Small title releases pepper the store shelves all the time.
Most of them usually go straight into the bargain bin and are
typically overlooked by the hardcore gamer. Bargain bin shopping
can easily be compared to dumpster diving, looking for gems
among piles of crap. Another little-name developer has brought a
small time game to the masses and its called Road Wars.
Recently, there's been a handful of racing/shooter
arcade-style games coming out. We've had Breakneck and
Demolition Racer and now, Road Wars has joined them in
expanding the genre of getting in a car, racing some laps, all
while taking some potshots at your competition. How does Road
Wars stack up? Let's break it down.
Road Wars has a good number of tracks which is
something many recent games have been leaving out, the whole
"we can race them backwards and count them as a second track"
mentality. Road Wars DOES have this "feature" but it also includes
plenty of tracks, fifteen in fact. In the racing league mode, it breaks
down into four tracks raced in both directions for the beginner
league (total of 8 races), five for the intermediate league, and six
for the advanced league. It's a good method for breaking it down,
much better than some of the lame ideas I've seen in other racing
games, like the recent Test Drive series.
When I first booted up this game, I was in complete and
utter shock. I was staring at what looked like an old DOS game
from 1993-1994. The game menus looked so archaic, with highly
pixilated graphics. It looks a lot like those old 256 color games
where it looked like they had just run out of colors for making the
pictures look right. The menu reminded me a lot of the original
Carmageddon, which was okay back in the day, but it's well past
its prime. Road Wars just wasn't off to an impressive start.
Downtrodden, I quickly started up a single race. After the rude
welcome to the game, I was somewhat shocked to see half decent
in-game graphics. The modeling is clean and seamless and the
off-track sprites are nicely done. Some special effects are pretty
sad though; the lens flare is a sprite instead of true 3D lens flare
and the weapon effects are pretty substandard. It's not the best
graphics, but I've played much worse (once again I'll reference
Test Drive). The car models are nice and look like real world cars
(although there's no official licenses).
In addition to the retro graphics, you're subject to a retro
early 90's sounding metal soundtrack. I'm not impressed and I
doubt anyone else that's still not living in the late 80's and early
90's will be either. Sound effects are pretty blah, limited to very
few sounds for all of the various elements of the game, from
crashing to gunfire. Environmental sounds are very limited and
there's just not anything overly exciting.
It's not a particularly innovative attempt into the "muscle
your way to victory" racing genre. The only major thing that sets it
apart from others is the added difficulty of being attacked by
stationary weaponry around many of the tracks. So, in addition to
your opponents, you're also getting attacked by the track itself.
From cannon fire to electric barriers, to whatever other weaponry
they decide to through at you. Otherwise it's pretty much your
usual racing game, prize money awarded by how well you finish,
if you finish at all. There's really nothing too amazing in here at
all. The tracks are well laid out, and there's a lot of variety for so
many tracks. There's three track styles, raceways, streets, and off
road, so there's somewhat different driving styles. This brings me
to another semi-unique aspect of the game. Road Wars also
features a garage and persistent damage. If you take damage
during a race, you can repair in between races and upgrade your
car's parts. Many racing games should have had this feature
because it just adds a lot more to the game.
You have a choice of ten drivers, each with their own
special abilities, from discounts on parts and repairs, to better
traction, to free tires. This makes for a little variety, but all the cars
drive the same so there's no other differences other than what
upgrades you've done. Weapon selections are pretty generic but
add to the whole Road Wars feel. I found that most of the damage
ends up being done by the track rather than your opponents, so
weapons, for the most part, take a backseat to just keeping your
car in one piece. You only get points if you finish the race, not for
taking out other cars, and if you get taken out, that's zero points.
I'm sort of sick of racers these days. Adding guns just
doesn't really cut it anymore. The arcade-style games, like Mario
Kart, have flooded the genre and have limited the entertainment
value of an arcade racer. What I'd really like to see is another
Demolition Derby type game, something more along the lines of
last man standing. Enough of the blah blah racing crap! Someone
needs to make a game where you have a garage and you build a
car not to race, but to destroy everyone else. Something more
realistic than games like Twisted Metal. Yeah… I can dream, can't
Road Wars isn't anything special. Shackled by the butt
ugly menus and lack of true innovation, it'll be a bargain bin dust
collector. While it's not complete garbage, you'd have to be pretty
bored to really want to pick this title up.