Review: Destruction Derby Arenas (Playstation 2)

In this review, we go for a mean barrier slammer in the Playstation 2 game Destruction Derby Arenas. We find out how well this combat racing game plays.

This game was released in 2004. It would wind up being the last game in this series.

Our knowledge of this series is pretty much complete with this series at this point. We first played Destruction Derby which kicked off the series. That game got a pretty mediocre score. From there, we tried Destruction Derby 2. That game, for us, wound up bombing. Nevertheless, we continued this series with Destruction Derby 64. That game managed to score a stunning near perfect score. Impressed by this, we gave Destruction Derby Raw a try. That game managed to earn a great score as well. So, it was only natural that we get to this last game in the series to see how it all ended.

The game boasts a commanding 20 characters and vehicles for you to choose from along with an additional 5 “bonus” cars. The 20 main characters each have their own back story which is displayed with text. Complete the game and you get an additional bit of info about the character – again, in text. The remaining 5 bonus cars do not really have a character and are, instead, generic without a story. Still, their vehicles are unique including a taxi, hot rod, and cop car. This is likely a reference to the N64 version which also featured the same vehicles.

When you start the game, you are only given 4 characters, three courses, and a bowl arena. That means the remaining 16 characters are unlocked on each track including the bowl arena. Each of the locked characters are an arena or track champion. In order to unlock that character, you have to beat that character on the track. While this does ease up a bit on simply having to beat the course itself, the track champion typically finishes near the top of the leaderboard, so winning the race itself is pretty much the only sure thing you can do to earn that character.

The five remaining bonus characters are unlocked via other requirements in the game. Let’s just say it does involve winning a lot.

Of course, unlocking characters and courses can only happen during championship mode. Miss a character and you’ll have to repeat championship mode all over again to get another chance.

Championship mode is, naturally the main mode for the game. It’s a very linear run that is split four ways. Each section features three course races and one bowl arena. You score points in each race. The character with the most points wins that race. Your total score is then carried over into the next race. The total will determine placement of the overall championship after each race. If you finish the arena with the most total points, you win that section.

After that, you move on to the next section, repeating the process three more times. Come out on top after the fourth section and you win the game with that character.

Winning a section is a pretty big deal because you unlock “parts” that upgrade your cars stats. You really don’t get a choice, you just accept it and move on, but that is the bonus you get for winning. Of course, in subsequent sections, your opponents are much more difficult, so the upgrades wind up being very necessary more than anything else. Beat the game and you get the characters ultimate fully upgraded car.

One thing to keep in mind is that if your characters car has any particular weaknesses, then they don’t really go away that much as you upgrade your car. For instance, if your car slides around a lot and handling is bad in the beginning, chances are, the handling will be pretty bad when you fully upgrade your car. The upgrades just make it possible to compete against your opponents more than anything else – not to mention, it changes the look of your car somewhat in the process.

As hinted towards, there are two main types of races: regular circuit races and bowl arenas. Circuit races give you a limited number of laps (typically 4) to rack up as many race points as possible. Finish the race and the race will be over. Meanwhile, bowl races puts every player in a melee arena. You have a limited amount of time to rack up as many points as possible. As soon as the timer is up, the race is over and the player with the most points wins.

There are many ways you can rack up points in this game. One way is to be the first to cross the finish line. Doing so will net you a massive 10,000 points. Other high ranks will also give you points, but the returns diminish quickly as you place in lower rankings.

Crashing into breakable objects will also allow you to rack up points. For each breakable you smash through, you will score 100 points. Not much, but there are plenty of breakables strewn about the course to make this worthwhile to bump up your score a little – possibly to squeak by a win fr close races.

Performing stunts will also net you points. Barrel rolls, flips, and wheelies will all earn you nice chunks of points. Getting air will also earn you points.

Much like the first two Destruction Derby games, causing opponents to spin out will net you a nice large amount of points. There’s 90 degrees, 180, 360, and the ever hard to get 720. The more your opponents spin, the more points you earn.

Contact can also earn you points. This includes barrier slammers which involves forcing your opponent into a wall. Of course, the contact that earns the most points are the flat liners. There are actually two ways to earn those. The first is to damage your opponents to the point of explosion. While difficult, it is possible. It eliminates them from the race and causes them to finish with no points. The other way is to force them off playable areas. While it doesn’t actually kill an opponent (they will respawn), you’ll still be awarded the flatliner points.

This game introduces the boost. While you start with no boost, you can earn boost along the way. The great thing about the boost in this game is that, like like Need for Speed: Underground, you can use as much or as little at a time as you like at any time. Boost is earned either through item pickups or getting damaged. Boost is useful for not only passing opponents, but also for combat purposes because bigger impacts generally mean more points. So, wise use of boost can make a big difference in your overall performance.

