Test Drive: Eve of Destruction Review

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Publisher: Atari
Developer: Monster Games

Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox
Reviewed on PlayStation 2

Test Drive: Eve of Destruction takes the Test Drive franchise in a new direction, moving from road races to no-holds-barred, collision-friendly racing and demolition derby-style events.

Kyle Ackerman

NASCAR is unbelievably popular, and IndyCars can go hundreds of miles per hour, but in both cases, if one car nudges another it can end in disqualification and a pair of fireballs bouncing across the track. For all the drama and skill involved in pure racing, there is a huge soft spot in my heart for games that let you indulge in demolition-style racing. And demolition racing is what Test Drive: Eve of Destruction offers in abundance.

As in many current sports games, Test Drive lets you live the glamorous lifestyle of its heroes. Take on a name like Cletus, settle into your single-wide in a Dust Bowl-like landscape, grab the first gutted compact car chassis you can find that still has a working engine, and start your racing (and smashing) career. Race yokels hanging out in the local diner parking lot for cash, and once you have enough cash for something that can cross the finish line, head out to your first Eve of Destruction.

The Eve Of Destruction

What is an Eve of Destruction? A set of races and demolition events in which ploughing into the other racers is better than driving fast and clean. Place highly in the Eve's individual events to earn points, and by winning Eves, improve your ranking among the top 100 Eve of Destruction drivers. One thing that makes Test Drive so much fun is the sheer variety of events. Most Eves will fall back on one or two of the standard races, but there are plenty of other events to keep you interested.

Basic races include the Jump Race (in which the course will have large ramps) and the Last Man Race (in which the last car in the pack is eliminated every lap), but there are plenty of great variations. The Whip Around Race has you reversing direction every time you cross the finish line, turning it into something like the Suicide Race, in which half the drivers go one way around the track and the other half go the opposite direction. Test Drive is worth it for moments like when you're leading a Figure-8 Jump Race, and you collide in mid-air with another car jumping perpendicular to yours, do a double barrel roll, and land heavily on your tires – keeping the lead.

There's also a selection of demolition and specialty events that break from conventional racing. There are Demolition Derby and Push Off matches (a Demolition Derby-like event in which cars can be pushed off an edge), but there are also events like Red Rover (in which all the cars race from one box drawn on the ground to another) and the Point-to-Point Race, in which you rush to touch every small circle on an open field, colliding with other drivers trying to do the same. Modes like the Gauntlet race are just plain fun – you drive a hearse (complete with coffin in the back) and try to complete five full laps while every other driver on the course tries to prevent you from crossing the finish line by smashing you into scrap.

A Steady Supply Of Cars To Crash

The game definitely allows fun to trump realism, but who would want to play a demolition derby game in which your car lost all handling after the first collision or solid smash into a wall. That said, the collision physics are realistic enough to feel right, and it's awesome to take a corner fast by caroming off other cars. Bales of hay, orange construction pylons, barrels and tires will all stay on the track where they were last knocked over, and can be used to slow down the competition. And while there are solid obstacles to push your opponents into, there are also trailers with ramps that can send other racers flying off the track.

Test Drive's career mode is a bit more role-playing-game-like than the typical driving game. Yes, there are new cars and car upgrades to purchase, but the game is presented in such a way that there is a bit of world between race events. You can hang out and watch the chickens in front of your trailer, drive around your dusty neighborhood looking for pick-up races at the Diner or Troy's trailer (for some extra cash), or practice driving in a big area that looks like a gravel pit. When you set out for an Eve, you'll always find a pick-up race on the way. You do have to pick a name from a list, but this allows the announcers to call you by name. Oddly, though, the announcer sometimes leaves a lot of time after saying your name, so when I played, I often heard "Cletus ... ... ... is hotter than a summer day in Hell!" That aside, the announcer is a nice touch, giving colorful commentary and letting spectators know to hang around for the next event.

It's also nice that the game distinguishes between repairable and permanent damage – you'll need to keep getting new cars, as permanent (unrepairable) damage keeps racking up with use. Usually you'll have purchased a better car before this is a really significant problem, but it's good to have a few cars around just in case. After a few races in career mode, you'll be able to head to the garage and create customizable paint jobs for your vehicle. The garage gives you a basic spray paint tool, letting you paint each individual panel of your car, scrawling phrases or painting designs as intricate as your joystick skills allow.

If Only You Could Race People Online

The first time through the career mode, the AI isn't necessarily challenging when it comes to racing. It does pretty well when the drivers are trying to be aggressive and take you out of the race, but usually the game compensates by starting you at the back of the pack in every race. It gets tough when you make side bets against another racer and his posse. Then, the car that bet you will go racing off while his cronies try to box you in or run you off the road. Clear the pack in a decent car and you are usually home free. Of course, play long enough and you can unlock tougher modes that present more challenge. Along the same lines, it's worth getting to the top ten ranking. While you will probably have the fastest (and most maneuverable) car by that point, in the final events the other racers have comparable cars, making them more challenging. Plus, if you get to the final event, you get to race school buses in a gravel pit.

There are other race modes that don't show up during a full career, but can be played by choosing single races or dares. These include the Chain Race (where one car drives with another car chained behind) and Detention (in which you drive a school bus and try to eliminate every car in the race), and multiplayer events like Car Soccer (yes, there is a giant soccer ball) and Capture the Flag. If you are out-of-touch with your inner redneck, you may be shocked to see the real-life videos unlocked as you progress throughout the game. The videos show nearly every game mode in a real venue, with real racers smashing boat trailers or driving in a Chain Race. The videos are just plain entertaining, and nicely complement your progress in the career mode.

The soundtrack is limited, but highly appropriate. While you will eventually tire of the repeated tracks, the music is aptly chosen, and the song Same Direction, in which the chorus is "Because right or wrong, we're all going in the same direction" seems particularly appropriate. The one thing the game is sorely lacking is online multiplayer. You can play with up to four players using a multitap, but you can't play online. (The Xbox version doesn't support online play, either.) Test Drive is a great game to pull out if you have a few friends over, but online multiplayer would have made it worth keeping close to the console, to pop in for regular, online smash-'em-up racing. Even without online multiplayer, it's still worth checking out Test Drive: Eve of Destruction if you have an appetite to smash and race. In the immortal words of one driver interviewed in the videos, "Who don't like destruction?"

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 8, 2004 8:54 PM.

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