STAFF REVIEW of Test Drive: Eve of Destruction (Xbox)

Sunday, August 29, 2004.
by RichVGS

Test Drive:  Eve of Destruction Box art It seems like every month two or three racing games are released. In order to help keep them organized, I?ve come up with the following four racing categories: professional/realistic, street, off-road and other. Professional/realistic would include the EA NASCAR series and Project Gotham Racing, focusing on realistic driving physics and keeping things legal. On the other side of the fence is street, which tends to focus on the illegal world of street racing. This category would include Need for Speed, Juiced and SRS (Street Racing Syndicate). Off-road is a pretty self explanatory grouping (in case you need help, look towards Rallisport Challenge 2). Finally, we have the other category which houses all those racing games that don?t exactly belong to any of the other categories. This is where you?d file away games like Quantum Redshift and Midtown Madness. The newest addition to the other category is the focus of today?s review. Finally, a game that emphasizes both racing and destruction equally to make one of the most entertaining car based game of the season, and my early pick for sleeper hit of the year. Let this be marked the eve of insanity as we take an in depth look at Atari?s Test Drive: Eve of Destruction.

When the game gets going, players first have to decide if the simply want some quick action, or if they?re looking for more of a long term career in the destructive racing field. Action mode allows players to select from a single race session to a seven race session that will pit you against either other human players, or strictly against eight computer controlled racers. It is here that you can sample any of the 21 (two additional types are offered in multiplayer mode) race modes. We?ll get to the different modes a bit later. In career mode, your racing/destruction life begins with your inheritance of your grandmother?s P.O.S. car. At this stage, your world will begin to form and you can drive around and go to one of four locations. Your first stop should be Sweeny?s Salvage Yard, where you can trade in your new piece of crap car of a brand spanking new pile of junk, one that won?t make you the laughing stock of the local racing circuit. Once you?ve found a care you?re satisfied with, you can head to the tracks and enter one of the next ?Eve? events. These events will include a number of different types of races in order to decide which driver the most destructive and fastest is around. While you will build you reputation and gain ranking in the ?Eve? world, it is all about making money in the early going so you can purchase new cars, or hit up the Auto Shop and upgrade your piece of crap to a super-fast eyesore. Finally, if you don?t feel like entering major competition, you can always roll on over to TJ?s Diner, where the local mullet sporting grease monkeys are always looking for some competition. As you progress in the racing world, more locations will open, including Troy?s Place, home of racers who believe in winning at any and all costs.

Before you read on, if you?re the type of racing gamer that likes to have shiny new cars race down glistening newly paved tracks, you may want to avoid Test Drive: Eve of Destruction at all costs. This is the home of gritty dirt race tracks, rusty colored Buicks, and mullet sporting racers. Then again, when the emphasis is on destruction rather then racing, you shouldn?t expect Project Gotham style race cars. The fact of the matter is that most of the racing going on in Eve of Destruction would be much more dangerous and way more illegal then any form of street racing today. So purists beware, but if you like the idea of midair collisions while jump racing in figure-8 shaped tracks, then please read on.

One of the unique features of Test Drive: Eve of Destruction is the variety of race modes. With 23 different racing modes, there is something for everyone. Here are just a few of the different kinds of modes offered:
-Jump Race ? contains many jumps and obstacles that can cause mass chaos
-Figure-8 Jump Race ? race in a figure-8 track with jumps
-Whip Around Race ? race back from one end of the track, make a 180 degree turn and race back over the course of a set number of laps
-School Bus Race ? everyone is driving a school bus
-Push Off / Knock-Out ? like the Fusion Frenzy game, knock all other cars out of the circle arena
-Trailer Race ? race while having a trailer hitched on to the back of your car and try knocking opponents? trailers off without losing your payload
-Soccer ? play soccer with a really big ball and use your car to drive in goals

Graphically speaking?well?that?s the one weakness in the whole Test Drive: Eve of Destruction shield of armor. On the surface, things are very basic and there is little detail to the background setting or to the tracks. The cars themselves, however, are almost works of art in their crappiness. Rust and sun fading never looked so good. The real highlight in Eve of Destruction is the effects of wreckage. It?s not uncommon to watch bits of an opponent?s car go flying off after a hit, and later, said bits become obstacles that could if hit improperly could send your car rolling. But even these high points still don?t cover up the fact that this is not a very graphically enhanced game. The fact is that Atari could have taken real advantage of the Xbox?s graphic abilities, but for one reason or another decided not to.

Sounds like a !&%$@#* good party?with car wrecks (okay, that didn?t work too well). The soundtrack includes some great songs by well known artists, such as Rob Zombie, Hoobastank, Thrice, Sum 41 and Thursday. Not a fan of these bands, then you can always exercise the wonderful custom soundtracks option offered (something about destruction and the Sex Pistols that just fits perfectly). In addition, the sound effects are some of the best sounding in recent memory. Instead of using the standard car race sounds that most games have, Atari taped sounds of junk heaps smashing into one another?and it sounds beautiful. Finally, we have the voice of our race announcer, who probably calls auto races as his day job. This is right up there with the typical ?SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY! THE BIGGEST NAMES IN DESTRUCTION DERBY TODAY WILL ROCK THE SAVVIS CENTER! KIDS GET IN FREE WITH ADULT ADMISSION! DON?T MISS WHAT IS GOING TO BE THE BIGGEST DISPLAY OF AUTO WRECKS SINCE THE LAST TIME WE CAME TO YOUR TOWN! SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!? You get the idea.

So what?s not so good about Test Drive: Eve of Destruction? The simple graphics, while they don?t ruin the game, does take an almost perfect game and bring it down to a lower level. Another flaw is the lack of Xbox Live support. Can you imagine eight player destruction derbies via Live? That would be incredible. But it looks like we?ll have to wait until the next addition of the Test Drive series before we see it. Finally, there is a lack of major challenges. Sure, the difficulty gets more intense as you progress, but it seems that no matter how bad things get, there?s always a car you can acquire to take down the competition, and I?m not taking a neck-to-neck fight (you?ll usually start lapping opponents going into lap two). I wasn?t looking for impossible odds, just some competition that would make me sit on the edge of my seat and give me reason to jump out of my chair in victory after winning a race. Challenge me people, please!

You race to win in order to make money, and you cause destruction in order to gain respect, which unlocks additional tracks, cars and bonus features. Finally, a game that gives equal emphasis to both havoc and speed. Sure you can get through the game just on racing alone, but you?ll miss out on some great unlockable additions. Finally, a game that awards your crappy driving skills. Atari has created a fun driving game that offers such variety that you should never get bored with simply driving around in a circle because few courses are like that. Buses versus hearses are not too uncommon in the world of Test Drive: Eve of Destruction. As I said early on, Eve of Destruction gets my early vote for sleeper hit of the year because of its unique game variety, incredible soundtrack and the balance between destruction and racing. While I often recommend checking out certain games, I recommend that you shell out the $39.99 for this one if you like cars and causing damage.

From the Inside, Keep on Gaming!

Overall: 9.2 / 10
Gameplay: 9.6 / 10
Visuals: 8.2 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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