Time to wag your weenie.
The year is 2012. Pollution, corruption, power and greed have finally taken their toll. The Earth lies in shambles. Famine and horror stalk the land like two great, huge, uh...stalking things.
The only respite from this planet of despair is Big Daddy and his vacation wonderlands. He has turned some of America's famous landmarks and cities into exclusive Disney-esque getaways. But only the super-wealthy and elite can actually afford to get away from it all. What about those other hard working folks? What can they do? They deserve a vacation, too.
That's where you come in. You're an 'auto mercenary'. With your heavily armed and armored 'taxi', you can bust these poor folks into Big Daddy's compounds so they can see the sights. And all for a fraction of what Big Daddy charges.
There's just one problem: The competition is fierce.
Welcome to the world of Rogue Trip, the latest game from SingleTrac, the developers of Twisted Metal 1 & 2 (we're allowed to mention this, even though apparently they are not). Like its famous predecessors, Rogue Trip is full of metal crunching, fuel burning, explosive automobile combat.
This isn't surprising at all, because Rogue Trip obviously uses the same engine as Twisted Metal 2. I must admit that this put me off a bit at first. I mean, sure, they've souped it up a fair bit. The graphics look better, mostly thanks to some much better texture maps. Vapor trails, skid marks, and some new reflection and transparency tricks flesh it out. But after playing the killer Vigilante 8, I was hoping for something... newer.
As I played the game more, I was reminded that these guys really know their auto combat. The character design is up to par with their very tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Sister Mary Lascivious drives a barbed-wire coated schoolbus that shoots explosive halos. Daisy June plans to whomp you with her swamp buggy. Be careful or Elvis D. Kang will rock your world in his '57 Chevy. And of course Richard Biggs (you figure it out) drives a giant hot-dog car and will whack you with his enormous meaty treat if you don't get out of his way.
The level design is the biggest improvement over Twisted Metal 2. Those bland backdrops have been replaced with some much spicier scenery. In 'Daddywood', you can take the whirlwind tour of the stars homes. 'Hell-O-Stone' provides some of the Earth's last pristine wilderness for you to blow up. And 'The Maul' pits you against what is left of Washington DC.
Each level is full of interesting twists and turns, lots of things to destroy, and even a secret or two if you pay attention.
The sound is just fine, with growling engines, satisfying crashes and the ever-popular explosion. The music is also pretty good with a couple of recognizable bands throwing in their musical two cents. It can get a bit repetitive, though. Remind me that I never want to hear that damn Mighty Mighty Bosstones song ever again.
Those tricksters at SingleTrac have even added something new to auto-dueling: A prize. Yes, that tourist that you are driving around is a valuable commodity. As long as they are in your car, they are paying the fare, and when you stop to allow them to take pictures of the sights, the dough can really add up.
And you will need that money if you want to repair your car or buy weapon upgrades. The fight for tourism dollars never ends, and all those other auto-mercs would rather they had the tourist instead of you. So they will blow you up if they can, or pop the tourist out of your car with the 'premature ejectulator' (I couldn't make this stuff up, even if I wanted to). Then they will race off with the cash cow, leaving you flat broke.
You can also play against a friend in classic split-screen style. Or, if you have the mythical link cable, you can actually play up to four players on two split screens.
However, the best thing about Rogue Trip is that it's a hell of a lot of fun. When I first saw the same old Twisted Metal 2 engine at work, I prepared myself to be disappointed, but I wasn't. I found myself coming back to the game time and again.
While I still don't think it's quite as good a game as Vigilante 8, Rogue Trip is damn good. It's a great, quick diversion; some intense, flammable action for the end of that tough day. It is also an improvement over Twisted Metal 2, and proves that good gameplay more than makes up for slightly behind-the-times graphics.