I should’ve had a V8…
I spent exactly 6 years of my life in the 1970’s. I remember it as being a happy
time, filled with Saturday morning television, sibling rivalry, and kindergarten
hi-jinks. While the open sex and the disco night life was a bit over my 4 foot
tall head, the residue from the bell-bottom era has repeatedly haunted me. I often
see visions of myself getting my groove on with some sexy fox under the swirling
strobes of Studio 54. Hmmm…must have been the Quaalude flavored baby food.
Activision gave us the ultimate
70’s game with the hip Interstate ’76.
Perhaps to capitalize on this success, the veteran company gives the Playstation
a good taste of disco driving with Vigilante 8. Part Twisted
Metal 2, part I ’76, and all
fun, this game is sure to please even the most jaded gamers.
What combat-racing game these days doesn’t have an inane plot involving oil
or gas shortages? None! Vigilante 8 fits the mold perfectly with its ridiculously
cliched story. Once again, the world faces a monumental oil shortage. One company,
OMAR (Oil Monopoly Alliance Regime), is quite pleased with the shortage and hires
terrorist Sid Burn and the ‘Coyotes’ (who I think open for the Stones at the Cow
Palace next month) to assault all existing oil/industrial refineries. Of course,
the alarmed public won’t stand for such silliness, and a group of the more pissed
civilians form the anti-terrorist ‘Vigilantes’ to fight for truth, justice, the
American Way, and, well, free oil.
The gameplay is very reminiscent of Twisted
Metal 2. You choose one of 8 characters (though there are more, check the
GR codes section) and auto-battle it out in different locales. The environments
are fully rendered and explorable, and the level design is great. Fight at the
Oil Refinery, the Air Strip, Downtown Las Vegas, and even on the slopes of a ski
resort – take that, stupid chairlift! You can blow up just about everything, and
mass destruction is encouraged if you want to find secret power-ups and weapons.
There are, as always, a few ways to play. In Quest Mode, you follow a loose
storyline through 4 different scenarios in order to reach your characters ‘ending.’
Less patient gamers can alternately jump right in with Arcade Mode. And if you
have a friend, feel free to either battle Head to Head or kick some CPU ass
in Two Player Co-op mode. Thankfuly, Activision has realized what so many gamers
in America already knew – the link cable is a bad idea. That’s why you’ll find
two split screens (horizontal or vertical) instead of having to schlep your
TV over to your buddies apartment.
Auto-combat requires weaponry,
and V-8 uses an interesting system. Each car can carry no more than three special
weapons at once, not including the standard machine gun. While there are only
5 kinds of extra weapons, each one has 2
special uses, much like the special attack moves in TM2. These basic
weapons are absolutely necessary to destroy your opponents, and each car comes
with one unique weapon power up which tends to be quite effective.
TM2 came out a long time ago, and designers have really gotten better
at programming for the PSX. This is made instantly clear in V-8’s graphics. The
polygonal cars look great – the definition is excellent and they employ a pretty
good physics model. While there are some occasional polygonal errors in the backgrounds,
the whole of the game runs quite smoothly.
And ‘smooth’ is a good word to sum up the gameplay. Vigilante 8 is just fun as hell. Though no new ground is really broken, V-8 takes all of the best aspects of other auto-combat games and tosses them into the proverbial mix. The weapon balance is good, the power-ups are useful but not too plentiful, and the amount of sheer destruction is great. They even included the oh-so-rare memory card screen built into the Options menu. No longer will you have to lose your progress because you didn’t realize there wasn’t enough room on your card.
I’m really trying to be critical here, but it’s difficult. There’s not a whole lot wrong with this game. I suppose you could gripe about the occasional collision detection problems (ie. driving through other cars, telephone poles, casinos, etc.) or the minor framerate loss in split screen. There’s also some of the worst voice-acting ever, though the general game sound is pretty good. But these problems aren’t that big of a deal…this is just a well-polished title.
While many of you are waiting for the ‘projected’ November release of Twisted
Metal 3, we at the Revolution strongly suggest checking out Vigilante 8.
It’s really just the best game of it’s type for the PSX.