Vehicular combat games have been around for a long time, and its history can be traced back as far as 1976, with 1995’s Destruction Derby for PSOne being one of the most memorable. A new Indian indie developer team, Version 2 Games, has now brought us a new one: Smash n Survive, exclusive to the PS3. Can it stand up against established vehicle combat games? We test drive this game to find out.
It was with some interest that I fired up Smash n Survive. I’ve always been a fan of vehicular combat games over technical racers, and on top of that, I was curious to see how the Indian video game development market was faring.
Smash n Survive takes a decidedly metäl approach to things, starting with the soundtrack and ending with the lineup of over 40 different cars and trucks. Each car has three statistics attached to it: strength, handling, and acceleration. The cars and trucks can also be customized to a degree, with some of the customizations—such as buzz-saws on the front of the car—looking decidedly deadly. On the other hand, despite the customizations looking very awesome indeed, they serve no more purpose than aesthetic and have no effect on the car’s performance.
The majority of the game takes place in Campaign mode, where you proceed with a succession of missions that range from racing through a barrage of checkpoints, to surviving in an arena for a specified amount of time, to escort missions, to simply destroying your opponents by planting bombs on the track. The missions aren’t really connected in any perceivable way, so there’s no real storyline to work through to give it all cohesiveness. You’re reasonably assured of unlocking at least one new car with each race, but it might take a bit more time to rack up the points to buy them all. Each car also handles slightly differently, so you’re not left feeling like you’re just driving the same hunk o’ metal over and over again.
The race tracks themselves, around 10 different tracks in all, are a strange mix, spreading out the over a range as diverse as a ruined village, a circular arena, a sunny area, and a succession of aircraft carriers out on the roiling ocean (!) That last one was my favorite. Great pleasure can be had by pushing your opponents into the raging sea, or even by jumping from ship to ship while collecting nitro tokens.
The multiplayer portion of the game—local two player only, for now—is a bit more fun than the single player campaign, and you and a few friends can duke it out in the arenas. It’s always satisfying to get the one-up on someone else, and the sheer chaos of several players together in one enclosed space has the same level of satisfaction of whacking someone, or several someones, who desperately deserves it. Online multiplayer for up to six players is pending patching later in the year (April, according to sources).
On the downside, the game’s AI is patchy at best, frustrating at worst. This, coupled with the sparse instructions, can make for a somewhat frustrating experience, especially with the destruction modes. For instance, in one Survival match (where the object of the mode is to not get hit by the other cars), the track is a circle with all sorts of bays along the sides. You could happily race around the circular track without being bothered by the other cars, because they were too busy either fighting each other, or ramming the everloving daylights out of those walls, leaving you to wonder “What did that poor wall do to deserve that?” Of course, the second you stop moving, the other cars home in on you like a swarm of really angry swarmy things [Ed: bees, perhaps?].
Another minor issue is the load time, whether it be between tracks, restarting the same track, or even just between different car customizations. The game tends to be a little slow to realize that you’ve initiated a change. Thankfully, once a track is loaded, you’re good to go, and the scenery zips by satisfyingly quickly. One last minor issue I had was after failing an objective in the campaign, you’re given the option of trying again or going back to the menu. Guess which option is highlighted by default. This seems like a very strange oversight, but having to go through the entire slow-loading menus and slow-loading of the tracks just to replay becomes more like work.
My feeling is that, although Smash n Survive is by no means a terrible game (and it’s not a terrible game!), it’s certainly no Burnout or Twisted Metal although it might be closer to Carmageddon than anything else. For the price, you’re certainly getting some great fun, especially if you throw some friends into the mix and have at it. The campaign mode could have used a bit more cohesion and possibly a clearer way to replay older missions, but the multiplayer definitely adds something interesting to the combat. It’s a huge pity that PSN support is still lacking, because this game was made for online play.
Final Score: 6 road-raging prawns out of 10
Developer: Version 2 Games
Distributor: Sony Entertainment Network
Download size: 1.8GB
Age Rating: 7