This ain't your mom's station wagon.
Games can have this incredible power over you, can't they? Sometimes a game can be moving, like Mass Effect. Sometimes a game can be exciting, like Modern Warfare 2. Sometimes a game can make your skin crawl and scare your pants off, like Silent Hill. Scrap Metal is none of these, but it is pure, arcadey fun, the likes of which haven't been seen since video games jumped into 3D.
[image1]Scrap Metal, from Slick Entertainment, is an overhead car-combat game, kind of like Twisted Metal or Vigilante 8, except without the behind-the-car viewpoint. The single-player mode is packed with 61 missions across 8 different race tracks, each of which are altered slightly to accommodate different mission types. You might think those 61 missions make for one long demolition derby, but you'd be wrong.
In fact, variety is one of Scrap Metal's strongest attributes. Every race track has a demolition derby mission where you have to destroy a certain number of cars within the time limit, or an elimination race where the car in last place is blown to smithereens at the end of each lap, but it also throws extra missions that involve each track's boss. In East District, for example, you'll play an early mission that has you protecting a gas tanker from some thugs. There are a couple of VIP missions sprinkled throughout the game, but what's great about East District is that in a later mission, you'll drive the tanker with a flamethrower strapped to it, laying a fiery trap for those punks who were harassing the shipment earlier.
Missions like those have a very Grand Theft Auto feel to them, especially if you think back to the Rampage missions of the series. They're certainly not the highest-minded fun you could have playing video games these days, but this kind of gameplay hasn't lost its charm on anyone who remembers it fondly.
After every mission, you'll be given a medal based on your performance in the mission. Some missions are on a pass or fail basis, but it's all contextual. These medals determine how many upgrade points you get for completing the mission, so you can upgrade cars unlocked just by playing through missions. You can upgrade a car's speed, grip, armor, and firepower. Your garage holds four cars and new cars will rotate in where old cars once sat, but you'll have to upgrade the new cars as well. Scrap Metal constantly forces you to build up your garage and experiment with the different vehicle types in different races as the difficulty mounts.
[image2]Unfortunately, that difficulty builds unevenly; the first five race tracks are all fairly easy, but then you start to run into a wall. As the requirements surmount, so do the opponents. Suddenly, destroying 20 vehicles in 3 minutes seems ungodly because everyone is avoiding your big monster truck and gunning you down from behind. One boss in particular, Petrov Piston, had me throwing my controller to the ground. I don't often curse at my video games, but when I finally beat that guy, I made sure he knew it.
After that, the remaining missions maintain a difficulty level fit only for John McClane. Couple that with a terrible arcade rock soundtrack only Shadow the Hedgehog could love and you've got a recipe for some horrifically frustrating gameplay time. Huh, you know it said Scrap Metal couldn't move, entertain, or scare, and it's done all of these over the course of this review!
I was really entertained by the mission variety; I was so moved by the difficulty scale that I through my controller, and I was horrified by the soundtrack. I know that doesn't sound all-too-great, but Scrap Metal is a pretty decent game overall. There's plenty of fun to be had in its arcade throwback design and even more hours of gameplay to share online in multiplayer. If you're looking for something to relax and just have fun with, Scrap Metal is your game.