Smash ‘N’ Survive is the worst game I have played this year, no doubt about it. Sure, we’re not even half way through the year, but this game is so terrible that my claim could easily hold up for a long while. Smash ‘N’ Survive is a failure on every level, from the graphics to the gameplay. Even the price point for this game is downright criminal, and the fact that this title is even attempting to hold a candle to its predecessors (most notably Burnout, Destruction Derby, and Twisted Metal) is perhaps the greatest insult of all. So why am I saying all this up front instead of hitting all of you readers with this in my conclusion? Because Smash ‘N’ Survive stole time from me that I will never get back. So if you feel the need to skip this review and read something else, I won’t be offended. Go ahead…I’ll wait!
So you’re still here, eh? To start with, SNS is a vehicular combat game that takes several cues from the PS1 classic, Destruction Derby. You play as some unnamed rookie who is attempting to join a gang called the Necromancers. In the early levels, the cars have no weapons outfitted on to them in order to emphasize the survival aspect of the game’s title. Later, through campaign progression, new cars are unlocked featuring saw blades, flamethrowers, pulse emitters, and other weapons. Each car also features different stats for strength, handling and acceleration and some are better suited to certain missions rather than others. Campaign progression also introduces different mission types to the player such as base defense, team deathmatch, bombing the rival team’s base, and so on.
From a graphical standpoint, SNS looks like it stepped out of the PS2 catalog, and even then that comparison is perhaps an insult to some of the titles that were released within that generation. Within moments of playing through the first two missions of the game I noticed significant screen tearing, incredibly low texture quality, and explosions that looked more like puffs of smoke in which some fire texture was sprinkled. Sadly, this appearance persists for the duration, and it immediately made me ask if the game had even gone through any kind of polishing phase before being released on PSN. Crashing into enemies also initiates slow motion moments to help exaggerate the damage done to an opponent. Unfortunately, these moments pop-up every time contact is made with an enemy, regardless of the velocity of the hit. They also last a very long time, and during a pile-up make it very difficult to control your own vehicle or process what the hell is happening on screen. As a result, the slow motion camera stuff makes the game much harder than it needs to be, and is only compounded by how the vehicles themselves drive.
As far as driving around the environments is concerned, SNS attempts to be as arcadey as possible. Sadly, though, even if the player’s chosen vehicle has a high handling stat it’s still very difficult to drive around the environments. Often, the problematic driving seems linked to the broken physics engine as, on more than one occasion, I found myself pressing right on the joystick and going straight or left. Cars also have a terrible tendency to get caught on the terrain and inexplicably flip at even the slightest touch. Considering that the entire point of the game is to kill opponents using weapons and crashes to deplete their life bars, the difficulty in driving the vehicles within the game only makes aiming weapons and targeting vulnerable areas of an opponent’s car that much more infuriating. Of course, this would be less of a problem if the weapons available in SNS didn’t have such a melee focus or the enemies weren’t damage sponges. The lack of health pickups or any method of healing only makes matters worse.
All mission types focus on finding enemy cars and bashing them to death with your own vehicle. So despite some different mission types, none of the levels really does anything to alleviate the repetition. Progression through the campaign unlocks the missions for play in mission mode. The game’s versus mode supports two player local play, but there is no online component (though a free add-on is in the works to correct this, and will be released sometime in April). There’s also some concept art that can be unlocked along with a slew of different vehicles for use in the campaign. Another annoying thing, and I will admit this is a bit nit-picky, is that the game has a two song soundtrack. There’s the menu music, and then one track that plays in every level of the game. At first the heavy metal soundtrack complements the vehicular combat theme, but with only two songs the music gets very old fast, and had me really wishing there was some kind of custom soundtrack option.
Normally, I try to avoid talking about price as it seems immaterial to the issue of whether a game should be played or not. If a game is really good and one that I would recommend then price isn’t an issue I bring up. Conversely, should a person not agree with a reviewers take on a game, they’ll spend the money on a title regardless of the price anyway. However, in this case, the overall package that is SNS does not warrant the £9.99 (probably $10 or $15 in the US) price tag on the EU PSN store. In fact, given everything wrong with this game, that price is downright criminal. To put this into perspective, the PS2 games currently on the EU store don’t exceed £7.99 in price. However, players buying those games already know that they’re purchasing a title with the previous generation’s graphics and technology. Plus those games, lest we all forget, were full retail games when they were originally released.
Smash ‘N’ Survive is not worth your time or your money. Indeed, Version2Games was rather audacious in releasing a vehicular combat game so close to the release of the new Twisted Metal. I’ll even concede that it’s also possible that this game was designed on a very tight budget, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that, on its own merits, SNS fails on just about every level. Still, I hope that the developers learn from this experience and find a way to make their next game into something that not only is ambitious but is also imbued with the passion and polish that Smash ‘N’ Survive is so sorely lacking.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
– Last gen graphics presentation complete with screen tearing, low res texture work, and unsatisfying explosions.
– The slow motion moments in the game actually contribute to its difficulty, occur too frequently, and last way too long.
– Weapons seem hopelessly under powered.