The appeal of the demolition derby has definitely waxed and waned in popularity over time. For instance, there’s something exhilarating about watching a car crash. However, that’s usually when the cars are new or decent looking. It takes a real fan to go to a track and watch hunks o’ junk slam into each other until only one is left standing. Well, for their latest driving title, Atari’s merged the successful Test Drive Franchise with the mud caked smash up action of a demolition derby. So grab your helmets and check your rear view mirror, because its time to get ready for Test Drive: Eve of Destruction.
Eve of Destruction’s primary plotline lies within the career mode, which casts the player as a novice driver living in the middle of nowhere in a trailer. Your recently deceased grandmother has left you her car in her will so you have a mode of transportation. You, on the other hand, have a different plan in mind: entering the Eve of Destruction demolition derby down the highway in another town. Of course, as a newcomer, you have very little credibility and even less money to your name. With a little luck, some solid driving and a lot of collisions, you’ll be able to build a reputation as one of the best racers on the circuit.
The circuit itself is quite massive and is comprised of 25 separate race types scattered across the numerous arenas that line the game’s highways and dirt roads. The creative thing about Eve of Destruction is that every single racing event has its own quirks that players have to get used to, ensuring that there’s a lot of variation to the onscreen action. These range from driving around a flagpole placed on a straightaway to driving one lap in a normal gear and the next lap in reverse. Even the standard “race” mode has plenty of jumps and obstacles placed along the track to complicate the path of every driver. Obviously, part of the goal of each race is to win by coming in first place; however, you’re not limited to simply crossing the finish line first. If you are able to eliminate your competition by trashing their cars during the course of the race, you get bonus points and additional money at the end of the derby.
This purse will typically go towards one of two activities: repairing damage to your car or buying a new one. See, engaging in any violent activity on the track will typically incur some level of damage. While you can bang out the dents and dings somewhat on the track, there will also be a certain amount of destruction to you vehicle that’s just irreparable. When this level becomes entirely too dangerous to the operation of your vehicle, you’ll need to take the car to the salvage yard to buy a new machine to terrorize other drivers with. Once you’ve bought a new car, you can either enter it into more competitions, or, if your reputation is high enough, you can take on specific obstacle courses or even challengers, putting money down on the outcome of each event.
The largest graphical issue that comes to mind when getting behind the wheel is the level of attention shown to the cars themselves. These machines do look somewhat beat up, and it’s surprising to see just how these things manage to still drive with the dents put in them. While there’s some decent animations put towards some of the crashes and impacts, I’d expect much more damage coming from some of these collisions. Instead, it takes a huge head of steam to create some of the destruction you’d typically expect in a demolition derby title. It’s also surprising to notice some of the glitchy animations that you’ll run into on the track. You’ll frequently find cars stuck on hay bales, barrels or other environmental items, and while you can hit the reset button to place your car back on the track, it’s kind of ridiculous that a) you need a reset button for typical gameplay in the first place, and b) just about every single car is susceptible to this mistake if they make contact with something. This issue can also contribute to a serious degree of slowdown that Eve of Destruction frequently exhibits during gameplay. Clouds of dust, massive pile ups, in fact, just about everything contributes to some slowdown, which is just unacceptable for any driving game. The sound department is incredibly weak as well. The soundtrack, comprised of only seven songs, will repeat as much as a broken record, so Xbox owners will want to make sure you load up your custom soundtracks to drown out the rest of the game before hitting the start button. The sound effects are pretty basic and the announcer is quite horrendous, so you PS2 players will probably want the mute button.
Unfortunately, one of the largest detractions to gameplay with Eve of Destruction is that the game controls are simply awful. You never get a sense of speed with any car that you purchase, which is absurd, even with the potential upgrades that you slap onto your car. Turbo, suspension or other upgrades don’t adequately transfer over to tighter maneuvering with you car, which is entirely too loose and unresponsive for every vehicle. In fact, it’s possible to be more dangerous to yourself and your car by trying to target an opponent and missing, running your vehicle into a wall instead. The other significant issue with gameplay is that you’ll quickly get bored with it. Sure, there are 25 separate types of races, including playing soccer with an over-exaggerated ball, Red Rover with cars and towing trailers, but once you’ve gotten past the nuance of each race itself, the game quickly loses its appeal. Even the inclusion of unlockable features such as video clips by real people who actually participate in demolition derbies gets to be particularly uninteresting once you start playing, particularly because you can acquire these secrets pretty quickly.
You’ll probably need to be a serious fan of the derby circuit to truly enjoy the gameplay of Test Drive: Eve of Destruction. The gameplay is incredibly slow, with weak controls and very sloppy technical facets that harms the enjoyment and eventual replayability of the title. Unless you regularly attend these events in real life, you’re probably going to pass on this title even as a rental.