Destruction Derby Arenas Review
If you're old enough to remember when the original Playstation was $299, then chances are you'll remember the original Destruction Derby. That game featured lousy graphics, a bad framerate, and poor controls, but being able to destroy cars and watch parts (usually about two polygons) fly off was enough to look past the technical limitations of the game. Now, in 2004 Destruction Derby Arenas (DDA) attempts to recreate the original experience, and it almost does. The graphics are bad, the framerate is slow, and the controls are terrible. The only thing missing is the thrill of smashing cars actually overshadowing the game's flaws, and while an online mode helps a bit, it's not enough to save the game.
There are two primary modes of play in DDA - racing and demolition derby. You can play these modes separately, or you can play a little of both in the game's championship mode. The game's racing mode attempts to be a mixture of arcade racing and destruction derby. You want to get through the race as fast as possible, but you also must wreak havoc along the way, as simply coming in first won't get you enough points to win the event. You'll find that instead of taking the best line through a turn, slowing down and waiting for other people to get through first will give you an opportunity to not only smash some cars, but bounce off and maintain some momentum. Most any obstacle on the track can be destroyed for points, but that's about it, there aren't any cool things such as the ferris wheel rampaging through town like in Twisted Metal: Black.
The game's arena mode involves nothing more than smashing cars while trying to avoid being the one who gets smashed Rather than awarding points for how violently you strike an opponent, you only get points for how many times you spin him around. You also get points for performing spins and flips of your own, and for knocking an opponent completely out of the race.
At first glance, DDA looks like a pleasant diversion, but its many flaws keep it from ever becoming enjoyable. Since you only get points for spinning an opponent, you find yourself avoiding juicy head-on collisions because they do nothing for you, and the same thing goes for slamming into the back of a stopped car at 80mph - you get no points at all. The game's poor controls render the racing part of the game a waste of time, and make lining up cars for direct hits a much more difficult chore than it should be. You can use a first person driving mode to help line up the cars, but for everything else, it stinks.
One of, if not the best thing DDA has going for it is its online mode. It's pretty smooth, and provided you can find enough people to play with, it's lots of fun. The game supports voice chat before and after races, which is far more satisfying than trying to type smack with your controller. Unfortunately, there aren't tons of people that are currently playing online, but the good thing about this is that the few that play are pretty nice and it's a cool community.
Like the original Destruction Derby, DDA is an ugly, ugly game. The framerate is poor and only gets worse when you add a second player. The car models all look like toy models, and the damage system isn't anything special. The arenas themselves don't look too bad at first since there are lots of bright colors and lots of background animations going on, but if you compare them to a game like Project Gotham 2, they look horrible. Like F-Zero, there's an attempt at making characters a part of the story, but one look at the heinous artwork, and you'll quickly forget about learning more about your fellow drivers.
All you need to know about the game's sounds is that there's generic metal music in the background, and the announcer screams out race information like he's trying to get a job at Midway. The sound effects are standard fare, but could have been better if they took more advantage of surround sound systems.
If you've got nothing else better to do, then Destruction Derby Arenas can kill a few hours of your time. Provided you're not expecting too much out of the game, you'll have some fun in a "it's always fun to smash cars" sort of way.
8/31/2004 Aaron Thomas