I remember the day when my colleague, Dan Clarke, produced the very first review of the Xbox version of Wreckless. He gave the game a rating that equated to 50%, many were skeptical but I knew Dan well enough to know that he understood what he was talking about. Sure another site came out with another review a few days later that had nothing but praise for the game but I decided to go with my instincts and trust Dan. I then got my hands on the final build of the game later that week and came to the same conclusion that he did, Wreckless was a game that was filled to the brim with potential but the package just never quite did come together. Well the guys at Activision have had quite some time to work out the kinks in their title and although this release is an improvement, it’s still not enough to pump some much needed life into the game.
I’m pretty sure, nay, I’m certain that the hordes of people who defended the game chose to do so because they were in awe with the graphics. It served as one of the Xbox’s showcase titles, showing the world what the Xbox’s graphical chipset was capable of. Without its flashy visuals the game is truly nothing and thankfully Activision realized this and decided to beef the game up quite a bit, adding new cars, new levels, multiplayer and best of all, pedestrians that can now be struck by moving vehicles. I’m happy that the pedestrians now serve as fodder although the effect was less violent that I was hoping for.
There are a few new additions to the PS2 port including bonus missions and new vehicles. Bonus missions are unlocked when you finish a mission on the hard difficulty. They are fairly different but much like the core game, it gets old pretty fast. There are new vehicles such as a cab and a chicken mobile and while they’re nice additions, they really don’t do too much to enhance gameplay. What does change gameplay is the inclusion of rockets and while it’s a little strange to see a chicken mobile firing rockets, it’s still pretty cool. They don’t have as much impact as I would have hoped though and most of the time they’re just good for clearing out obstacles.
Like the original Wreckess the main story mode allows you to take control of a set of female police officers or a set of male undercover detectives. Each of them feature 20 unique missions that range from destroying cars by ramming into them, destroying more cars by ramming into them, destroying even more cars by ramming into them, disabling cars by ramming into them and the occasional Smuggler’s Run-esque go to point A and retrieve item X objective. There are some pretty unique objectives in the game, however, such as a mission where you have to photograph a crime boss from a harbor from various angles. While the idea for the mission is great the execution is not. The level is very akin to what it would be like to play a 3D platformer game with a vehicle. You’ll have to head full speed off of ramps and land of very small and unforgiving platforms, all in your vehicle. Honestly, wouldn’t it be much easier (not to mention much more discreet) to take the photos on foot?
In case you couldn’t figure it out from the previous paragraph, repetition is the order of the day here. Each mission requires you to do the same thing over and over, ram this car, ram that car. They come up with creative ideas of exactly why you need to ram each car but it essentially feels the same. Then there are missions where you need to retrieve an object in a set amount of time but that mode fails as well. You’re given a small screenshot of what you’re looking for and that’s it. You’ll have to search through a large city for it without the aid of a map or waypoint marker. Talk about trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Each of the vehicles handles quite erratically so it takes quite a while to get the hang of them. None of the vehicles really seem to exhibit any weight and thus they feel sort of floaty and unrealistic. You can never predict what will happen when you strike an object, sometimes hitting the side of a building will result in your car brushing off of it and continuing on its way while hitting a small pole and send your car into a full 360 degree spin. The physics system appears to be an odd blend of simulation and arcade, while the game tries to incorporate momentum into the braking mechanism it doesn’t exude into the other areas of the game. You can hit turns while traveling full speed yet sometimes it takes a city block just to come to a halt. There are a lot of frustrating elements that come with the physics system and for the most part, it really hinders the experience.
The multiplayer mode may not be for everyone but I personally had a blast with it. I checked it out for the first time at E3 and I was anxious to see how it would turn out in the final version. A particularly excellent mode is like playing tag with vehicles except you’re both on the same screen. One person tries to weave through traffic and escape while the other tries to ram them. It’s very strange that the designers opted for both players to play on the same screen as opposed to split-screen but I thought it was pretty intriguing. It’s a nice little diversion that adds some much needed replay value to the game but it’s not exactly the savior that I was hoping it to be.
You had to know that this game would lose a lot of its sheen and luster when it was announced for the PS2 but surprisingly, it’s not as bad as you may expect. Sure the vehicles and cities are crude in comparison but for PS2 standards this game isn’t that bad. Everything looks pretty nice and coupled with the sheer chaos that comes with every sequence the game looks even better. It’s not even in the same galaxy as its Xbox counterpart but the visual aspects are serviceable, albeit a bit bland.
Audio hasn’t changed very much except that you won’t get 5.1 support anymore. It’s all right though, all the crashing and vehicle effects have been replicated pretty nicely here. The generic soundtrack comes through pretty well and generally does well to match the game’s mood. I wish they would take out the voices though, they’re pretty annoying and completely un-necessary.
While Wreckless may look good on the surface, it’s a rather shallow experience that quickly wears out its welcome. It’s a minor improvement over the Xbox version but I still feel that the game is pretty lacking in most of the major departments. Adding the new features to the game was a nice and welcome surprise but it’s not enough to save this lackluster title. Dan was right about the original Xbox version of the game; it’s too one-dimensional and repetitive for its own good.
A run of the mill title that suffers due to its weak source material. The designers tried to cram more features into the title to make it worth buying but it just doesn't succeed. I'd avoid this one unless you are just absolutely desperate.
Rating: 6.1 Flawed
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile