The PSN garage is becoming continually clogged with waves of exclusive, cheap and cheerful racing games. Toy Home and GTI Club + were always the frontrunners, but now there’s another one with Smash Cars, a new RC racer from Creat Studios.
These games pride themselves on being both fun and accessible slices of low fat goodness, so how does Smash Cars fare after pulling up alongside its established neighbours?
Smash Cars is a next generation remake of the PS2 game of the same name, in which you take control of an eccentrically turbo charged RC car through a series of races and time trial events, which all take place on a permanently vibrant island environment.
Each vehicle is split into a multitude of categories, some of which resembling real world cars such as the Mustang and Hummer, with variable body structures and chassis defining the monster, buggy and sport classes available. These lightweight cars also have a tendency to catch air, which is where most of the fun is had in Smash Cars, as you can perform midair stunts that cause your car to effortlessly flip and spin on command.
Whilst it isn’t inherently difficult to land your car, it can be satisfying to pull off, and it is actually an essential gameplay mechanic, since the points you gain for a successful stunt earns you valuable points, which in turn fills up the all important boost meter. If you want to win any races, you will more than likely spend as much time in the air as you do on the ground.
Events are broken down into four separate areas, but each one criminally takes place on the same island, which results in a disappointing lack of variety. You can’t help but think they are holding back additional locations for DLC, but fortunately, the track design is fairly good as each course is littered with scaled obstacles, such as traffic and hapless life sized people who don’t take kindly to you barging into them – in a novel touch, they even have the brass nerve to scoop you up and throw your defenseless car if you lurk near them for too long. And yet the tracks prove to be somewhat unengaging; they feel uninspired and often lack the twists and turns you would expect from a nippy racing game. Put it this way – it never sets my pulse racing.
The thing is, racing dinky RC cars may sound like fun on paper, but in reality it’s simply not that exciting unless it has some sort of nuance, which Smash Cars doesn’t seem to have as the novelty soon wears off. The handling system is predictably simplistic, if sometimes twitchy, but this affects the core racing experience – in a regular car the appeal lies with skilful driving whereas controlling an RC car feels superficial. Yes, it’s meant to be simple, but the racing could have done with being spruced up a bit. Perhaps some weaponry power ups to make it more dynamic or a dedicated stunt mode to add some diversity would have been nice as the basic racing feels hollow. Your constant need to perform inane stunts hampers the pacing of the races too, particularly as the game feels the need to showcase it in slow motion every time you engage a stunt, which quickly becomes irksome.
As you progress, the game becomes surprisingly challenging however, with some tight time trials and competitive AI opponents. The physics don’t always help matters though, as the erratic handling of some of the later vehicles in particular can lead to a frustrating lack of control at times, along with some dodgy collision detection, which can abruptly send you off course.
Unfortunately, there are only a measly 12 events in total to keep you occupied, which feels considerably lacking to say the least. On the other hand, achieving gold on every event will require more persistence for completists, but suffice to say, it ends before it even started the ignition.
To add some needed longevity to the proceedings, an online multiplayer component has been included in the package, but much like the rest of the game, it is very bare. Up to six players can vie for position across any track in the game, but that is as ambitious as the multiplayer gets since there are no additional modes of play whatsoever. Add to the fact that nobody ever seems to be available online, and you are left with a disastrously desolate experience. Staggeringly, the game doesn’t even support a local split screen multiplayer, which, in all honesty, is an inexplicable travesty.
It gets worse too, when you look at the pricing – at £11.99 ($14.99 if you reside in Americaland), Smash Cars incinerates a truly sizable crater in your virtual wallet. Considering the amount of content you receive, it is hard to justify this asking price, particularly when there are other and better PSN titles available for far less.
Smash Cars could and should have been much more than it is, and if you relive the days of Re-Volt or Micro Machines, the genre hasn’t really evolved. If you are a fan of the genre, then there is some fun to be had here, but it is all too short lived as Smash Cars comes across as an ultimately half baked experience overall.
The colourful, sharp environments are easy on they eye and the frame rate is suitably silky smooth.
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The racing is fast, but it certainly isn't furious.
The pounding soundtrack grates your skull within seconds, and the car sounds are passable. Although, I wasn't exactly anticipating beefy engines. Also, hitting objects can be ridiculously loud for some reason.
With only 12 events, a limited online mode and no split screen multiplayer, Smash Cars has little to offer for the price of admission. DLC will inevitably arise soon, however.
Smash Cars can be a fun fuelled RC racer at times, but its basic nature, severe lack of content and a stark price tag ultimately let it down.