As mentioned, there are also item pickups. Again, this is actually new to this franchise. There is a host of item pickups your can get. This includes 1,000 and 2,000 bonus points which helps add to your overall total. Boost pickups include either a half refill or full refill. Rocket’s will instantly give you a huge boost for a short period of time. Wrenches will repair your vehicle. Shields will protect you from getting damage for a limited period of time. The tire will give you “super grip” which enhances handling and acceleration. Power drain will temporarily disable one opponent on contact. Finally, angel wings will prevent you from losing your boost should you get knocked off the playable area. So, something to definitely keep an eye out for as it can greatly increase the chances of success.

There are two other modes of play: wrecking race and destruction bowl. Wrecking race is just a single race with any circuit race you unlocked. Destruction bowl is just a single race in any of the bowl arenas.

What I do like is the introduction of the boosting. This really adds another level of play that just didn’t exist in previous games. While limited, this adds a nice sizable impact to the overall playing experience.

Additionally, the introduction of items really shows that this game can keep changing things up to make things interesting.

To add to this, the overall addictive nature of the general combat racing is quite well preserved here. It’s a bit of a mix between the N64 version and the Raw version because you do have a bit of that vehicles going the opposite direction on certain stretches. Everyone goes the same direction much like Raw, though, so a lot of your focus will be side by side combat instead, but there is that tweak that permits brief moments of head on action.

Unfortunately, this game does suffer from some setbacks as well. For one, the races wind up being all too short. In fact, the championship mode as a whole is so short, you can very easily complete one or two characters in a single evening without breaking a sweat. This in spite of the fact that there are about a dozen races involved in the whole game.

Compounding the problem is that the endings are just a picture and some text before the game skips to the credits (mercifully, you can skip those at least). Had this game done something like what is found in Vigilante 8: 2nd Offence, there would likely be a reason for players to actually try and beat the game with every character. As it is now, there’s little motivation to continue the game after you beat it a time or two outside of just playing it for the destruction and mayhem in each race.

The way characters are unlocked are certainly interesting. Unfortunately, it strikes me as an experiment that wound up being a bit of a bust. Had there been ways of unlocking characters outside of hoping for that one victory on that one course where you are still missing that character, this game might have done better.

Compounding the problem is the fact that you need to complete championship mode from start to finish. You can’t just select a segment and try and beat that segment. No, you have to finish the segments in sequence which makes for an archaic experience in my view.

If this game had a ladder more like Raw or the N64 version, I think it would have been much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, this ends up being the worst design in the series and held this game back as a result.

Generally speaking, this game has a lot going for it, but plenty simultaneously holding this back. The power ups, boosting, and overall carnage in each race really makes this game enjoyable. Unfortunately, the ladder and unlocking system ultimately becomes a spoiler element in it all. As a result, this winds up being a game with a lot of potential that could never be fully realized. I wound up wanting to like this game more than I did. It still has plenty of redeeming qualities going for it, but definitely a game you would want to play every so often and in smaller doses to avoid some repetition.

Graphically speaking, this game does fall a bit behind other games. On the surface, the special effects and modelling don’t seem all that bad. Even the animated characters in the car give the game an added boost to the overall look and feel. The added comic book style art does give this game a bit of spice. The thing to remember, however, is that there is a lot of games out there that very easily competes against what is found here. Examples include Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, Burnout 3: Takedown, and Need for Speed: Underground which can give this game a run for its money. Had this game been more like a launch title for the system, it would be respectable, but it came a bit too late to make a splash.

The audio is decent enough. The sound effects aren’t that bad in my view. That added taunting from opponents as well as the announcer does add some variety to the game. While not the best announcer I’ve heard, I didn’t mind it either. Meanwhile, the music is decent enough. Not stand out brilliance by any means, but I didn’t mind it either. So, a decent job all around.

Overall, this game had a lot of potential, but was held back by some design flaws. The overall combat racing, item pickups and boosting all work in this games favour. Thanks to these elements, I can easily say that there are redeeming factors in this game. Unfortunately, there are other things holding this game back. This includes the ladder system, short races, and how features are unlocked. The graphics are decent, but sadly dated. Meanwhile, the audio is decent enough, though nothing amazing. So, overall, a reasonable play especially if you play this one in small doses.

Furthest point in game: Unlocked everyone but Jeremiah. In terms of tracks, unlocked every bowl event except Rough Justice. Unlocked every race except Dam.

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

1 Trackback or Pingback

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: