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March 18, 2004
Destruction Derby Arenas - Review
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Nice track design.
Destruction Derby 2 would have to be one of my fondest memories of the PSOne; the game was tough as nails, while also being a mean, addictive arcade-meets-simulation look at the destruction derby world. Everything from the cars, tracks and particle effects to the flying tires and car panels made me spend more on hiring the game before I actually bought it. When I found out that I would be reviewing the latest incarnation in the series, I was over the moon... that was until I put it in my Playstation 2. In the jump from Psygnosis to Sony, everything I loved about the first Destruction Derby titles had disappeared; I was now playing an easy, almost cartoonish version of the original. However, once I bit swallowed my pride and looked at Destruction Derby Arenas without any preconceptions, I discovered that quite a fun game was hiding within.

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Wow... car selection screen.
There are 3 primary modes in DDA; Wrecking Racing, Destruction Bowl and Championship. In all racing modes, points are awarded for hindering, damaging and destroying opponents’ vehicles. At the completion of each race, each of the different destruction ‘methods’ are listed, together with your score, which helps in giving an overall picture of your racing style. In the Wrecking Racing mode, you race out 4 laps of a circuit in a field of 20 racers. The overall winner is determined by who has the most points at the end of the race (rather than by position). Destruction Bowl mode is similar to the traditional destruction derbies; 20 cars are placed in a large arena, and must crash, bump and burn the opponents to get the most points within the time limit. Championship mode combines both Wrecking Racing and Destruction Bowl in a series of races over all the tracks; vying for position with their respective characters.

DDA supports network play, and in a strange move by Sony, contains more gameplay modes than in the offline play mode. Extra modes include Last Man Standing (aim to be the last surviving car), Capture the Trophy (a tag-mode similar to capture the flag) and stock car speedway (standard car racing), just to name a few. Why online gameplay contains modes that aren’t available when playing offline really stumps me; it short-changes not only people that don’t yet use their Playstation 2 online, but also those that do… I only saw 3 people playing DDA online in the time I played this game for reviewing, which meant that the online races had at most 3 competitors. While I’m sure 20 online human competitors will eventually be a complete hoot to play, I’d sure love to play the online modes ‘offline’ with AI-controlled opponents in the meantime.

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Slamming at 133km/h.
Aside from my initial wondering of ‘where did the old Destruction Derby go?!’ when I first played DDA, my second thought was ‘what the hell happened to the damage?!’. The damage model for each car has 6 points (front corner, rear corner, and side panel for both left and right sides of the car), similar to earlier DD-titles. However, damage means close to nothing in DDA; you can go for an entire race pummeling into every wall, car and obstacle, and still end up fine and dandy come the end of the race. Landing on your roof too (which was a big no-no in Destruction Derby 2, causing you to lose the race), just means your car gets relocated on the track; right side up. So now instead of driving like you sort-of-care, you can simply go head on into hordes of oncoming traffic, without having to fear for your car exploding or for your own safety. Furthermore, the damage engine is quite restrained; the huge collisions of yesteryear, where particles, smoke, tires and body panels flew everywhere are sadly now a thing of the past. Run into somebody this time, and you’ll be lucky if you see anything go flying; and although wheels can be completely lost, I’m still yet to see any stray wheels rolling around the tracks and arenas.

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T-Bone. (Not the steak!)
Taking a bold step away from the grungy, almost industrial look of previous DD titles, DDA has a bright and colorful arcade feel to it. The cars are quite rounded and vary considerably from sports cars to stock cars (with bonus cars including hotrods and police cars). The game is quite nice to look at, but suffers from frame rate drops quite regularly; so much so that you get used to it, and only notice when the game eventually ramps up to the intended frame rate. The Burnout-like turbo feature in-game is a must to winning races; it’s just unfortunate that each time you use it sends the frame rate to the depths of hell and back.

One area where I’m rather impressed with the upgrade to DDA is the track design. Most, if not all of the circuit tracks are set up in a distorted figure-8 style, such that crossover traffic and mayhem ensues in each and every race. On many tracks it’s done in a subtle manner, such that you’re busy focusing on taking the next corner, when suddenly… WHAM!!’ve been t-boned by an opponent traveling at full speed, and are now counting your lost teeth in the gutter. Among the power-ups to be collected on every level are little demolition packs; not only do they give you uber points, but they result in changes to a certain part of the track. For instance, on a seaside track, once you pick up a certain demolition pack a ship will run aground on a 2-way straight, creating a tight and devastating bottleneck. It’s a nice addition to add some dynamics to the tracks.

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Car 33 without a tyre.
In-game audio is average, with the typical bone-crunching effects, and cheesy rock soundtrack. The commentator throughout the game would be a nice touch, were it not for the repetition of his calls. Each and every time you ram an opponent into the walls (which is quite often, if you drive like I do ;) ), you’ll hear him scream out how ‘bone crunching’ or ‘killer’ each maneuver is… again… and again… and again… and so forth. Some variety would ease the pain, as well has having him hold back after the 4th or 5th time I’ve squashed another car in a 10-second period.

The fans of the earlier Destruction Derby titles may be disappointed with Destruction Derby Arenas, given that it has strayed so far from the formula and style that made it stand out from the crowd on the PSOne. If you put expectations aside and look at DDA with a clean slate, you’ll find that it is an enjoyable, addictive arcade racer, though not without its faults. Graphically it has some frame-rate issues, and it isn’t the longest game either (though online gameplay will help to extend its replayability). That said, there isn’t much competition out there for destruction derby racers, and Destruction Derby Arenas should keep most arcade racing fans entertained for a short while, making it an ideal game to hire for a day or two.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSGood, but has frame rate issues and the damage is disappointing.
SOUNDNothing too special, even with a broken-record commentator.
GAMEPLAYWhile nothing like earlier DD-titles, it’s still darn fun!
VALUEOffline modes are lacking, and you’ll easily finish it in a day.
OVERALLDestruction Derby Arenas takes a drastic sidestep from the PSOne titles which built a solid fanbase; while fans may be disappointed, there’s still a fun game to be had. Unfortunately it’s lacking in depth and content, so is definitely worth a rent before purchase.

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