Smuggler's Run Review
Angel Studios seems like they are really hitting it big on the PS2, Midnight Club: Street Racing is by far one of the consoles best games, it's got some extremely gorgeous graphics, fast-paced gameplay, a rockin' soundtrack, and strong replay value to keep things going. Angel Studios' second PS2 game is also a good one, and it is based on a similar concept to Midnight Club, except this one takes you out in off-road vehicles on mountainous and rough areas, just think the country side. Originally titled 'Getaway' (not "The Getaway") Smuggler's Run is the name of this game, and like Midnight Club, it also features souped up vehicles that are capable of not only going at break neck speeds, but also climbing rocky and steep areas that a normal vehicle could not. Not only does Angel Studios have those two games, but they have signed a deal with Infogrames to produce the next Test Drive Off Road game subtitled 'Wide Open'. Their effort in Midnight Club and Smuggler's Run must have been so recognizable that Infogrames wasted no time on telling the developer what they wanted. While Off Road Wide Open is a long way from now, Smuggler's Run is the perfect fix for you off-road fans, and the game offers something extra as well. Check out the review of Smuggler's Run and find out how this off-road "cash and stash" racer did.
While they don't exactly hold up to Midnight Club's amazingly smooth visuals, Smuggler's Run is still a graphically pleasing game. Unlike Midnight Club that is played in dark and midnight environments, Smuggler's Run is played in sunny areas such as a Desert, Forest and Snow covered mountainous environment. So the question of incredible lighting effects and eye-candy visuals are pretty much out of the question, although the talk of what seems to be a nearly pop-up free engine isn't. You read me right people, an engine that is pretty much pop-up free, something claimed by antagonists impossible to be done on the PS2 is not only being done but it is being done marvelously. With this pop-up distance at near perfection, the frame rate is not even touched even with all vehicles on screen, the game's engine simply the one that must be used in Test Drive: Wide Open.
The car detail is great, while they may not glare, reflect or have any other chroming effect to them, they are still incredibly detailed and even demolish before your eyes as enemy cars, trucks, monster trucks smash into you, or you smash into a ten foot boulder, or even worse you take a nose dive from a sixty foot cliff... sweet! Not only do the game's environments feature nearly free pop-up but they also have a mass of attention paid to them, exploring each area can really take awhile, you can either take the roads in the stage, or you can do it like a man and make you vehicle do what it was born to do, and that is climb vast hills, or even mountains, eat 40-60 foot plunges as if it was cake. and on top of that still look good while you're are it. The environments contain many nice looking structures, from traffic cars, to houses, to cactuses, to big boulders standing in your way, the game is full of structures both big and small. Overall the visuals are very nice, they are solid and well built, the Smuggler's Run engine really seems ideal for the new Test Drive: Wide Open game, and I won't be too surprised if Angel Studios does that as well.
Not exactly Midnight Club: Street Racing, but Smuggler's Run is definitely one great videogame. The gameplay experience is nothing short of bloody fun, the cars are off-road monsters, some of them are buggies, others are SUVs, while another car is actually a monster truck that can literally run over you. All of these cars have their distinct advantages in different races; speedy cars are ideal in capture the flag events, while larger cars are better suited for cargo events. Carrying cargo is where you have to pick up important items that are sometimes put on top of great long hills that need climbing, and carrying the cargo back to base also requires a strong vehicle for the fact that you will most likely experience bumps in the road, and if you have a weak car, than that bump can cause the value of the cargo to decrease. I'll get more into game modes a bit later, right now lets talk options. Smuggler's Run lets you choose from six different off-road vehicles, and three terrain areas such as Snow, Desert and Forest, all of these stages have a ton of big jumps and bumps, and thanks to the game's incredible physics, it really feels like you are controlling an off-road vehicle. You'll notice the suspension of your car folding up and down, as you bounce off a bump, or as you land from a fall, it's all there, just take a look at the suspension and I'm sure you will be pleasantly surprised.
Smuggler's Run's premise is different than Midnight Club's. In Midnight Club you race for cars in pink-slip matches, so winner gains a new car. But in Smuggler's Run you are strapped into a vehicle and you are told to carry out missions such as deliveries, escaping from cops and racing all done throughout the three different land areas. Some of the missions you would have to do run along the lines of you picking up a bag of money and then dropping it off at a certain checkpoint, then you continue on to the next pick up, avoiding cops and checking out the time (although you shouldn't have much trouble with it though) after you have completed all of your required deliveries your mission will finish. Now it may sound kind of boring reading about it, but once you give this game a spin you'll be instantly hooked on this game, I promise. There are many missions to complete, and believe me you will want to complete every single mission. Much like Midnight Club, Smuggler's Run also has single-player and two-player games, such as capture the flag events, which is called Loot Grab in the game, Checkpoint Race, and a mode called Crooks N' Smugglers, this is where eight cars square off in a free for all, and try to deliver five different objects back to base. If you are hit while carrying the object the object will be lost and picked up by the vehicle that hit you. Smuggler's Run is a great game for PS2 owners, although the replay value isn't exactly Midnight Club, the game is still worthy of a purchase, and honestly there isn't much wrong with the game.
Smuggler's Run's soundtrack is similar to Midnight Club's, it contains techno beats with a little blend of rock in the background. Aside from the sweet soundtrack, I have to mention that the voice acting is top-notch in Smuggler's Run. Every mission briefing has a big piece of voice acting put into it, and the clarity and quality is all there. During races you will hear your leader commenting you on your performance, though it gets a bit repetitive it's a pretty good touch. The sound is a very nice, the soundtrack that resembles Midnight Club: Street Racing's soundtrack, is really good, and the voice acting briefings are pretty much excellent.
With the off-road physics intact, you'll get a feel of the controls quickly. Smuggler's Run has very easy to learn controls, that are present in most racing games today. The support of both analog sticks was a great touch on behalf of Angel Studios, the sensitivity for each analog stick is precise, turning and acceleration are both affected by this. The big bumps will also cause you to lose control of your vehicle and sometimes even flip it over, if that's the case you will need to hold left or right, in order to bring yourself up. Different vehicles also have different ways of control, the speedy cars will tend to be looser in maneuverability, but much faster, while the bigger cars have tighter grip on the road and don't feel like your driving on ice. To some the controls may take some time to get used to, but overall the controls are smooth and easy to master.
In the end Smuggler's Run is an incredibly good game, just slightly hampered by its somewhat shabby replay value. While this isn't a weekend or a week lasting game by any means, Smuggler's Run can take about a week and half or two to complete, unlike Midnight Club which can take a good month to finish. Smuggler's Run is a visually pretty game, with huge environments that feature nearly no pop-up creating the best view distance available in a game to date, the gameplay will really get you addicted and the AI can also be quite the challenge, and let's not forget the sweet soundtrack. Overall I believe Smuggler's Run is one of those next-generation game that we were all looking for, PS2 owners should check out Smuggler's Run, or if you are having doubts, at least rent it. I personally found it an enjoyable game.
12/12/2000 Arnold Katayev