By Drew Wilson
Vigilante 8 is an 80’s themed vehicular combat game. It is based around multiple characters and how they interact (or fight) with each other. We look at whether this game is still worth playing today.
This game was released in 1999 and is one of a few ports that was released over a few years. The game features 12 characters. 6 Vigilante’s and 6 Coyote’s. Each side has each character fighting a character on the other side. There is a 13th unlockable character named “Y” the alien who isn’t really a member of either side.
The game’s general mechanics is fairly straight forward. If you pick a Vigilante, you’ll have one particular rout across the US, but if you pick a Coyote, you’ll follow a different rout throughout the US. On the first level, you’ll start with a nice array of weapons which can be a guided missile, land mine, or mortar. These weapons have a limited supply of ammo and, once you run out of ammo for that weapon, the weapon will simply pop off your car, leaving you with one less weapon. These weapons also appear as pick-ups. If you pick up a weapon that you already have, you’ll simply get a boost in ammo. You can carry a maximum of three of these weapons, so you have to choose carefully which weapons you’re going to want to use or else you’ll lose a weapon. All characters have a permanent fourth weapon which is the machine gun. This carries unlimited ammo and stays with you regardless of what you pick up. The only time you lose it is if you die (at that point, you have more things to worry about anyway).
All characters also have a special weapon. These weapons are unique to the character in question. Beezwax, for instance, has the radioactive bees that briefly incapacitates an enemy while reducing the enemies health at the same time. John Torque has a large stereo system weapon that can send enemies into the air with the waves it generates in the ground. Sheila has the giant minigun that punches an enemy back. Loki has the giant missile that flies through the air and drops cluster bombs onto the enemy wherever that enemy is. These weapons can be picked up via the green spinning US navy boxes or, if you’re lucky, via the brown random weapon boxes that can contain anything. If you collect a fourth weapon and you happen to get rid of your special weapon, unlike other weapons, you lose that weapon entirely and you have to start over stocking ammo for it again.
If you are a Coyote, you’ll be assigned an objective to destroy a certain building. Before you defeat every enemy on the map, you have to destroy that object or building or else you’ll fail to fully complete the level. If you select a Vigilante, you’ll be assigned to protect a particular object or building. That simply means defeating every enemy on the map before that building or object is destroyed. Y get’s a mix of destruction and protection objectives throughout his quest.
There are also the non-weapon pick-ups. There is the shield (green diamond) that grants temporary resistance from enemy fire, radar avoidance (yellow electrical bolt) that causes guided weapons to strike at a space where your vehicle used to be for a limited time, the double damage (blue “X”) which temporarily doubles the damage you can deliver to others, and a repair wrench (silver wrench) which replenishes a portion of your health.
One feature of this game is the ability to get “whammies”. If you manage to hit an opponent with more than one weapon at the same time, you can get a “2x whammie”. The best way I found getting whammies is simply scrolling and firing weapons at the same time so that each weapon in your possession is firing at roughly the same time. While you can rack up whammies and get a higher “score” at the end of the round, the more useful thing about them is that you can deal a substantially larger amount of damage in a shorter period of time as opposed to just using the machine gun or one weapon at a time. It can get a little noisy after a while, but the advantage of taking out a large percentage of your opponents energy greatly outweigh the static of a mixture of noise in my opinion.
Another feature of this game is the ability to “total” your opponents. What you have to do is get your opponent down to a single dot of energy. The opponent will then become incapacitated with the telltale white smoke and constant car horn. At that point, you can launch a special weapon and enemy to be “totalled”. The two effective way I found to do this is to get the enemy down to a state where their energy is very low. Then, you can either set them on fire by using a torch weapon or use your machine gun. Regular weapons can simply just destroy the enemy instead. In a regular battle scenario, you can get a useful wrench from doing this to help fix your vehicle.
An additional attribute is the fact that as vehicles become more and more damaged, the damage actually shows through cracked wind shields, loose fenders, and broken door latches to name a few. This, I found, adds a sense of realism to the game.
As you progress to the later stages with each character, you’ll get fewer weapons at the start, but more enemies to fight. On the last stage, you not only have only a machine gun, but also four enemies to fight. Once you defeat all the enemies on the map, you’ll have an additional enemy appear somewhere on the map that’s fully armed with a special weapon to contend with. This can be challenging if your energy reserves were depleted and your ammo has gotten low after fighting the other enemies on the map already.
What I found great about this game was the fact that each character has it’s own storyline. There’s Convoy trying to keep Sheila out of danger while Sheila wants to prove she can handle fighting along with the Vigilante’s. There’s Molo trying to prove he can be a member of the Coyote’s. Then there’s Dave who is trying to make contact with extra terrestrial life. After you complete the journey for each character, you get a slideshow/text ending to tie everything together. Perhaps the funniest is Dave constantly beating “Y” at checkers and finds himself one victory away from winning possession of the alien’s ship. The other endings tend to be great, too.
Upon completion of four of the characters on on either side, you’ll unlock two more playable characters (you can beat the game with two particular characters and unlock an additional character, but there’s two total). Once you complete the game with all 12 characters, you’ll be able to play the game as “Y”. Y has unique characteristics as the alien operates a flying saucer. If that wasn’t overpowering enough, the alien’s special weapon is an auto aiming laser cannon. Essentially, it’s a ridiculously overpowering vehicle that is perfect for survival mode. beat the quest mode as “Y” and you’ll unlock a cartoon-like Dreamland level where you can get energy simply by catching the rainbow. Hilarious and good level to play in survival mode.
A less known feature of this game is the special moves. If you have a particular weapon with enough ammo, you can press a series of buttons and execute something. One of the moves for the mortar cannon allows you to fire a different coloured shell that can create a giant crater in the ground. You’ll have to look these up in online guides, but this is essentially an easter egg thing that isn’t necessary to beat the game. It’s simply an extra feature which can be pretty neat.
Another lesser known feature is that you can do special things in different levels. One feature is the ability to control the blimp in the Vegas level that allows you to pick up those otherwise out of reach weapons on the rooftops. Beware that if you get hit by something, the blimp can explode and send you careening back down onto the ground again.
The graphics were decently well done. For a game that was released in 1999, it can be hard to find complaints about the graphics. The only complaint I’d have is the fact that the damage on a vehicle “disappears” at certain angles for some reason. The only other downside is that some of the weapon pickups look a little crude, graphics-wise.
The music was really well done and can simply be listened to as a standalone as well. The sound effects were particularly well done. Each time someone fires a special weapon, the character in question says something like “bombs away!” or “gridlock!”. I’m not entirely sure what Convoy says for some reason. I think he says “steal gopher!” or something, but neither really makes sense for an explosive bouncing tire.
Overall, this is a great game to play. You can easily kill several hours enjoying something like this. Definitely on the list of recommended games.
Furthest point in game: Unlocked everything and got more than 100 kills in survival mode once. Very tough to do, but definitely possible.
General gameplay: 23/25
Replay value: 9/10
Overall rating: 88%
Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85