Available : Q1 2003

Smash Up Derby © Lemon Interactive
Previewed by Peiter Anderson

Smash Up Derby Preview

Remember the time when it was cool to chase other racers, going over 100mph in a tin can death machine? The original trend setter, Destruction Derby was a classic. Its simplistic gameplay and ability to wreak havoc on anyone getting as close as an inch to you made it a must have for any playstation owner. Such as life, trends change and evolve, gone are the days when you used to ride around in any old thing with an engine, now you have the option of tearing up the streets in any number of suped up mean machines. Given that for a time we have evolved passed the old crash and bash type of racing game, how will the revival of the genre compare?

On paper at least Smash Up Derby seems a like it could be a hit, boasting such features as realistic impact engine, dynamic special effects, havoc physics engine, not to mention over 20 cars and around 28 different tracks and trails for you to wreak your special kind of havoc on. The major advantages that previous ‘destruction derby’ games had was its simplicity; you didn’t need to have an engineering degree in order to put together a heap of junk capable of sending your opponents into an early retirement. The controls in themselves where pretty straight forward which in turn matched the gameplay. Trying to incorporate those well loved features into a new breed of game but trying to make it original and new is a task in its self, most games try to recreate the retro games of past that it ends up being more about how much of a likeness it can be than becoming an original idea, based on a classical game. Whilst trying to run preview code on any machine is a daunting task, with random crashes and for the most part the game does not look good, as any would whilst its still in development, with that said I will skip the unpleasant that preview riddles in the game and try to focus more on what it offers and what it can become.

The game is in a rough stage right now, in fairness it could go both ways, the features that they seem to offer could push it over the edge and make it a prolific experience, or like so many before it the game could be come a victim of its own success. The gameplay is basic which is good; your aim as always is to complete the race, in a respectable position and hopefully with a car in reasonable shape. Whilst saying that the control system could use varied tweaking, the steering feels very hard handed and a good push is needed for steering your driver round the obstacles that lay before him. The bumps crashes and right offs are created well, it seems the havoc engine has paid off; each hit in certain areas creates corresponding damage to your vehicle much like it would in real life. Bumpers fly, windows shatter but all within limits, you are not going to lose a door just because someone hit you from behind, a level of realism is needed to ensure that the havoc engine the game is touting does not go over board and start being a pre-Madonna, but in all fairness it handles itself with excellent precision.

Another interesting feature is the inclusion of what is known as ‘bullet time’ or ‘slow-motion’ what normally applies to your average hack-and-slash or FPS has been recreated with ease. In the likely event you have a big crash or make a respectable hit on your opponent ‘slow-mo’ kicks in giving you the opportunity to relish your crowning achievement. However what is a novel approach and fits in well, it does need its tweaking as well, it seems to react to even minor events that do not really need highlighting, such as when you hit the sides for a split second or get a minor bump, if it can overcome those minor glitches it could be the icing on the cake, providing its not over done that is.

The sounds of the engine’s and in game activities seem to drown out the gameplay, often being too loud or just plain annoying in some cases, its not to say they are not appreciated its just that like most games the sound should be part of the game, not the game. If it could come down a notch and in turn correspond to the motions, it could be a valuable asset to this games portfolio that is already looking bright.

Graphical aspects of previews are always rough, but you get an idea of where they are going with the models and landscapes. The landscape designs are rich and vibrant but do not interfere with the gameplay, there pretty but not too pretty, which is a bonus. Car models vary from your budget derby paint job, to the flaming bonnet and doors, it all adds to the mood and excitement that can be achieved whilst playing.

Providing it is implemented right the multiplayer aspect of Smash up Derby could be its selling point, its one thing to beat up on computer opponents it’s a whole different ball game when you are sending your best friend into a 180-spin. Up to 8 players can duke it out at once across the numerous tracks the game has to offer, giving you the opportunity to inflict some serious damage to your friend’s cars and egos.

It will be interesting to see how the final product shapes up, from what I can see it seems to be heading down the right path, providing that the developers can tweak a few of the preview flaws that inhabit the game it could turn out to be a very fun and enjoyable game. Smash up Derby is a fast paced package, full of mayhem and destruction, given the right tweaking and tune ups it could see its self in pole position.