Scrap Metal Review for Xbox 360

Scrap Metal Review for Xbox 360

Fast Combat

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.

Scrap Metal screenshot

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.

Scrap Metal screenshot

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.

Scrap Metal screenshot

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.

Also, some of the modes are a little gimmicky, particularly the ones that don’t involve racing at all, but instead focus solely on destruction. These are a lot like Mario Kart’s Battle Mode; they’re fun for very young kids, and an adult will find them amusing for a few minutes, but in the end, they’re just kind of silly. To make matters worse, you have to complete levels based on these ideas to progress in the single-player career mode.

Scrap Metal screenshot

Of course, old-school games are always the most fun with a few friends. You can play Scrap Metal with up to three other people locally, fighting each other in all the game modes that are available in single-player. This offers hours of shoot-’em-up racing action, though we found the online play a little less entertaining. It’s handled well on a technical level, but there’s such a thing as too many gamers with high-powered weapons on the same race track.

The presentation is far from great, but it’s acceptable. The graphics are a nice update to the 8- and 16-bit visuals we’re used to seeing in top-down racers, even if they’re nowhere near cutting-edge, and the race tracks have a good variety of environments. There are seven towns to race in, each with a series of races leading up to a boss. You can customize your many cars in countless ways, from paint to decals to accessories. The cartoonish-looking boss avatars and cheesy written dialogue are off-putting, but they don’t pop up enough to get in the way of the game too much. The audio provides exactly what it should: energetic rock music, loud engine noises, and no announcer. Yes, Rock N’ Roll Racing had a great announcer in “Loudmouth Larry,” but we can’t think of another racer, top-down or otherwise, that’s had one since.

Finally, a quick note on a bonus feature: Scrap Metal has a 3-D display mode that’s compatible with all TVs (and old-school cardboard glasses). While it makes everything “pop” a lot more, it’s not exactly a game-changing experience. Nonetheless, we’re glad that some developers are working with 3-D in ways that don’t require 1080p resolution (as, for example, the Avatar game did).

Scrap Metal doesn’t top Rock N’ Roll Racing for pure fun, but it’s really the only option top-down-racing fans really have these days. Neither Rock N’ Roll Racing nor its well-known predecessor, R.C. Pro-Am, is available for download on any of the three current consoles. Taking that into account, Scrap Metal is a decent if slightly overpriced buy.

They sure beat the 8- and 16-bit graphics we’re used to seeing in top-down racers, and the 3-D effects are nice, but a lot of XBLA games look better than this. 4.8 Control
Finally, a top-down racer without an antiquated steering system. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Loud engines, rock music, no announcer. That’s about all we need from this game. 2.8 Play Value
The genre’s classics were more fun, and you have to play irritating “demolition derbies” to progress through the single-player mode. Also, it’s overpriced. But, it’s more fun than nothing, which is the alternative unless you still have a 16-bit console lying around. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Racing action: It’s fast-paced, top-down racing action with beautiful HD graphics and fantastic racing physics.
  • Story mode: Take on all the cunning villains and defeat the tricky bosses.
  • Awesome, customizable vehicles: Drive everything from muscle cars to monster trucks to air boats and even tanks.
  • Multiplayer: Try split-screen or Xbox LIVE multiplayer modes.
  • 3-D support: Scrap Metal has full anaglyph 3-D support.

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