By Marty Mulrooney
Smash ‘N’ Survive is a ‘brutal vehicle combat game’ and the debut PlayStation 3 release from Version 2 Games, an Indian development studio and publisher. It is touted as being ‘a unique destructive vehicle combat game, featuring over 30 unique concept customisable cars, 10 massive destructible circuits, an innovative single player campaign, split screen and multiplayer mayhem as players battle it out with up to five others via Sony Entertainment Network.’ It sounds great, but hands-on time with this exclusive PSN game quickly reveals an entirely different beast beneath the bonnet.
Smash ‘N’ Survive is a bad game. It’s probably best to get that fact out in the open before continuing with this review. Players will immediately notice the tell-tale signs that foreshadow far greater disappointments to come. For instance, the main menu is atrocious, badly animated with a continually looping rock song in the background that will surely make any sane person want to lob their ears off – if a five second guitar riff can even truly be considered a song.
What’s worse, you only know an option is selected when the text becomes red… or is it white? This poorly put together interface will result in the wrong option being chosen time and time again, especially frustrating when you get dumped from the game back to the main menu to restart the whole painful merry-go-round. Oh, and that’s without mentioning the excruciating load times. They. Occur. After. Every. Single. Selection.
Once you finally learn to navigate the menu and start the campaign, it gets worse. Much worse. There’s no real story to speak of and mission objectives are vague at best. This isn’t a racing game, with the missions instead consisting of checkpoint dashes, death matches, survival challenges and escort missions. The lack of racing isn’t a bad design choice per se – after all, Version 2 Games set out to make a dedicated vehicle combat game. However, trying to do so with practically non-existent enemy AI is borderline insane.
Enemy vehicles will often ram back and forth into a wall if you keep your distance. Up close they prove to be damage sponges, requiring the player to struggle with the terribly sluggish controls – regardless of vehicle – so that they can ram them continually. Rubbing salt into the wound, your own vehicle takes damage like it’s going out of fashion, and every collision is played out in slow motion. That’s right. In a game where the objective is to smash into your opponents, the developers decided to show every single instance of contact with another vehicle in slow motion. Words cannot describe the tedium.
On the bright side, the vehicles themselves look fairly nice, although one controls much the same as the next. Also, the included weapons are rendered pointless by the stiff controls and the lack of any kind of tutorial means that you are initially left wondering if you’re doing something wrong. Don’t blame yourself. Exploding your vehicle by driving into a wall and being presented with the message ‘You killed self’ should give you a rough idea of what you’re up against. It’s not sharp enemy AI or rough terrain that’s for sure – unfortunately, it’s a far more terrifying adversary: bad game design.
This relentless foe invades every nook and cranny of Smash ‘N’ Survive, from the PlayStation 2 quality graphics (a statement which is quite frankly an insult to most PS2 games) to the bugs that see your car flipping up into the air indefinitely before freezing your PlayStation 3 and requiring a hard reset. Please note: the included images in AMO’s review are the only ones currently available on the Smash ‘N’ Survive website and are not indicative of the in-game graphics, which quite frankly suck. Online multiplayer will apparently be patched in at a later date, but it’s highly doubtful that it will add much value to an already overpriced game. £9.99 for a bad game is far too steep. Smash ‘N’ Survive isn’t unplayable, but it is unenjoyable and for that reason, it can’t be recommended.
3 OUT OF 10