When it was first released Vigilante 8 was a cheeky alternative to the campy Twisted Metal series. While some looked at it as nothing more than a rip-off, those who fell in love with is silly cast of characters and stylish settings were quick to defend the game. If we can have hundreds of Doom clones, then what's the harm of having a Twisted Metal clone lying around? These days it's rare to see vehicular combat games, which is why this updated remake is so exciting. Well, it would be ... if only the game controlled well and wasn't a completely broken mess from start to finish.
Not everybody likes the high speed action of a vehicular combat game, especially now that first-person shooters are all the rage on home consoles. I don't know why, but I have a soft spot for this type of game. Maybe it's the simple control and the fun level designs, but there's something about games like Vigilante 8 and Twisted Metal that take me back to those days in the mid-1990s when I didn't have to worry about dual analog sticks and motion controls. Perhaps that's why I was on cloud nine when Activision announced that they would be resurrecting this long dead franchise. Unfortunately I now know that you have to be very careful about what you wish for, because this brand new Vigilante 8 is so bad that I fear it has ruined all of those good memories I had of the original game.
In case you've never played a vehicular combat game, the concept is incredibly simple: You control a car attempting to destroy all of the other vehicles in a closed arena. To do this you must use every weapon in the book, from guns to missiles to flame throwers. Essentially it's a cross between a deathmatch in a first-person shooter and a racing game, only with the emphasis on crazy weapons you can pick up and fast-paced car chases. It's easy to see why this is so appealing, for one thing you never have to worry about aiming with the analog sticks, plus you get the excitement of performing amazing stunts using your car. With a formula like this it's hard to see what could go wrong.
But let me tell you, something very wrong happened to this Vigilante 8 remake. Despite being announced months ago, Vigilante 8 Arcade doesn't quite feel finished. The game's controls are atrocious, to the point where it feels like the biggest opponent is your car's handling and not the enemies. Worse yet, it's entirely too easy to get stuck on objects in the levels, or even other cars. Also, the game's camera is frustratingly erratic, there are times where it flips and flops around making it near impossible to figure out what is going on. What's more, the modes found in the game aren't much fun, especially when you're playing against the computer opponents.
There really aren't that many modes in Vigilante 8 Arcade, either. The game says there's a quest mode, but there's not much of a story to it. Basically the game pits you up against a bunch of other enemies, and level by level you have to defeat them. If you do this you will earn new vehicles and upgrades. There's also a quick battle mode, which is exactly what it sounds like. You can create a custom battle or just go free wheelin', neither of which are much fun because of how poorly the game controls.
Obviously the real meat and potatoes of a game like this is the online eight person multiplayer mode. In theory this should be a lot of fun, since the secret to this genre's success has always been the interaction with real people. In truth this is probably the best part of the game, not to mention the biggest draw. There's just one problem, it's almost impossible to find enough people to fill up a room. In my time with the game I had a tough time getting even four or five people together, let alone the full eight players. And even if you do manage to fill up the room, you still have to deal with the fact that the gameplay is so bad.
I cannot say enough bad things about how this game controls. You would think that the original Vigilante 8 team (made up of Peter Morawiec, Adrian Stephens and Cary Hara) would be able to get the vehicle handling right, yet the controls are an absolute mess. No matter what vehicle you choose there is an over-steering problem, not to mention the car's weird floaty sensation. The vehicle handling doesn't work at all, and you can sense this from the moment you enter the arena. Considering this franchise has been around for more than ten years, it seems odd that this version of the game would feel so busted. But that's exactly how it feels, which takes all the fun out of the experience.
Thankfully the cool cast of characters are still represented in the game. Instead of going all serious on us like the Twisted Metal franchise, Vigilante 8 Arcade keeps everything light and silly. Where else will you have a chance to pit a bus versus the cab of an 18 wheeler? Also cool are the levels, which have a lot of destructible elements to them. The game's graphics are also solid, especially when compared to the original PlayStation game. Pretty much everything leading up to the game is great, which is why it's so disappointing when you actually get control of the game.
There have been a lot of bad video game remakes over the years, but lately that tide seems to be turning (especially with games like Bionic Commando Rearmed and Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix). Unfortunately Vigilante 8 Arcade isn't in the same league as those Capcom remakes ... heck, it's not even in the same game. This is a game with a lot of potential, however it's marred by terrible controls and a number of game breaking glitches. There's still room for vehicular combat games, but not if Vigilante 8 Arcade is the poster child.