Review: Destruction Derby Raw (Playstation)

In this review, we check out yet another vehicle combat racing game. This time, it’s Destruction Derby Raw for the Playstation. We find out if this game is worth a replay or not.

This game was released in 2000 and would be the fourth Destruction Derby title released. The first game in the series, Destruction Derby, was OK. Destruction Derby 2 left a lot to be desired. Meanwhile, Destruction Derby 64 managed to earn a near perfect score thanks largely to the overall fun factor involved. So, we decided to see how the transition from the N64 platform back to the Playstation platform turned out.

There are a few similarities between the N64 version and this version interestingly enough. One similarity is the longstanding tradition of utilizing race points to determine the winner rather than who crosses the finish line first. This tradition extends all the way to the first Destruction Derby. This feature is present in many, but not all modes. Another feature that is similar to the N64 is the fact that there are no more divisions amongst racers. this is unlike the first 2 Destruction Derby games where players were, in fact, split up between divisions.

There are also a few similarities between this game and the first two Playstation games. The main thing is the return of the main Wreckin’ Race mode. While the name of this mode has returned, that is where some of the core similarities end. Unlike the Wreckin’ Race modes in both Destruction Derby 1 and 2, this Wreckin’ Race mode divides your effort into individual races and in no way really resembles a championship style where you want to earn the most cumulative points overall after a series of races. Instead, you are greeted with a progress tree that shows every single racetrack style race in the game. You start off with a mere one race to play on. You are shown how many points you need to earn on that race before moving on (along with a handy difficulty ranking if that helps). Once you select the race you want to be in, you are offered a limited number of vehicles to choose from. Pick one to begin the race. On the upside, you do have plenty of information about each car you can choose from, though some of the icons can be a bit confusing (how is an hourglass-like icon supposed to represent durability anyway?).

In each race, you have a standard distribution of points depending on what overall place you are in when you cross the finish line. First place grants you 1000 race points. Second place gives you 900 points. The pattern continues all the way up to 10th. Beyond that, you can earn absolutely no points whatsoever if you place 11th or worse. There are 20 car on the course for many of these races including you, though some of the shorter tracks will only have 16 racers in total (ala Cyclone). The good news is that the first race you encounter requires only 1000 points to pass. So, all you really need to do is to be the first to cross the finish line. No smashing into others necessary. However, the more difficult races will require more than 1000 points to pass. The highest requirement is the final race which requires 2600 points. That would be the Slammer track and you are required to beat the most number of tracks to get to it.

Since most races require additional race points, you’ll need to cause some mayhem on the track as you race. Overall collisions can earn varying amounts of points. A simple collision, the Teeth Rattler, can earn around 10 points. Other collisions can earn more points. A harder collision can earn you a “Jaw Breaker” message. The hardest simple collision is the bone cruncher. While it’s all well and good to get points from these, other kinds of collisions can earn you considerably more points for each collision. A 90 degree spin can earn you 50 points each. There’s also 180 degree spins and 360 degree spins that can earn even more points. These are earned if you spin out an opponent. There’s also 90 and 180 degree roll which is pretty much what you think they are. The hardest to achieve out of the rolls are a barrel roll. These kinds of collisions can net you a fair amount of points, but the collisions that earn the most are the combination collisions. These include the hurricane, loop-de-loop, revolver, and rollercoaster collisions which can earn you hundreds of points each. The biggest one I’ve encountered was a tidal wave which helped get my highest score I’ve ever gotten on a race – 5500 points after crossing the finish line first.

The interesting thing about the Wreckin’ Races is the fact that some of the later races not only have a high point requirment, but also offers you some of the lowest end vehicles to choose from. I found that, because of this, you had to rely on luck to get some of those high-end combination collisions just to squeak past the point requirement. This was the hardest of the races. Some of the slightly easier races give you a choice of higher end vehicles. In that case, I could just throw the car in reverse if I knew I wasn’t getting enough points and just go in the reverse direction. If I could get myself into some angled head-on collisions, I could quickly rack up the points necessary to win, though this is always a gamble. Then again, when crossing the finish line will cause you to lose anyway, what do you have to lose?

There’s no penalty for failing to get the required number of points in Wreckin Race. You can simply restart the race, or go back to the main menu so you can either choose another track or vehicle. At the end of each line of races is a track with a championship cup. Fulfill the race requirement on that track and you’ll not only earn that golden cup, but also the ability to watch a short clip before being put into the main menu. After each race, you’ll see 8 vehicles that you can unlock. Each cup unlocks one of those vehicles. Unfortunately, these vehicles are only available in the Smash 4 $ mode. Personally, I found the Oil Slick track to be the best track early on, but the best track to race on was the final track – Slammer. The reason for this is because all Slammer has are two posts and an open field. Yes, there are laps involved, but there’s the most opportunities to get into some fun collisions with the opponents here. Battle mode sticks a large barrier in the middle, which reduces that excitement sadly.

