"The older games are still better"
Debuting on the Playstation 1 from Psygnosis, the Destruction Derby franchise has had an interesting time of it. It has had the highs of the first two games and now making its PS2 debut it is going online, but is the online component enough to bring new fans to the series whilst keeping older fans happy?
Destruction Derby as you have probably guessed is a racing game where anything goes. You choose a driver out of a number of characters and are then thrown into the championship. There are three main game modes for you to check out; Championship, Wrecking Racing and the Destruction Bowl. Wrecking Racing and Destruction Bowl are complimentary to the Championship and what you can do in them is determined by how far you have progressed in the single player championship. The main mode is the Championship which is split into four rounds.
Each round is split into four races; three wrecking races and one destruction bowl. In the wrecking races the task is to have the most points and that doesn't necessarily mean come first. Whilst you do get points based on your position which can help you in your overall score, it is entirely possible to come last in the race positions but finish first overall. You have to gain a respectable position in each race to progress to the next round and this is where one major problem with the game rears its head. It's short and can be easily completed in a day. It is likely you will breeze through the first two rounds on your first attempt and not encounter any real difficulty until the third and fourth rounds. Even so, it is possible to finish this game in under five hours and given that this is the main component of the single player gameplay, that is rather disappointing.
As you might imagine with a destruction derby game, the gameplay consists of racing around tracks belting the living daylights out of every moving car until either you or they explode. As mentioned before the final rankings are determined by the amount of points players and the AI score. You score points via doing tricks yourself such as a large jump or making the AI players crash, flip, roll or destroying them. By far the easiest way to destroy enemies is to land on top of their cars after a jump, they will instantly self destruct. The fourth race of each round is a wrecking bowl. Cars are thrown into an arena and must duke it out for five minutes, the winner is the highest scorer out of the cars left surviving. In all modes except destruction bowl, if the car you are driving is destroyed it will be replaced back on the race track.
There are numerous characters to choose from but only a few are unlocked when you first begin the game. To unlock the others you have to defeat them by scoring more points on their home track. Once you do this the characters are unlocked. Obviously the easiest way to defeat them is to destroy their car but this isn't an easy thing to do and you may find at the end of the single player championship, not all characters are unlocked. Each character has a different ending and the cars are somewhat individual with different abilities for speed, handling etc. You probably won't find yourself itching to go through the single player championship with all characters because it will become repetitive.
As mentioned before each character has a unique car but most of them do look alike with different paint-jobs or a modified body. As you move through the rounds your car is automatically upgraded with better turbo's and a faster engine. The amount your car is upgraded also affects the other modes of the game such as wrecking racing and destruction bowl. If you choose a car which you have not used in the championship it will be in its most basic form and you will find it tough to compete if you decide to play on a level which is featured towards the end of the championship. The cars don't have weapons so the only way to destroy each other is to create crashes around the track. One problem with the cars that we found was the damage model. In comparison to older Destruction Derby games it really is lacking. The cars do dent and suffer body damage, but doors and bonnets don't fall off like in the second game and overall it was quite disappointing given that the premise of the game is to make the cars fall to bits.
The variety of levels in Destruction Derby Arenas is one of the games strong points with players racing on levels ranging from near a harbour, through a casino area and a B grade movie set. Some parts of the levels are destructible and sometimes it can be a guessing game as to whether the object is or is not destructible. Dotted around the tracks you will find objects you would expect to find such as boats in the harbour, flashing lights in the casino area and others. The draw distance is quite impressive, you can see right out to the horizon and the game does not feature any dreaded pop up. Whilst it won't win any awards for having the best graphics around, they are respectable and suit the style of the game well, we just wish the damage model was better. The cars feature a loud grunty sound which suits the vehicles featured in the game well and it also features mild commentary via a number of wisecracks.
One of the big points of Destruction Derby Arenas is the online component. The game is hosted locally in Australia and therefore the lag problem does not exist. In the games we played, the game ran smooth and it was quite enjoyable. The game also features voice communications for those of you who have a headset for the PS2 console. The only problem we can see with the online aspect of the game is the fact it really isn't a game you would go back to over a long period of time but would play for short spurts once in a while against likeminded gamers.
Overall Destruction Derby Arenas is a decent game which fans of the franchise will enjoy. Whether it will attract new gamers to the franchise probably depends on how popular it becomes online. Without the online component the game is quite lacking and as mentioned you can finish the game in a day, but add the online component in and you have infinite replayability, as long as you can find a game.