Review: Destruction Derby Arenas (PS2)

Destruction Derby Arenas
Platform: PS2
Rating: Teen (although what there is in the game that gives it a Teen rating is beyond me)
Publisher: Gathering
Developer: Studio 33
Release Date: 04/01/04

One of the very first games that I ever played on the first Playstation was a game called Destruction Derby. It blew me away, I hadn’t played that many games at the time and the graphics were just stunning to me. Besides you could smash cars into each other which is a well proven source of enjoyment. Look it all the people that slow down on the highway each day just to gawk at a car crash even if it’s not blocking traffic. Hell, look at NASCAR you know people tune in waiting for the pile up. Four years later I purchased my own Playsation and forgot about Destruction Derby in the midst of such games like Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider (cue the wretching noises). Man have times changed since then.

Given all of that when I heard that a NEW Destruction Derby game was coming out I got all excited. There had been a lot of progress in the almost decade since I had played the original and in that time of car physics, handling, not to better explosions. They had made sequel that I had missed out on with more modes, and now there was going to be an online mode! I mean surely given the advancements in the racing genre in general this game would be ten times better than I remembered the original to be, right?

I was wrong.

Story/Game Modes:

This isn’t a game you’d expect much of a story from, I mean it’s a racing game where you can smash into each other. That’s what I thought as I was playing through the single player game and hadn’t seen a shred of story in relation to what I was doing and was all prepared to grade this area based on the game modes like most sport games. But I noticed that when I highlighted a character an alert on the bottom of the screen informed me that I could press circle to view each driver’s personal history. I did not notice it any of the previous times I had ever played and really can’t remember if it’s even mentioned in the manual. So I pressed circle.

There must be one repressed writer working at Studio 33. Each character not only has a detailed history of how they made their way up (or down) the racing circuit to end up competing in the Destruction Derby, but also reasons why the driver is motivated to race, rivalries and alliances that exist between them and other drivers are all in their histories. It seriously took me longer to read six or seven of the bios than to complete the single player mode. Also whenever you complete the Championship mode the game gives you more of how the characters story turns out. While the stories themselves aren’t exactly novel material they all do a decent job giving life to all of the drivers and are one of the better crafted parts of the game. It’s a shame they couldn’t find a way to implement those stories into the actual game other than a sidenote at the end of the championship mode as it makes all the effort for whoever wrote them essentially worthless. Way to go Studio 33!

As for the game modes they did something so completely stupid that everyone who actually bought this game should have the right to kick them in the testicles. Hard.

There are less modes than ANY OTHER Destruction Derby game.

Offline that is, which makes it even more inexcusable. Online there are several modes of play, two different types of racing, two different types of tag games, and two different kinds of destruction bowl games.

Offline there are two. Yep, just two.

Even the original Destruction Derby game had 3 modes. I have no idea why these modes are only available online except to give the finger at everyone who purchases this game and does not have the network adaptor OR broadband internet. What sucks even more is that the modes offline aren’t that great. You’ve got these modes both on and offline:
Wrecking Racing- You races for points, whoever has the most points at the end wins. You gain points by smashing into other cars and objects and also by placing well in the race. Concentrating on just winning the race or just smashing into cars will not work; you’ve got to balance them both. The problem with this is that occasionally you’ll flip or smash into another car and will not get any points for it.

Destruction Bowl- Smash the hell out of each other for the most points within a time limit while using different powerups scattered around the bowl. Since it’s based on points you respawn every time you get destroyed. They must have a different understanding of what a Destruction Bowl is than I do because I thought it was where you smash into each other till one car is left.

Online:
Speedway- Regular racing with the option to have powerups on or off. Goal is to place first.

Last Man Standing- Destruction Bowl with no powerups and last person whose car is still running wins. Now that’s what I’m talking about! Sadly only available if you play online.

Capture the Trophy- You try to be the last person holding the trophy.

Pass the Bomb- Reverse of Capture the Trophy. You get a bomb and if you’re the last one holding when the time runs out BOOM! While holding the bomb you get more points however, and I never lost any from exploding so either I glitched or the best way to play the game IS to hold onto the bomb. Now I’m confused.

Offline only:
Championship mode: The single player mode. You race 4 Wrecking Races then proceed to a Destruction Bowl, if you beat those 4 tracks and the bowl, you unlock 4 more tracks and one more bowl and on again till all of the12 tracks and all 4 bowls are unlocked.

Surprised that they actually had a story in the game, but it was implemented like it was a second thought and just barely tacked on. If you don’t play online then you’re stuck with only two modes, and neither of them are that great.

3/10

Graphics:

Hey something hasn’t changed that much in the last 8 years! It’s not that bad, but the graphics look like something from either the last generation of Playstation games or of the first generation of PS2 games. For the love of god don’t play this game after playing ANY of the recent racing games. Or after any games released in the last two years. Blocky cars, uninspired themed tracks, and worst of all when a car explodes it isn’t impressive visually. There is some slowdown every now and then but I didn’t notice it much while I was playing.

The collision damage looks okay except for one major problem; it doesn’t effect your handling in anyway whatsoever. Got a missing tire? No problem, these super cars mock such puny things as tires. There isn’t very much detail to the collision damage, you’ll find better in Grand Theft Auto than in this game.

