SYSTEM
PSX

PRICE
$44.99

DEVELOPER
Pitbull Syndicate

PUBLISHER
Infogrames

RELEASE
09/99

Demolition Racer Review

By: John Doe


Following in the footsteps of those great Destruction Derby games in the early to mid years of the PlayStation, Demolition Racer tries to rekindle the spark. Without a doubt this game carries the torch and does the genre proud, but it's not without a few problems. Thankfully the pros out weigh the cons and will make smash and crash racing fans happy again.


Highs:
Lows:

What did you do today? If you are over 16 and not completely useless to society, chances are you probably drove somewhere today. Maybe you went to the mall, maybe you drove home from work or maybe you just went for what you thought would be a leisurely drive; that is until you met up with that moron in the car in front of you. You know the one; the guy who couldn't find the gas pedal if you nailed his foot to it. So you are stuck behind this old fart while you slowly start to boil. Then you notice his left turn signal has been on for ten minutes and the "I Love My Dog" bumper sticker. You know you should be more tolerant and that acts of road rage are increasing at an alarming rate. So what do you do? You come home, throw in Demolition Racer and proceed to do to everyone what you wish you could have done ten minutes ago. What a great way to unwind. I highly recommend it.

Right off the bat this game put me in a good mood. The old 50's driving school intro that greeted me after booting up was a treat. Make sure you watch it; some people spent a lot of time making it, so please don't just brush past it. Although this game looks a little short on modes at first, they are just a little buried. You can chose from Single Race, Demolition League and Two Player modes. The Single Race holds five different racing variations: Demolition (damaging others earns points; the driver with the most points wins), The Chase (avoid contact with others, get to the finish line first), Chicken (cars are coming from all directions, preserve yours to win), Last Man Standing (beat the tar out of everyone in this bowl event) and Suicide (smash yourself to bits first). 10 different tracks await as well as 3 Bowl events (a circular arena). Demolition League is the championship mode which allows you to continue if you obtain a certain amount of points. In all there are 5 different leagues: Rookie (4 races: place 5th to continue), Semi-Pro (6 races: place 3rd to continue), Pro (8 races: place 1st to continue), Endurance (10 races: place 1st to continue and Arena (3 back-to-back demolition bowls: place 1st to continue). Two Player mode offers 6 different games and the option of either a horizontal or vertical split-screen view. The 6 modes of play are: Team Demolition (two against all: scores are combined), Head 2 Head (you versus that idiot, player 2), Chase (time is the only thing that matters, get to the finish line), Chicken (both players race in the opposite direction), Last Man Standing (it's come down to this; destroy your best friend, then date his mom) and finally Suicide (first player to commit vehicular euthanasia wins!).

For those who want even more arcade type extras, DR also provides a few power-ups on the side of the road. Boxes are littered around each course that if used properly can turn the tables in your favor. These power-ups provide increased car health, extra points, invincibility for a short time and even damage to your vehicle. It's important to know when to take advantage of each box.

The racing environments go a long way to make this game enjoyable. The tracks are a decent length and quite imaginative. You'll be racing through a parking structure, aircraft carrier, industrial area, a freeway under construction...you name it. The track layout for the most part is very good, but on some you'll become annoyed with the amount of sharp turns that tend to slow down the pace. The bowl arenas are all done well, except that it would have been nice to have seen more of your surroundings. Getting blind-sided without expecting it is the norm in these races, due to the limited viewpoint.

From a graphic standpoint, Demolition Racer is no slouch. It moves a lot of vehicles (the same vehicles, however) around with nary any slowdown. The framerate is sweet, allowing you to feel the speed on long straight stretches of road. The real-time damage on the cars is decent but doesn't get as ugly as Driver. You are even allowed to change the two color schemes of your vehicle as well as add some preset logos. It may not be earth shattering but it is a decent little extra. I wonder when a company is going to offer a create-a-vehicle feature that is as in-depth as WWF Attitude's create-a-player features? That would be great.

As each car has it's own set of handling variables, they all drive differently. I'm happy to report that the control is mostly excellent, albeit a tad too "floaty". Of course the car physics are nowhere near realistic, so don't be expecting Gran Turismo.You have your choice between using the left analog control for steering and the right analog control for gas and brake, but I just can't get used to that. I prefer to use the X button for gas so that means that I'm limited to the digital control. However I found this works better than the analog control which feels a little loose for my tastes.

Musically this game has some very good tracks and some ho-hum ones too. Fear Factory is just one of the bands featured. The sound effects are a mixed bag. I found the collision sound effects almost non-existent at times, especially when ramming another car. Even cranking the sound effects did little to improve the situation. Often times I had to rely on visual rather than aural input, to confirm my bang-ups. There is definitely an "oomph factor" missing in the collision aspect of this game. When I smash my fender into someone's driver-side door, I want to hear that sickening crunch of metal. Unfortunately, the collisions seem to have about as much impact as a pillow fight.

Complaint Dept. This game needs a better point rating system. It's all over the place. It almost seems to flip a virtual coin when deciding how many points to give you after a successful smack. Good luck trying to earn proper points in a 16 car pile-up. The system seems to shut down with all of the cars involved, and spits out points randomly in situations like that. Secondly, the tracks although done well, are sometimes too expansive. When there is too much distance between racers it's hard to have a balanced and exciting game, aside from pulling over to the side and waiting for the pack to catch up just so you can start smashing cars and earning points. If you don't earn enough points you won't win. You don't have to come in first to win, but it sure helps you earn points. My last gripe is with the game putting all the same cars on the track to race against. What's the point of earning a great car if everyone else is going to have one too? I know that having 16 of the same car on the track, makes the CPU work a lot less harder, but c'mon fellas.

At the end of the day, Demolition Racer ultimately succeeds because of a few factors: Track design, fast framerate, good control and a wide variety of gameplay modes. For their first attempt at a game of this type, Pitbull Syndicate has done a nice job. They've introduced some innovations that should become staples of the demolition style racing genre. There are a few problem areas but most will weigh the cons against the pros and decide that this game is worthy of some quality time. It's good, but falls shy of being great. That's why "next time" was invented. Destruction Derby fans eager for the next installment which is in development, should definitely check Demolition Racer out.

OVERALL
7.0

GRAPHICS
7.5

CONTROL
8.0

MUSIC/FX
5.0

FRUSTRATION
4.0

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