Destruction Derby 2


Review by Joe Santulli



Graphics: 8

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Few will forget the fanfare that accompanied the release of Destruction Derby for the PlayStation about a year ago. Next Generation magazine ran a five-page preview and a front cover for it, calling it "the most impressive PlayStation game to date". As such, many purchasers of Destruction Derby were a bit disappointed that their new game didn't make their personal "most impressive" and many more Saturn owners wondered if Next Generation would even notice Sega existed. A year has passed, and the sequel hasn't received nearly as much fanfare. It's too bad, though. Because this derby makes the old one look... well, old.

It's not to say that the original game was a dog of any kind. In fact, it's one of my favorites. It is loud, brutal, and really fun to play. The problem with it is that it has several glaring problems that made you want the sequel right away. At least THREE of those problems have been rectified:

1) Cars not only spin and dent, they also roll over sideways, flip up in the air, and slide along the road on their hoods. Wheels, hoods, and trunks pop off. Cars burst into flames when they've been "overkilled". These are very noticeable differences. It always seemed a little funny to watch a car get smashed in at 200 miles an hour and just spin to a stop. The new game physics also allow hills to affect speed and jumps to unfold into spectacular airborne flights.

2) In the original, you took your licks and were expected to limp to the finish if possible. This led to some really long races where you just had to keep the wheel straight enough to negotiate around the heaping wrecks and hope you didn't bump into something and lose your car. In DD2, pit stops have been added to almost every track, allowing you to "fix" some of the damage and continue. The computer is smart enough to do likewise - hammer one really good and you'll see the smoking vehicle turn off first opportunity it gets. Of course, it's better to finish the job if the chance arises.

3) Although the game is called "Destruction" Derby, many gamers wanted a good racing title to come from it. It really wasn't enough to just include the bowl's frantic festival of metal shards, there had to be some kind of speed competition to go along with it. And frankly, the racing aspect of the original was just terrible. The roads were very narrow and lined with walls that also damage the car. Each track seems built to create crashes. Worst of all, these cars just didn't handle well enough to get any real thrill from the race. That's been fixed. The new tracks are much wider, have a shoulder in many areas to protect from too much scraping, and the cars handle loads better.

There are other improvements in the game, but those are the major ones. Most will notice some interesting lighting effects like the ones used in the Die Hard Trilogy driving sequence: a sort of "lens flare", that makes the game look televised. Nice touch. The tracks also have much better detail, and the music is pretty good too. There are a few hidden tracks (selectable after winning tournaments) and "bowls".

Strangely, some of the GOOD features from the original have been changed as well. Whatever happened to the multiple camera angles? Now you just get the behind the car view and the inside view. The replay camera selection is gone as well, and this is much more noticeable. Now the races appear exactly as they do in the regular game. From behind the car. No more placing the camera high above the track to follow the action. I really miss that. Also, the announcer has been replaced. I really liked the original guy, he had a sort of "Raceway Park" enthusiasm and an English accent. The new guy is rather dull. He's not terrible, but he's not as good as the last game.

What it all comes down to is the action. I'm happy to say that although there are sometimes hundreds of little scraps of metal flying through the air with a dozen cars all jockeying for position (describing the first ten seconds of a typical race), the frame rate and speed don't suffer much. There is a noticeable drag in these situations, but you'll be glad it's happening - it can be very difficult to react to so many vehicles trying to pound you into the macadam. Not so nice is the "white line" effect seen on many of the track. I expect these are edges to the ground graphics that at certain angles appear to be flickering. It's become customary to test how a game handles the clipping of polygons at strange angles, but DD2 mishandles them even at common ones. It isn't enough to be distracting, just noticeable. The only other nit I have about the sequel is the difficulty of the racing games. Now that it's possible to negotiate the tracks at high speeds, the computer seems to have an unfair advantage. Let him get too far ahead of you and you may never catch up. This isn't a problem in the "Wrecking Racing" mode, since you're awarded more points for damaging other cars than winning the race, but why have a "Stock Racing" mode when it's practically impossible to keep up? Seriously, this mode requires absolute perfection... something that you'll have a hard time dealing with when you're about to lap the last place car and he decides he wants to smash you instead of fight for position. There's no doubt that DD2 is far superior to DD. But if you're only interested in the collisions experienced in "The Bowl" from the original, you'll find few improvements here.


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Last updated: Sunday, January 04, 2004 08:12 AM