All the tracks and bowls have some kind of theme to them such as a construction site, or airplane hangar, for the most part there isn’t anything impressive about any of them with the exception of a lot of destructible objects. Although occasionally I’d get messed up by crashing into something that looked like I could crash through it. The best one of these is a B-Movie Destruction Bowl with Mecha Godzilla on one side and Mecha King Ghidorah on the other shooting out flames. Not because it’s particularly detailed (it’s not), I just love Godzilla.

The only real good comment I can say about the graphics is that they hold up well online, even with 20 people playing at once in the Destruction Bowl. Maybe that’s why they decided to settle with these graphics. They could’ve just punched me in the eye and taken my money instead.

4/10 (For a PS2 game)and only this high because they had Godzilla

Sound:

Don’t even put this game into your system before you mute the sound on your TV. What kind of music would you expect a game that focuses on cars smashing into each other? Rock? Metal? Ska? Something like that? How about Muzak? If you guessed the latter you’d be correct, these cars smash into each other to something resembling stuff I’ve heard in elevators. Really crappy elevators with broken buttons, ripped up walls and something that smells vaguely of cheese but is most likely not cheese. Those kind of elevators.

The sound effects are dull. When the cars smash into each other it sounds like a weak thud. Where are the loud sounds or glass breaking and steel being smashed in? All of the sounds of the car engines during a race turn into on long irritating hum noise with no break till the race is over.

As if that wasn’t enough to already take pencils to your eardrums this game has possibly the WORST ANNOUNCING EVER. Take every telemarketer that has ever gotten on your nerves, ball them up into one voice, then have it shout something insipid before each race and BAM! There’s your announcer. This has to be intentional as I can’t imagine ANYONE doing QA for this game and saying ‘That announcer sure has a nice voice that was my favorite part!’. Nevermind, considering the rest of the game that could well have been exactly how the QA testing went.

1/10

Controls:

Do you know how to use the X button? Can you use two buttons at once? Then you too can master this game!

I’ve got no problem with simple controls. I like it when games like this are easy to pick up, my biggest issue with the controls is that no matter what car you choose all of the cars essentially handle the exact same. There is slightly more control when you get the handling of a car upgraded in the Championship mode, but it didn’t feel much different to me. If you get damaged, like I mentioned above the car still handles the same

Not much else to say about the controls really. You drive into stuff.

5/10

Balance:

Non existent offline. None of the offline modes are balanced. Wrecking Racing tries to balance the fact that you can win almost all of the races through points by just driving into cars all the time by just not giving you points sometimes. Even then you’ll quickly develop a pattern of racing and wrecking that will work for that course every time you play. Once you’ve got it down it becomes insanely easy to win. This mode and Destruction Bowl are power up dependant so if you know where the power ups are the game becomes even easier to beat. There are no other difficulty levels.

2/10

Replayability:

Offline- This game is super easy once you get the hang of it. There are no other difficulty levels and chances are you’ll unlock a lot of the hidden drivers and all of the tracks the first time through Championship Mode. There are only 2 modes for offline play, and you cannot change the number of computer controlled opponents or any other factors which would’ve been welcome. There are a lot of drivers/cars to unlock, but there’s no reason to play the game again to get another car that drives a lot like every other car you’ve already unlocked.

Online- There are more modes of play but the stale gameplay creeps into here as well and chokes out most of the reason to continue playing the game online.

2/10

Originality:

It’s the first Destruction Derby game online. Yay?

6/10

Appeal:

Have you seen commercials for this game or any advertisements? I sure haven’t. The only percentage of the gaming population I can see this appealing to is the Destruction Derby fans who have broadband and play online and have heard somewhere that this game was coming out. I was one of those suckers.

Pity me.

3/10

Addictiveness:

‘So why are you trying out the Speedway mode?’ -Gamer1 online
‘Because I got bored of the Destruction Bowl after a couple of times.’ -Gamer2 online

Thank you anonymous online gamers for summing up my thoughts exactly. Offline, this game is about as addictive as watching the seconds tick by on a clock after whatever initial enjoyment that might be had passes. Online there are more modes, but that doesn’t cover up the fact that the gameplay is just bland. There’s nothing there that helps us ignore the fact that essentially what we’re doing is just bashing into each other over and over again.

1/10

Miscellaneous:

What I found to be the funniest thing about my whole experience for this game was the fact that the online set up for Destruction Derby Arenas is actually fairly well done. Compared to the last game I reviewed (Champions of Norrath if you’re keeping score) which had a half assed online set up, they have Destruction Derby set up nicely. I can’t believe that MORE attention was paid to the set up of a Destruction Derby game than to a Snowblind game. Like I said there was no real slowdown present online when I was playing it, then again there weren’t much more than 30 people playing at the time. So points for a good online set up if nothing else.

6/10

Overall:
Story: 3/10
Graphics: 4/10
Sound: 1/10
Controls: 5/10
Balance: 2/10
Replayability: 2/10
Originality: 6/10
Appeal: 3/10
Addictiveness: 1/10
Miscellaneous: 6/10

Overall: 33/100