Retro Game review: Destruction Derby 2

Look at the car! It’s exploding, flying AND upside down!

“Racers, prepare to race!” – Paul Page, DD2 commentator

If you think about it, it’s surprising there aren’t more wreck-em-up racing games. Sure there’s the Twisted Metal and Carmageddon series, but the ideas within are just too fantastical; no, I’m talking about a good old fashioned multiple car against car battle. I can’t think of a game in the past ten years that’s done that (to any effectiveness anyway), which is a shame, because one game back in 1996 did it so well. But how does it fare now?

Well, as for most PSone-era games, it suffers from polygon-overload. Fortunately for cars, this works to an extent, unlike Lara Croft or any Tekken character, while the damage physics still look quite good, which is amazing for a 15-year old game. That said, there is still some absolutely horrendous pixelated pop-up scenery, some Reflection took with them when they made the Driver series.

Smash!

The main modes in the game are the stock car racing, stock car wrecking and destruction derby mode. Both perform very respectably, with some good track design in the stock car modes which wouldn’t seem out of place in Blur or Need for Speed (well, maybe minus the jumps), while in wrecking mode the points system is clear and fair, while your competitors will go for you and other AI players with a degree of sensibility in order to increase their haul, and not just go for your oily hide.

However it’s the destruction derby mode that really sells the game. 20 cars, 1 winner. There may only be 4 bowls, but each of them is unique, and I spent a couple of hours just playing this mode. There’s nothing more satisfying than skirting along the edge of a ravine while carnage occurs in front of, behind and next to you to knock another driver over the precipice. And while the events can sometimes be over very quickly, it’s the sheer frenzy that will keep the adrenaline pumping and your interest piqued.

Double, triple, quadruple SMASH!

That said, there are a couple of little issues and one big cavern of destruction which would have elevated this game to greatness.

First, the niggles: this game is hard. There is absolutely no learning curve as you’re thrust straight into the action. Or rather, unadulterated mayhem. Nine times out of ten, a beginner will be destroyed in the first three corners, as the AI try to maim your car as if you’ve just molested their 15 year old daughter, shot their dog and stolen the last raisin bun. Another slight issue is the length of the game; seven tracks isn’t a lot and there’s very little to unlock, and the game could really do with a wider choice of vehicles; three just isn’t enough. Unless you’re overtly pedantic (or Mike), though, you can probably just about get over these issues.

You won’t get over this one though. For a racing game that’s all about destroying competitors and having fun, THERE’S NO FECKING MULTIPLAYER! What were they thinking? This game was just begging for mulitplayer; imagine the fun you could have had knocking your friend off the side of a mountain when racing, or the torment of being relentlessly chased by someone right next to you when your radiator’s blown, when one hit will end it all, with the pits half a lap away.

This revelation I’d buried deep away in my rose-tinted memories put a real damper on things for me in the end and while it’s one of the most genuinely fun racing games I’ve ever played (tying with Motorstorm Apocalypse), it could have been so much more. Which makes me crave a reboot of the series so much more too.

Verdict: Fun, but frustrating

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