Test Drive: Eve of Destruction (PS2)
Platform: PS2 (also available on the Xbox)
Developer: Monster Games, Inc.
The Destruction Derby, one of the few backwater American traditions that I love. There’s something that is just fundamentally entertaining in watching cars smash into each other, preferably at high speeds. Destruction derby games used to have more of a following than they do currently since several other games have incorporated different mixtures of automotive racing and destruction against each other such as games like Burnout and the fact that there have been few quality destruction derby titles since the original batch of games. Does Test Drive: Eve of Destruction do anything to help bring quality back to the genre, or is it just another disappointment?
There is a story mode for the game in the form of a career mode. In the games career mode you start by choosing a nickname for yourself with a small variety of hick nicknames such as Cletus or Bucktooth. Once you’ve got that set up you are given the story, you are a backwoods chicken farmer living in a singlewide trailer who has just inherited a car from his grandma. You can use this car to kick off your dream, to become a demolition derby driver! At least those are realistic goals for a chicken farmer from Ashland, MN.
Wait a second…white trash, whose goal is to become a demolition derby racer who lives in Minnesota? No wonder this game struck a close cord for me.
Once you are given the reasons as to why you are going to become a demolition derby racer the game lets you drive around Ashland. You are free to drive down to the Salvage Yard to buy new (though the cars are defiantly used) cars to add to your garage or head to the Auto Shop to make adjustments to your vehicles or personalize the paint job. You can also drive to the local diner and other places and challenge other residents to races, as well as an obstacle course that has to be unlocked. The main part of the game however is to drive out of town to compete in the surrounding towns demo derbies. There is also the option to skip right to any of these places instead of driving around aimlessly.
At the events the point is to work your way up the demolition derby ladder by beating the other racers at the events (just called Eves in the game) and earning a reputation. What’s better than a reputation as a good demolition derby racer? Everything else. Winning Eves puts you higher in the rankings, you’ll start with Eves that have only 3 races than move up to five and eventually seven. You will also earn money by winning that you can spend on car repairs and other cars.
The problem with the Career mode is that it is fairly long, and while there are a ton of different races in the Eves, most of the game is still either racing or driving from point A to point B. Considering how long it’ll take to complete the Career (over ten hours) it would’ve been nice to have something to do other than roaming around Ashland between events. Personally I would’ve loved to see something like the Cribs from NFL 2K5 in this game to spend the dough earned from racing on, though instead of a house to decorate to be able to decorate the trailer with stuff such as empty beer bottle on the floor or something to that effect. Anything to mix up the gameplay. They did add several things like obstacle courses and racing other Ashland inhabitants but it’s still just driving around.
Even though it is slightly tiring after awhile the career mode is still the best career mode you will likely find in any destruction derby game out there.
The cars look good. They are nothing exceptional when compared to other racing games, though they work great for this type of game. They look like the dirty grungy broke down pieces of crap cars that they are meant to represent. They break realistically when damaged with bumpers falling off and pieces flying everywhere. I would have liked to see more pieces flying off of the cars but the damage still looks great and the camera shakes when there is heavy impact to your vehicle. The game gives you about 6 camera angles for you to view the action from your car.
Death-inducing car wrecks almost never looked so good.
The tracks are decent and are what you’d see at destruction derby, mostly dirt tracks that’ll leave you spraying clouds of dirt and are littered with hay bales, orange cones and metal barrels. They look good but aren’t visually impressive, though the game does sport a lot of tracks from separate areas that change with different race types. For example a jump course from one town will be slightly different than another town’s track, so there are a fair amount of different tracks in the game. There really isn’t much of a town for Ashland outside of the diner and the Salvage yard, not sure how much like the real town it looks like but considering the real town’s population is less than the amount of people that live within a 6 block radius from me I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how it really looked like.
The least impressive part of the game is the sense of speed. Even if you are driving as fast as your clunker can go, it never really appears that you are driving as fast at the speedometer is telling you. Also there is some occasional slowdown though I didn’t notice it very often. Overall, better than other destruction derby games and the grittiness of the graphics is in part due to the nature of the derbies, but the game doesn’t look as good compared to recent racing game releases.
The sound effects are okay but nothing special. The cars crunch and the sound of the engines sound realistic yet there’s nothing that really stands out as sounding like such an impact that it makes me cringe. When I’m driving 70 mph into another car I want it to sound like I split it in half. There is an in game announcer whose voice isn’t very obtrusive over the sound effects and that’s a good thing since most of what he has to say gets very f*cking annoying.
There is some licensed music in the background of the game. By some I mean 7 different songs. After playing this game for more than a couple hours it gets really repetitive. The songs chosen work well with the theme of the game though most of the tracks are newer ones. I wish they would’ve also added some hair metal and even some country (though I hate country music it would’ve fit in with the rest of the hillbilly theme of the game). If you get the game for the Xbox you have the advantage of using music ripped into the hard drive instead of what the game offers. If you don’t have an Xbox just turn the music volume down and turn the CD player on. While you’re at it just turn the announcer off.
Some decent license tracks, and alright sound effects are hampered by the announcing and how repetitive the music gets.
Like just about every other racing game for the PS2, you can steer with either the D-Pad or the left joystick and accelerate/brake with the right joystick. You can also accelerate with the X button and brake with the square button. The triangle button will let you shift between camera angles. L1 lets you turn the camera directly behind you, R2 and L2 serve as the emergency brake except when in Battle mode where the L2 button is used to fire explosive chickens (we’ll get to that in a sec). Circle or R1 will throw you into reverse and the camera will automatically shift perspective to showing what’s behind you which is useful since you will use reverse a lot during the Demolition Derby and Push Off modes.
