STAFF REVIEW of Smashing Drive (Xbox)

Wednesday, June 12, 2002.
by Queasy Buddy

Smashing Drive Box art Imagine synchronistic paced action/racing, graphics so sharp you almost can cut yourself, an amazing polygon game engine with no pop-up, accurate collision detection, fantastic music with memorable melodies and bass-pounding sound effects! Imagine hours of racing fun with an addictive two player split-screen mode, realistic landscapes, awesome crashes and intelligent computer enemies. Now imagine a game that has none of the above. Welcome to Smashing Drive. The idea is simple: Drive through the big city in two different modes (arcade and survival) and manage to beat your rival CPU cab and successfully get your passenger from point A to point B before the time limit runs out; that?s it that?s all. The game progresses through a series of working shifts which get harder and harder but for experience gamers like myself this was so easy. The game is everything it shouldn't be. Namco should?ve expanded on the (aging) arcade racer's theme by taking on the full force of the Xbox. So much has happened in video gaming industry that Smashing drive?s flat cartoonist graphics look very dated -- especially since Microsoft's own Halo has shown what the Xbox is capable of. The pace is fast, the frame-rate is never choppy and somehow excitement doesn't really kick in. For some strange reason I still felt compelled to drive through the whole game, just to be able to say: "There, I finished it!" Little did I know that it would only take me about two hours to finish the whole game. The graphics look flat, but offer some nice detail in some of the levels like the basketball courts and roof tops but that's about it.

Smashing Drive looks to add a few wacky twists to standard racing affair like a variety of power-ups (Sonic Blast, Turbo, Glider, 4X4, Repair, Cutter, Crash and the all so familiar question mark ??? that grants you a special surprise). The control pattern is pretty easy really: A button for gas, B button for braking. And let's not forget about the X button for Power-ups. Master that strategy, and you'll be a Smashing drive champ in no time. But don't think this basic control scheme takes away from the fun of the game; oh wait it does. Anyone who's already played simulation racing games will tell you that complexity is what helps keeps its fun. As far as a pure racing game is concerned, Smashing drive is really very simple. Don't expect to use your brake button for precision power-slides in anticipation of hairpin corners. The tracks are really laid out in a very head-on fashion where you can simply release the gas if a sharp turn should every cross your path. You'll even find the occasional hidden shortcut or jump to send you zipping past your Rival CPU cab. Most of the time, however, you simply cruise down the long and hilly straight-aways and glide through the gentle extended curves. But when the turbo comes into play all you have to do is sit back and relax because if you happen to hit an other car you will just bounce off it and keep going and if you do go off course an imagery wall will push you right back onto the track; now where is the fun in that you can?t even wonder around the city.

Smashing drive takes you through the crazy imagination of a five year-old child, and the visuals are a real threat to the eye-candy. The effects won?t wow you. Sparks from your cab grinding on other cars fail to dazzle. It is a very blurry environment, there is very little small details which really doesn?t satisfy me. The graphics in this game have all ready been achieved on several previous consoles. A good example of this can be seen by focusing at the mocking absent of texture of any kind in the skies. The only thing that wasn?t embarrassing to the Xbox was the solid framerate and not to shaby car destruction. But, even the destruction of your car is confined to set stages that visually show off how badly your car has been crushed.

The sound effects are okay, but yet again Namco shows a total lack of attention to detail. For example, when your car jumps over a ramp or a jump, there is no difference in the engine sound and even when you hit the ground, there is barely corresponding impact noise. The soundtrack does not actually detracts from the gameplay, but it definitely doesn't enhance the gaming experience. Even my parents (which have pretty disgusting taste) would have trouble sitting through a whole song (If you actually like these songs, seek professional help). Each time you restart a level the song will restart and you can?t skip tracks or anything you just have to bare the terrible tunes that are in the game and you can?t play your own tunes directly form your Xbox hard drive.

This particular title does not reflect the power of the Xbox at all. Pay more attention to the smaller details!

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 4.0 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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