Every now and then a downloadable title comes along and shocks you with its depth, ambition and technical expertise.
PSN and XBLA titles have the ability to move the player in a way that isn’t often seen in the big budget world of physical media. Just look at Thatgamecompany’s amazing Journey, recently awarded top marks right here on newbreview.com. These downloadable titles are capable of becoming landmark moments in gaming… sadly they are also capable of ending up like this, an experience as enjoyable as a multi-vehicle pileup on the M1 at 08:30 on a Monday morning.
Yup, you guessed it, I didn’t like this game.
Smash ‘n’ Survive is a PS3 debut title for Indian studio Version 2 Games. The game-play centres on destructive car combat over a variety of maps and game modes. There is a single player mode, split screen and online multi-player.
Firstly, when I downloaded and initially installed Smash ‘n’ Survive I was shocked by the graphics. Back in the days of the PS2 I was a big fan of Need for Speed: Underground. Smash ‘n’ Survive is possibly best described as the ugly stepchild of that classic with basic, blocky and frankly butt-ugly car models. In fact Smash ‘n’ Survive is even better described as the Danny DeVito to Twisted Metal’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The maps are mostly barren and devoid of interesting obstacles with an unhealthy portion of illogically destructible elements thrown in. You can happily trundle through a concrete tube, causing it to crumble around your ears as you pass but if you want to drive through a two foot high wooden picket fence – forget about it. There is little consistency with what could have been a redeeming feature for the game-play.
Each car comes with a weapon, ranging from a front mounted buzz-saw to rigid spikes, flamethrowers or some kind of radiant pulsar used to disrupt nearby opposition. These are all mostly ineffective and use of them can actually prove disruptive to game-play. When you hit the button to trigger weapons the camera zooms in to focus on your car and the weapon in action. The problem with this is that if you miss your opponent you lose complete sight of them and the surrounding environment for 3-5 seconds while the Smash ‘n’ Survive engine smiles blankly back at you saying “look at this cool close up of nothing while we ruin your game”. This is incredibly infuriating and counter to the overall aim of the game.
During the single player campaign money is earned through the successful completion of the level with bonuses awarded for achieving certain in game feats. Completing each mission under the most basic requirements should earn you enough to unlock the next level car. There are 30 cars to unlock, which is nice, but again there is very little point or logic to some of the vehicles. Each car has 3 stats, strength, acceleration and handling and some of the most expensive options in Smash ‘n’ Survive are outclassed in these areas by some of the first unlockable vehicles. There is also a degree of cosmetic customization available to you, but again this is mediocre at best.
On top of these failings, Smash ‘n’ Survive’s menu system is beset with technical problems. I found that the longer I played the game the more the menu slowed down. After about 30 minutes of playing I experienced lag of 5 seconds between pressing a button and seeing the fruit of that input.
Graphics: 1/5 - At times Smash ‘n’ Survive’s graphics look like a poor PS2 game.
Sound: 2/5 - A repetitively looped, grunge metal track drones on in the background.
Gameplay: 1/5 - Mostly boring and uninspiring with only a couple of moments resembling “fun”.
Longevity: 3/5 - There are a lot of cars to unlock and several game modes, if you can tough it out.
Overall: 2 blocky cars out of 5
There are moments, especially toward the end of the game, where you can see sparks of potential, unfortunately these are too little, too late, and snuffed out by a distinctly poor boss battle as a finale. Smash ‘n’ Survive feels like a poor quality cash-in on the hype around Twisted Metal. If you like ugly, worse than last gen, mediocre gameplay then you might want to take a look. Otherwise give it a miss.
– Steve “kamiza” Garrett