One tip I found when it comes to increasing your odds of getting a combo collision is to get into as many T-bone collisions as possible. These collisions seem to yield the most overall points – especially when you are using nitro to increase your speed. Unfortunately, T-bone collisions are the hardest to get into and opportunities are more readily available in arena-like tracks. Those tracks, sadly, are not available in either Wreck-in’ Races or Smash 4 $. the next best thing is to do head-on collisions where either you connect either your left headlight with the opponents left headlight or connect your right headlight with your opponents right headlight. This increases the odds of you getting spinning and rolling points. The third most useful collision is simply flooring your vehicle into an opponent as they are executing a sharp turn into the corner. Sometimes, the opponent will simply get flicked up into the air as you sandwich that opponent into the barrier. Again, you increase the possibilities of gaining points through combination collisions.

As a general rule for many of these races, most end either with you crossing the finish line or after everyone else crosses the finish line. Alternatively, and this is probably the most unfair way of ending a race, is if you completely wreck your car. If you completely wreck your car, you lose all of your points. Why is this unfair? If you completely wreck computer opponent vehicles, those computer opponents retain all of the points they earned up to when they finish the race. So, the rule of losing all of your points on death only applies to you.

The next main mode is new to the series – Smash 4 $. You can earn hidden cars found in this mode in Wreckin’ Race mode, but you can also unlock a few Smash 4 $ vehicles in the, er, Smash 4 $ mode. This mode is interesting because it puts a dollar amount into the game. You have access to most vehicles in the game (minus the 8 unlockable vehicles of course), but most will be out of reach at the beginning because you are starting with a mere $1500. So, you basically start with some lower end vehicles. You earn cash by gaining race points in each race. For every race point you earn in a race, you’ll earn a dollar. So, if you finish first and have 200 race points through collisions, your total winnings will be $1200. Knowing that the most expensive vehicle in the game is $9400, this may sound like you’ll be able to earn the high end vehicles in no time. There is, however, a catch in this mode. After each race, you must have one fully repaired vehicle to enter the next race. The repair costs vary. The low end vehicles will only set you back a couple hundred dollars. The higher end ones, however, will set you back well over $1000 for each repair job. You also don’t have a choice in which track to race. Instead, you race each track in a pr-determined order. You lose in Smash 4 $ if you don’t have enough money to repair at least one vehicle. If you finish every race, then you get the closing credits before you are magically popped back to the beginning again. You can own up to 8 vehicles though, so if things go horribly wrong on one race, you can simply select another vehicle if you can’t afford the repairs. one other thing about this mode is the fact that you can also upgrade your vehicles for a small fee. Each attribute has a cap and you can’t improve the cars overall durability. Upgrades are generally cheap, so you can upgrade everything to the max easily if you have a spare $3,000 or so.

While both Wreckin’ Race and Smash 4 $ can yield several days worth of entertainment, there are a few other smaller modes to note. This is the battle mode which allows up to 4 players. There’s Assault which gets you to team up with a computer player in a hummer. The furthest ahead you and your hummer are of others, the more points you earn as time goes by. The most points wins, though there isn’t any collision points in this mode.

Another mode in battle is Skyscraper. This is one of the arena like battles, but each battle takes place on top of a sky scraper. There are three different sky scrapers to choose from. You earn points in the usual way, but you can simply shove opponents off of the skyscraper to not only eliminate them, but also earn a “flatliner” collision that can earn a number of points. This can be difficult as it’s easy to accidentally fling yourself off the building in the process of taking out an opponent, so caution is also necessary here. The most points wins.

Pass Da Bomb is a mode that seems to have carried over from Destruction Derby 64 (Bomb Tag). If you hold onto the bomb, you’ll collect points. You have to, however, pass the bomb onto someone else to collect those points. This is achieved by simply ramming into an opponent. If you fail to pass off the bomb to an opponent before it goes off, you’ll sustain damage. If you take damage from too many bombs, you, of course, could wreck your car and be eliminated. The most points, as usual, wins.

The final mode of note is Destruction Derby. In this mode, you get to choose from three different arena tracks. As a general idea of what arena tracks there are, there’s basically an oval, a rounded square, and a circle. There are three sub-modes to choose from.

The first has the familiar DD icon that is carried over from the first 2 destruction derby games. That is, of course, classic. You simply smash your car into opponents to earn points until you either wreck yourself or wreck every other opponent. The most points win.

A second mode is vampyre mode. In this mode, you smash into other vehicles to get points. However, if an opponent smashes into you, that opponent can take away points you earn. This may be the only mode where it’s possible to get negative points (points will appear red). The most points wins.

The final mode is another familiar mode if you’ve played the first two Destruction Derby titles – Armageddon. In this mode, you find yourself in the arena, but the big difference is the fact that all of your opponents are after you and you only. For every second you survive, you earn a point. You try and basically survive for as long as possible before your opponents finally wreck you. As a general rule, if you can find a somewhat circular rout around the center of the arena, you can basically pool your opponents in the middle of the arena. From there, you just retain that circular rout and you’ll more or less remain unharmed until you get bored and deliberately allow your opponents to smash into you. By doing so, it’s only a matter of seconds before you lose all of your health. I did this until I got over 1000 seconds clocked before I had enough. It’s cheap, but generally a very good strategy to employ if you want to rack up the points in this mode. The game eds when you die. This stops the timer and you get however many points you earned up to that point.

As far as the series is concerned, this is the best Playstation release of the three that were made available on the Playstation. What makes this game better than Destruction Derby 2 is the fact that collision points are actually clear. There’s a logical pattern. In Destruction Derby 2, you just got points seemingly arbitrarily while this game shows you how you got those race points. It makes it easier to formulate a strategy. What made this game superior to Destruction Derby 1 was the much more customizable cars – and, of course, the fact that you could choose more than one car to begin with. Unfortunately, this title simply paled in comparison to Destruction Derby 64 because all the racers were generally all going the same direction whereas there was more of an emphasis of head-on collisions in the previous title. There was also more points involved in clearing checkpoints while this game just emphasized whoever crossed the finish line first to get race points. I thought the points distribution in the 64 version was way better even though the points distribution system in this game was pretty good all around. Another thing I sorely missed in this game that was found in the 64 title was the announcer. The announcer added so much to the games personality in the 64 version. The fact that was removed altogether in this version was a huge surprise and disappointment. I honestly don’t know why there is no announcer at all in this game. If there was a more serious tone to be achieved, that could be reflected in the announcer. So, a puzzling change to say the least.

One thing this game does have going for it is the huge variety of tracks. That certainly earns a thumbs up from me because it adds so much to the replay value if there are a bunch of tracks to choose from. It simply doesn’t wear out its welcome by the end anyway.

A downside to this game is that there’s a bit of a disconnect between Wreckin Race and Smash 4 $. You can earn trophies and unlock cars in Smash 4 $, sure, but if you leave part way through, you have to save or you lose all of your progress. Conversely, if you decide to leave Smash 4 $ mode after a while, you also have to save or you lose all of your progress. I think there should have been more unity in the game where you could simply switch back and forth and have you progress automatically saved as you went along. I don’t know why a decision was made to completely separate progress like this. This limitation struck me as irritating more than anything else.

The endings for both Smash 4 $ and Wreckin Race modes just seem sudden to me. In Smash 4 $, there’s no “final race” mentioned when you reach Slammer. You just race the track and get a credits screen after you finish. I thought more warning would have been in order. A little indicator that says “x races to go” would have alleviated this. Wreckin Race was worse. You win a trophy and get a short video clip for getting that trophy. This applies to all of the final races including Slammer. If you complete every race, nothing special happens other than you get to see a full race tree. I thought this was a let-down as you don’t earn anything special for completing everything. A super car would have been excellent, but no such luck.

One positive thing about thing about this game is that as your car takes damage, your steering can be affected. Most typically is a flat tire as you take on significant damage. Your car will continually veer to the left if you blow your front left tire. Same said for the front right tire, though I’ve never blown both front tires interestingly enough. You can also hear your engine struggling as you get close to death as well.

Graphically, this game was very nicely done. There’s that sense of realism throughout as there are things like lens flares during night time races and actual debris in some of the harder collisions flying around. As your car takes damage, different parts of your car can show damage depending on what segment of the car is damaged. I thought the menu screens were nicely done. The crushing of the metal plate as you select an option was a nice touch. One thing I do miss is the blown radiator you get in other Destruction Derby games. If you are near death in the other games, you get white steam flying everywhere. No such luck in this game. It’s just a simple little fire and black smoke if you die.

The audio was quite good overall. You get the cheering from the crowd as you collide into other cars. The damage sound effects were nicely done as well. The music was also pretty good throughout. I think I like the Avalanche track music the most, though the Axe Head, Overflow Stadium, and main menu music was quite good as well. There’s a decent amount of variety in the music throughout the game as you go along, though the overall soundtrack veers into the instrumental rock sound.

Overall, I had plenty of fun with this game. There’s a few issues like the inability to save the progress of both Wreckin Race and Smash 4 $ at the same time. The lack of announcer was a let down. While this game isn’t as good as Destruction Derby 64, it did contain plenty of hours of fun regardless. It’s a solid entry in the Destruction Derby series and I would, for sure, recommend this game.


Furthest point in game: Beat all of the Wreckin Race tracks and completed Smash 4 $ twice (thinking that you could get something extra the second time around, but you only get the same end credits sadly). Finished Smash 4 $ with over $12,000 in cash and 6 vehicles. Survived Armageddon mode with over 1000 seconds and beat a number of other modes as well. I didn’t win in Assault due to me being confused as to what I needed to do and sky scraper (2nd was the best I did). I also apparently suck at Pass Da Bomb as well. Oh well.

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 80%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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