Destruction Derby Arenas Review

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Publisher: Gathering (Take-Two Interactive)
Developer: Studio 33

Platform: PlayStation 2
Reviewed on PlayStation 2

Destruction Derby Arenas brings smash-'em-up demolition-derby-style races and arena combat to the PlayStation 2. Grab one of twenty cars and twist some steel with your front fender, online or offline.

Kyle Ackerman

Destruction Derby Arenas (DDA) feels like the developers were trying to create a killer multiplayer, online game for the PlayStation 2. Under the right circumstances, the game can be entertaining. Unfortunately, any online title requires critical mass to excel. Between the small online player base, and shortcomings in both the online and offline play modes, DDA is a passable, but uninspired, game of racing, crashing cars.

Lots of Online Play Styles, Not Many Online Players

There are many modes for online play, but if you log into the game through your PlayStation 2, you'll probably find a group playing Destruction Bowl Mode. This is your basic demolition-derby-style, where you get points by smashing other cars. The worse the damage you inflict, the more points you get. There is a Last Man Standing Mode, a variation of Destruction Bowl in which the last player alive wins. Other bowl modes include Capture the Trophy, where you win points by ramming the trophy holder's car and steal the prize. Pass Da Bomb Mode is similar, but instead of a trophy, you have a bomb that explodes after thirty seconds, so you want the bomb for as long as possible to garner points – at least until the fuse gets short. There are also two racing modes – Speedway Mode is a pure race, and in Wrecking Racing, the person with the highest point total wins. You win points for placing highly, but also for basic stunts and smashing competitors. Arcade-style physics and rapid re-spawning ensure that you aren't knocked out of a multiplayer game after one crash. Mixing and matching options for the online component (deciding if power-ups will be involved) makes for a vast array of possible online games.

Unfortunately, there aren't typically many folks online. There's often at least one good game with eight or more players, but there won't necessarily be a game or many players when you feel like going online. If you do find a game, despite all the available options, odds are you'll be playing the crowd favorite – Destruction Bowl mode. That's too bad, as other modes (particularly Pass Da Bomb) can be a lot of fun. The game supports up to twenty players simultaneously, and while I never saw more than twelve in one game, the title usually performed well. As with most titles, there is occasional lag, creating situations where you ram a car and wait a few moments before it's yanked back through the air like its on a stunt wire.

Race and Smash By Yourself, Too

Although the game was probably designed for multiplayer modes first and foremost, it's a good thing the developers tacked on a single player mode, so you can play even if no one is online, or you don't like the one game you can find. Offline, you can only play Destruction Bowl or Wrecking Racing. Unless you just want a brief spot of practice, you'll probably want to play the Championship Mode. That's a sort of "career mode," in which you take a single racer through four circuits. Each circuit involves three Wrecking Races and a Destruction Bowl. Place well in individual events and you might unlock new racers and cars.

The Championship Mode plays more like the campaign in a fighting title than a racing game. Making it through all four circuits shouldn't take much more than two hours, and once you know the tracks, it's not difficult to beat them all and unlock a brief text story about the victory. It's annoying that after every race you need to re-enter your name for the high-score table, but it's easy enough to get onto that table. Power-ups on the tracks, including exploding scenery, gripping tires and a nitrous boost, dramatically improve your performance. One cool thing is that you can win a Wrecking Race without coming in first. You can earn a lot of points by just eliminating, rather than beating, your competition. (I won a race on points by going around the first lap backwards and ramming the top racers head-on).

You Can Wreck, But You Won't Be Totaled!

The game is entertaining enough for a brief session, but doesn't (at present) have enough players to make it worthwhile online. Besides, both the online and offline portions suffer from a lack of depth in the demolition portion. A much maligned, older Xbox title that FI particularly enjoyed, despite its many shortcomings, really got demolition derby-style collisions right. Totaled! rewarded a much larger assortment of collisions and acknowledged your success vividly on the screen. In DDA, you're rewarded for crashing headlong into other cars. That's also massively damaging to your engine block, and you can easily destroy yourself trying to smash in the side of another car. DDA doesn't recognize or reward moves like slamming on the emergency brake and spinning the wheel at the last moment to whip your tail fins into the opposition. That's disappointing.

If you have half a dozen friends who all want to smash and race online, and can coordinate offline, DDA might be a worthwhile purchase. The single player game isn't compelling enough to demand a purchase on its own, and without the certainty of meeting friends online for a session of Capture the Trophy of Last Man Standing, it's hard to recommend an otherwise passable title.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on April 21, 2004 4:01 PM.

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