Smash ‘N’ Survive PSN Review

smash-n-survive

When I was a kid, I used to love watching cars smash into each other. There is something satisfying watching an expensive car get destroyed in spectacular fashion. For me, there were only a few games that gave me that same feeling in digital form – Carmageddon II, Burnout 2 and Destruction Derby 2. All three were brilliant at representing my needs to destroy cars and feel good while doing it. Smash ‘N’ Survive from India based company Version 2 tries to hit the spot, but sadly falls apart like an old banger.

I would like to tell you what the story is behind this game, but all I know is you are a person who wants to join a street car gang called the Necromancers. Once you’re part of the team, you race other cars to smash them up. There’s virtually no story, and the only info you get about the plot is in the loading screens, and even those sometimes doesn’t make sense because something got lost in translation. It’s true a racing game doesn’t need a story, but it’s like the developers spent five minutes trying to make one, then suddenly gave up and just left it in the game, half-arsed, with no explanation going on. If I am part of the gang, then why aren’t you properly introducing me to them? Explain to me why I am doing all this car wrecking for the Necromancers, because if it’s down to the player to decide, then I can tell you it certainly isn’t for fun.

Smash ‘N’ Survive is a car combat game that reminds me of a bad Carmageddon. Actually, it’s a shame there’s no pedestrians to run over since that could have added some enjoyment to the game. Players are thrown into a sealed off environment and have to duel it out with other racers who are mostly out to get your blood. The developers were aiming for an arcade experience, and while it is ultimately just that, it’s also very broken in more ways than one.

I don’t even know where to start when deciding what to pick out where this game goes wrong. I guess handling would be a perfect topic since you need to have responsive controls in any arcade racing game. Sadly, Smash ‘N’ Survive’s handling is all over the place; it’s not responsive at all. Driving is done with your typical R2 for acceleration and L2 for braking; well, you can’t really call it braking as it seems to take forever to slow down. It almost feels like engine braking instead, like in racing games when you take your finger off the acceleration and you let the car gradually come to halt. It’s either that, or the cars are so busted that their brakes have worn down.

A couple of mission types are available during the short three hour campaign mode. One of them is a smashing event where all the participants are boxed off in an environment. To win, players have to destroy all of the opposition racers. Now with the word “Smash” in the title, you’d expect that the game would do a semi-decent representation of smashing up vehicles. Well, no it doesn’t. The other mode is survival, and yes, you have to survive the time limit to win.

Cars come equipped with an ability to attack; for example, one car I had featured two metal spike claws at the front. Once you have managed to slide them under a car, you can use them to flip the vehicle. An extremely annoying feature is the implementation of the slow-motion effect that comes into play when you use your car’s weapon in a collision. Remember, this game is about smashing every other driver that you see, so you’re doing what the game’s scoring mechanic is asking of you, crashing, but doing this so much becomes a major annoyance, and removes any hope of enjoyment that you might get out of it.

The physics don’t help matters either. About 50% of the time I attempted to flip a car, I often found my own vehicle getting flipped as well, causing the game to respawn my car back onto the track. I’m not sure what causes this, but I’ve been in multiple situations where I’ve flipped cars that aren’t even moving, and yet I’ve come out worse off than the other machine. It makes no sense. Actually nothing much at all makes sense in this game. Why make me endure that stupid bullet-time effect? And then go and punish me for a perfectly good wrecking attempt? Yes, this game makes me angry!

Just to make sure it wasn’t the car’s weapon of choice, I went with a car that shoots a ring of fire from underneath it. On impact, the game once again activates slow-mo, oh, but this time it felt to stick me in an aerial view every single time, which in turn made me crash into a wall I couldn’t quite see because of the stupid camera moving viewpoint. It’s like the creators want you not to have a good time with this game. Smash ‘n’ Survive has way too many gameplay and presentational errors that distract the flow of the game.

To make matters worse, the A.I is simply terrible. It gets stuck behind walls, trapped between doorways and does other things that will make you shake your head at it. An amusing moment was when one computer controlled car blew up one of my A.I team partners, and then continued to keep attacking the burning wreckage like it was still in play. This allowed my other A.I partner a free ride (as the other computer opponents were dead) to plant a bomb that the mission required me to do.

Even when you look beyond the gameplay, it doesn’t get any better. The presentation is poorly executed. Menus look plain, with some parts looking like they were taking straight from a tutorial in making game menus. Apart from a button and money counter on screen, there’s no difference between the shop and the car selection, and the menu music, god damn that menu music, it’s nauseating. A ten second loop of a guitar rift followed by some sort of grunt isn’t pleasant on anyone’s ears. It wouldn’t be as bad if it wasn’t used for like EVERYTHING. Pause screen, victory screen, shop; everything but the racing seems to feature this sample.

Smash ‘N’ Survive is an arcade car combat game that I simply cannot recommend to anybody. As a game, it was a huge disappointment for me, and I normally enjoy games of this genre. It fails on so many levels, even falling flat on some of the most basic rules of video game design. Why should a gamer put up with bad gameplay, bad A.I, bad presentation and bad controls? Evidence is clear as day that this game needed more time in development to bring it up to scratch with the competition. Releasing it so close to Twisted Metal is suicide, and yeah, I can’t see anyone picking this over Twisted Metal. This game isn’t even worth the asking price of £9.99. You can get better racing games on the same marketplace for cheaper.

I hate the idea of any studio producing a flop and having to close, so I hope this doesn’t happen to Version 2. But next time I hope they spend a bit more on polishing whatever game they work on. When it comes to Smash ‘N’ Survive though, gamers should avoid it like the Austin Allegro, because you’d never buy that car, right?

2/10

by

Version tested: PS3

Developer: Version 2 Games

Publisher: Version 2 Games

Genre: Arcade Racing