Smash N’ Survive
The burning of rubber, the shunting of metal and the loud thrill of explosions are all synonymous with the gaming medium, particularly when it comes to the racing genre. Whenever a vehicle game is announced there’s a good chance that it’s set to focus on high-octane races, be it in the realistic vein of Gran Turismo or the arcade style of the Burnout series. Less frequent are the games which do away with this convention in favour of arena destruction through vehicular combat. Smash ’n’ Survive has slipped in under the radar and arrived with little to no fanfare, but does that mean you shouldn’t take it for a spin?
The thing you’ll instantly notice about the game is the presentation; the environments are bland and empty, colours are drab, and to say that the game lacks any sense of artistic direction would be something of an understatement. It’s not that anything here is poorly rendered, but rather the whole experience comes lacking any sense of flair or creative quality. Games don’t always need to tick the usual next-gen boxes (particularly when downloadable via the Playstation Network) but when no effort has been made with regards to stylistic flair it can come across as sloppy or at the very least unfinished. Ten seconds in and even rock fans will have tired of the looping menu theme too – it’s simply try-hard and obnoxious.
Worse still are the loading times, which don’t necessarily make sense given what the game is – or rather isn’t – loading. It takes entirely too long to cycle through vehicles, plus the amount of customisation on offer really doesn’t do much to impress. As a game centred on selecting vehicles and taking them out for some metal grinding fun, it’s a shame that this wasn’t a little more fleshed out (having been done better in Saints Row the Third), but to the developer’s credit, the roster improves significantly as things progress. You shouldn’t go in expecting any sort of story however, as exposition is handed out via small amounts of text before each event. No real context is given to the action, but the game’s simplistic nature makes this more than forgivable.
You’ll have to consider different vehicles for the various event types; it’s probably not in your best interests to select a nimble sports car for the thick of battle, just as you should avoid the bigger and more lumbering vehicles when it comes to burning rubber through checkpoints. Speed is the order of the day on some courses, whereas strength will mean victory when it comes to combat arenas. To accommodate this, the selection menu comes with a simple stat system so you’ll have an idea of which motor to pick at the right time. Unlockables are handed out with regularity and each event comes with a selection of sub-missions, such as finishing in a certain time or suffering only minimal damage.
The single-player features five general event types. Checkpoint has you racing through rings against the clock, Boost Me Up demands you pick up all items (again under a time limit), Gang Wars is the arena battle mode, Find Your Mate requires you to save a team-mate from the opposing team and Mosh Pit serves as the game’s survival mode. The challenge level ramps up considerably as you progress (expect to see spikes and flamethrowers), so you may become frustrated when a restart is needed, mostly due to the linear structure of the events in the campaign.
A major selling point of Smash ‘n’ Survive is its accessibility. The arcade feel to the vehicles makes it as easy for a non-gamer to jump in and join the action, at least in theory – you’ll know what needs to be done and how to do it, yet the handling itself can at times feel wonky. Dogfighting is a major part of the game, so it’s odd how these bouts often end up as a frustrating case of chasing other cars around and dealing and taking damage in equal measure, even when you’ve been careful to attack from behind or the side. Those hoping to dish the damage online are in for a disappointment for the time being, as a patch set to arrive in April will be adding internet play for up to six players. The longevity of this mode will be in question, however, as we don’t expect a huge community to be in place when it arrives.
While it does have some enjoyable moments, such as leaping between aircraft carriers to collect flaming tokens, the game just isn’t strong enough to warrant the (admittedly low) price tag for most people. Gamers are spoilt for choice this year in terms of major releases and smaller distractions, leaving Smash ‘n’ Survive in a tough position and hard to recommend given how bland and uninteresting it is. The repetitive menu theme alone will be enough to put off some, serving as the very first nail in this arcade title’s coffin. It may have something to offer to destruction derby fans and the low price point means it’s hard to be too critical, but most players will still want to avoid a collision with this one.
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of Smash ‘N Survive, supplied by Version 2 Games.
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