persona story, my quick runs make it feel like a chore. I didn’t unlock new trains or challenge myself with challenges, but started doing something else. More than just 30-40 minutes wasted, each failed run was a dagger that gradually took away my interest in the quirks of the game I once loved. No fault of X-treme Express by itself, I’m just not having fun anymore, and that terrifies me.

As silly as this sounds, it feels like moving in with a significant other Street too fast. Absence makes the heart weaker and all that.

End of the road

Realizing what was happening, I immediately stopped my little adventure in speed. With so much weight on me these days, I don’t want to see X-treme Express become another object of dissatisfaction in my life.

As of this writing, I have not played X-treme Express over the next few days, and I began to regain that familiar sense of longing to navigate its rails and find optimal braking strategies, without any intention of beating the game as quickly as possible. the better.

Did I just learn something? Running fast is hard. Of course, I already knew that, but my brief experience has helped me understand and appreciate the job of simply beating a game as quickly as possible. While it took half an hour when canceled X-treme Express Running feels like crap, it’s nothing compared to the hours-long efforts of established pacers in games so optimized that even a split second misses. can also end someone’s best chance.

Someone else will have to achieve the Short Grand Prix record in X-treme Express. That’s not something I’m concerned with myself at the moment. Maybe at some point in the future, if I find a new game that I feel compelled to run faster, I’ll be in a better space. Or, at least, more willing to put that hypothetical game up for the beast of obsessive research, repeated practice, and merciless reset. I’m happy to leave the quick run to the experts. I respect it, but it’s not for me.

That said, I heard there’s a cat-themed train hidden somewhere in X-treme Express, it’s a challenge that sounds right up my alley.

Huynh Nguyen

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