Whomever coined the phrase "Crime doesn't pay" has never heard of Rockstar
Games. Crime is paying them pretty damn well this quarter. Stealing cars and
generally running amuck in Liberty
City has earned them both the rare Game Revolution 'A' and terrific sales
Next up on Rockstar's criminal to-do list is smuggling contraband across the
borders of various countries. Noncommittal crime from the comfort of our love
seats will always turn heads. But can Smuggler's Run 2: Hostile Territory
hold the attention of all the virtual crooks out there?
Smuggler's Run 2 improves on most of the gray areas that plagued the
original - mainly, the story. While there was
a hint of a plot in the first game, it felt like an afterthought. Here we have
a full story complete with campy live-action cut-scenes that better meld the
gameplay with the drama.
You take on the role of a seasoned getaway driver who is under the employ of
Frank Luger (some sort of mercenary official). Frank takes the place of the
randy suggestive female announcer/guide from the last game and will provide
helpful navigation during your runs. Your job is to pick up and drop off various
forms of contraband to be delivered between countries.
It may sound easy, but it's not. You have to first locate the pick-up and drop-off
spots, which are marked with yellow and red flares to help you spot them in
the game's vast and expansive areas. Picking up the contraband is usually no
hassle; the contest is in the delivery. The law enforcement is out in force
and they're pissed. Plus, they've learned a few new tricks over the past year.
The heat will still try to slam into you and box you in. More complex maneuvers
like cutting you off and setting up roadblocks add to the challenge.
The game's not called Hostile Territory for nothing. The locales are
much more brutal this time around, placing you in Vietnam, Russia, and oddly
enough, Afghanistan. Indeed, you will be driving straight through a literal
war zone. Gunfire, explosions and all kinds of calamity add to the intensity.
The world is much livelier than it was before, and in turn, a bit more fun.
It's a lot better looking, too. The game is still a technical wizard, featuring
huge, open vistas with little to no cost on the texture quality. The buildings
and houses look more realistic and there is a better variety of foliage than
there was in the last game. And now the cars have more than one or two colors
- they're actually detailed with nice textures and a variety of looks. The game
is exceedingly prettier than last year's smuggle.
cars may look better, but the game's handling is still as tight as it's ever
been. Controlling these puppies so you can skillfully evade the boys in blue
(or whatever color the law wears in each country) is easy and great fun. The
physics will still impress you. Great suspension means you'll bounce, fishtail
and roll with the best of them. But if you ever need a little extra trick up
your sleeve, Rockstar's got you covered.
Each vehicle is equipped with a countermeasure. These include oil slicks, bombs,
speed bursts and smoke screens ala Spy Hunter.
They're fine, but I wish there were more weapons like guns or rockets. Maybe
that way the weapons would have played more of a pivotal role in the game's
fun factor. As it stands, the countermeasures don't have much of an impact.
You do you get more vehicles this time around and the ATV in particular is
very cool. Still, there could have been even more to choose from.
Smuggler's Run 2 is an improvement in almost ever way except one, yet
it's perhaps the most important - repetition. You drive, pick-up and drop off.
Rinse and repeat. How about some variety? After you play through the first time,
I don't know why you'd do it again. Off-roading across the game's incredible
landscapes is fine, but the actual single player campaign is bit dry. There
are a few other single player game modes, but most have to with the same sort
of bland pick-up and delivery.
However, you do get a couple multiplayer modes to keep you coming back a few
more times. One is a decent checkpoint race and the other is back to basics
with 1-on-1 pick-up and delivery matches. These add some replayability, but
Smuggler's Run 2: Hostile Territory is a better game than the original
and makes a lot more sense. Repetitive gameplay still holds it down, but there's
a lot of fun to be had even if it you only play through it once.