|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Slick Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 10, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
It's been about two decades since top-down racers peaked in popularity, and we can't remember one capturing our attention since the underappreciated 1993 classic Rock N' Roll Racing. Slick Entertainment hopes to change that with their XBLA title Scrap Metal. At 1200 points ($15) it's probably a bit overpriced (we think 800 points/$10 would be about right), and there's not much that's new or innovative about it, but it's a fun way to waste a few weekend afternoons.
For the most part, Scrap Metal keeps to the Rock N' Roll Racing formula quite well. You work your way through a series of races, doing your best to take the corners tightly and gun down your enemies with the weapons mounted on your car. As you win races, you earn money that you can use to upgrade your cars' speed, handling, and firepower.
The game updates top-down racing in only one important way. Newcomers to the genre are often frustrated by its clumsy steering setup, which has players press right to make their vehicles turn right and vice-versa. The problem is that when your vehicle is heading toward the screen, you have to press right to make your vehicle head toward the left. Scrap Metal offers this setup as an option for retro gamers and those with steering-wheel peripherals, but by default, you simply press the direction you want your vehicle to go, and it goes there. You don't even need to press a separate button to accelerate. That's a big step forward in terms of accessibility.
There are some smaller changes as well. The developers worked in a few newer event types (demolition derbies, elimination races, one-on-one boss races, etc.), and gave players the option to reset their cars when they drive too far off the track. They also designed courses that make players run into cross traffic as much as humanly possible, added online multiplayer and leaderboards, and half-heartedly threw in some achievements.
We're just fine with the fact that Scrap Metal isn't that innovative. So long as you don't expect too much from the game, you'll have a lot of fun. We do have a few small complaints, however.
First of all, it's far too hard to manage your collection of cars. You unlock new vehicles frequently by destroying them (also called turning them into "Scrap Metal"; there's a large selection, a weird mix of everything from hot rods to bulldozers), but you can keep only four of them in your garage at once. Meanwhile, the cars you unlock are usually superior to the ones you already have, and whenever you want to use a new car, you have to send an old one back to the junkyard - along with all the upgrades you purchased for it. The car-selection process would have been far less frustrating if you unlocked fewer cars, or if you were allowed to keep a significantly higher number of them upgraded and on hand.
We were also a little disappointed in the weapons. Whereas Rock N' Roll Racing kept things simple (there were three types of weapons, one for each type of car), Scrap Metal pulls out all the stops. Here, cars come equipped with machine guns, shotguns, flamethrowers, grenade launchers, lasers, and even side-mounted chainsaws and hood-mounted circular-saw blades ("can openers"). Since you can only keep four cars handy, it would be nice if all these weapons worked in pretty much any situation, but that's simply not the case. The grenade launcher and saws, for example, don't help much in standard races. The grenades don't fly far enough in front of your car, and the saws require you to get too close to do damage.