The controlling works well and angles more towards a realistic approach compared to Destruction Derby Arenas arcade-like approach. Because of this there will be a lot of drift when you take corners on the tracks since your car sucks and the tracks are made of dirt. At the same time this is one of my few issues with the game since there isn’t as much of a feeling that you are going as fast as the game tells you that you are it is sometimes hard to tell how much you will want to drift and I’ve found myself drifting either too much or not enough because I didn’t realize how fast I was driving. Once you adjust to it everything feels fine.
A good thing about the controls is how different the cars actually feel. As you go through the career mode you will have to buy cars with different speed and handling attributes and they actually feel like different cars instead of all feeling like cookie cutter cars. Otherwise the controls are fine with some minor flaws but if you’ve ever played a racing game it will not take you long to adjust.
There is only a default difficulty level in the career mode that starts low but gets harder as you progress through the game with the opponents cars becoming better than yours if you fail to keep up with upgrading your vehicle or purchasing new vehicles. There is also taking damage and type of vehicle into perspective in the Eves. In the beginning you will have only three different types of races to go through but that will increase to five then seven races to go through in a row. Between races you can repair your vehicles though it costs more to repair your vehicles at an event than at home, so it’s always good to have several vehicles (you can have up to four) of different types for different races. For jump races you may want a fast car with good handling that doesn’t take much damage than a slow demo car, and vice versa for events like demolition derby and push off. You’ll also want a type of car in-between for races that involve both speed and lots of wrecking like the flag pole race. So there is a small element of strategy involved.
Ready to race? Prepare for a real challenge.
Outside of the career mode, for single player and multi player events there are 5 different difficulty levels. The first couple are a little too easy but the rest work for giving a fairly good single or multi player challenge.
There are a ton of modes in the game to play through that are all balanced very well. You never get the impression that the computer AI is being unfairly cheap, likely any mistakes made in the race are from choosing the wrong type of car (such as a slow demo car for a fast race) or from just getting smashed. Considering that there are 25 different modes in the game they pulled this off really well and must’ve play tested the hell out of it.
The career mode is lengthy and since much of it is doing the same thing over and over again may not be something you rush to replay right away it is fun. Playing just a single player event is fun as you can design you own Eves and is easy to pick up and play and the sheer variety of modes can keep you busy for quite awhile. However if you play this alone you may not find yourself getting bored of the game after awhile.
If you can gather up some friends to play the game, both the Xbox and the PS2 version support 4-player, with the PS2 version requiring the multitap adaptor. As a multiplayer game this is great to just get some friends and beer together and just smash into one another over and over again. It’s a perfect pick up and play party game.
With that said one of the biggest disappointments of this game is the lack of online multiplayer. This game would kick some major ass online and almost begs to be online. Though I suppose not many trailer parks get broadband support so maybe they’ve got a reason to keep it offline.
It’s an easy game to pick up at anytime but after beating the career mode you might not find yourself picking it up much after beating that mode unless you’ve got some friends to play it with you, and if you do it’s hard to put it down.
Destruction derby games have been done before on many consoles, but Test Drive: Eve of Destruction is the first I can remember to have a career mode as deep as it is, and to pack just about every variation of destruction racing that exists into one game. No other destruction derby game I’ve ever played comes close to the amount of modes that this game packs into it. Having to deal with repairs and upgrades that are more than just superficial features is great and having different types of cars work for different racing just adds to the realism.
So while it’s been done before, it’s never been done as completely or quite like Test Drive: Eve of Destruction, and that’s worth some points in my book.
This game will likely appeal to some racing fans and fans of past demolition derby fans as well as fans of the Test Drive franchise that are willing to try out a new type of game, especially since it was released with a $40 price tag than at $50. However with the limited amount of advertising for the game many people may not even be aware that the game is out and the game has a huge competitor coming out soon in the form of Burnout 3.
What works in this game (as if I haven’t hammered this point home enough) is the amount of modes there are. While the career mode will feel slightly repetitive after awhile the races in the Eves are randomized and it’s fun just to see what races are next, and re-racing it till you win if you lose. Or just going through all of the modes in different combinations of your own in the single player mode is addictive on its own. It’s easy enough to get into a race where you’ll find yourself thinking ‘just a quick race’ and still find yourself playing an hour later. Likely you’ll also find a mode or a couple modes that are your favorites to keep playing over and over.
Multiplayer is very addictive. Sometimes it’s just fun when you know that you are going to lose just to wait and smash into the other players to mess them up as well. Even if you find yourself getting tired of it, when you go back to doing a race or two you’ll have a hard time putting down the controller.
Have I said there are tons of modes yet? Because there is a ton of freakin modes. There are as many standard variations of a straight up race that you can think of from jump racing to figure 8 jump race (mid-air collision goodness), to doing a lap forward than doing the next in reverse, to racing around flagpoles (which cause massive pileups). Than there are some off beat ones like an all bus race to a gauntlet race where you drive a hearse and all the other cars attempt to keep you from completing five laps (my favorite), to a game called Red Rover where you drive from one outlined box to the other and the last car gets eliminated, to a SOCCER game using three cars to a team and a giant soccer ball. Multiplayer has two unique modes with capture the flag and Battle which has you shoot exploding chickens at each other. The Battle mode is no Twisted Metal but it is a fun diversion from the racing games. There is also the classic Demolision Derby smash-fest and a game called Push Out/Knock Off where you get double the points for knocking someone out of the ring. And many more.
The game has a Soccer mode. A bloody SOCCER mode people!
There are video extras that you can unlock that show clips of people actually doing some of these off beat races. All I can say about the videos is fear the mullet.
There are some extra vehicles and tracks that you can unlock with points you earn throughout the game in the form of extra areas and vehicles; however most of this can be unlocked fairly quickly.
Overall Score: 68/100
Final Score: 7/10 (Good)