Wow, does this look familiar.
In a world where original ideas are more sought after than the Holy Grail, it's no surprise to see game developers constantly pumping out expensive, technological ubiquity. In many cases, it's even desired. A company produces a good game and we want to see others take a hint and follow suit. Sounds reasonable.
Infogrames' new vehicular combat game Motor Mayhem is one that has obviously borrowed heavily from the Twisted Metal games...and can we blame them? If you're gonna snag ideas it might as well be from the masters.
Motor Mayhem brings ease of gameplay, fantastic pyrotechnics and a score of weaponry to the table. Unfortunately, all of the intricacies and some of the fun are missing in action for this extremely arcade-oriented title.
The story for Motor Mayhem is long, well thought out and completely underrepresented in the game. Many years after a huge war with some age-old subterranean civilization, the descendants of genetically altered soldiers are now without a battlefield. So what do you do to please the adult offspring of violence-prone, gene-spliced supermen capable of destroying small cities? You reinstate the technological equivalent of the Roman Coliseum so they can kill each other for our amusement, naturally. This new age spectacle is called the VCL (Vehicle Combat League).
Motor Mayhem plays almost identically to Twisted Metal: Black. Choose from one of 8 characters and proceed. A set number of players (much fewer than TMB) are dropped down into pleasantly interactive arenas (much smaller than TMB) to do battle. Here powerups can be picked up to enhance your arsenal.
Your goals vary depending on the game mode. There are Eliminator (last man standing), Deathmatch and Endurance modes - all are pretty self-explanatory.
The instruction booklet says that each character has a specific rival. Okay...so why is there no hint of this in the game? No visually pleasing cinemas with characters trash talkin' and while in battle the players show no obvious added interest in seeing rivals dead. You're just supposed to trust the instruction book. "I'm Chromium and my archrival is Orion." If you say so, oh masterful booklet, but what about the other two competitors? If Orion is my rival, are these other guys my friends? No, of course not, so what's the point of this silly rival business?
Which brings me to my next gripe. Did you notice I said "two" other characters? That's right - at any one time you will engage a staggering total of three other characters in vehicular combat. That's a grand total of four vehicles, and some of the earlier stages only have two other competitors. All of the previous car combat games allowed for much more than just four players per battle. This is just inexcusable.
To add insult to injury, the AI...well, just isn't. Don't expect the challenge that can be found in TMB. Enemies seem to just fire at whomever is nearest. Weak! Also, don't expect the intricate and detailed level design. The maps in Motor Mayhem are small, nonsensical and very uninspiring for a next generation game.
But you can deform the levels for some great effects. I shot down a huge overhead monitor displaying the battle for the crowd and it fell on one of the competitors, destroying his vehicle. And there's more of that kind of thing on different maps, which is really cool.
Another cool tidbit is the game's immense arsenal of weapons. They tip the scales at 40 different types, including vehicle specific ordinances. Some of these armaments are a little useless (like the energy mines, since seeing behind you can be really difficult while driving), yet still it should be a while before players have mastered all the weapons and powerups.
And they're pretty nice to watch, too. The particle effects, missile trails and explosions are great, as is the overall look of the game in general. No gripes there. The vehicles are huge (I mean HUGE) and incredibly detailed with many moving parts. Often when you activate a vehicle specific attack, your character will stand up so you can actually see him/her/it as they go into the animation for their move. It's nice to see and well implemented.
But have fun trying to aim those cool weapons. The vehicle physics are something special, and I don't mean that in a good way. All vehicles seem to have this out-of-place weightless thing going for them, which makes control a problem. Even the heavier armored cars suffer from this. Now throw a bunch of pads on the playng field which launch you into the air ala Quake III Arena, and you have the makings for some truly annoying physics.
Multiplayer is an eventual bust as the novelty of playing with a friend wears off when you discover it's just you and your friend and no other players. Boring! This is the area where a lot of car combat games go awry. We're happy to take on a friend, but the excitement is always lacking when it's just you, a buddy and a lot of empty space.
It's also hard to not notice the shameless promotions. Ads for Logitech, Mad Catz, Iomega and even PSM Magazine (sure, that's not a conflict of interest. Can't wait to read their review!) can be found in rotation on the very first level. Look, if you're going to make us stare at ads that have nothing to do with the game and are clearly only there for you to make money, how about knocking down the price of the game a few notches? This kind of slimeball advertising makes me sick.
Still, Motor Mayhem is bright, colorful and mildly entertaining. It's just not a purchase and definitely not a keeper. A rental is your safest bet. Bad physics, bad level design and a paltry choice of vehicles overshadow the cool weapons and interactive maps. Where's TMB when you need it?