Oh boy, where do I start. OK, Version2 Games - or V2Games for short - are a reasonably new independent developer located in Hyderabad, India. For the last year they have been developing Smash ‘N’ Survive for PSN. At first glance, you could perhaps think of it as a spiritual successor to Carmageddon (1997), a car combat game with racing elements. It has 40 cars, customisation, and special weapons - however there are no pedestrians to worry about.
With that description, a Carmageddon-like experience is what I was hoping for when this dropped on my desk to review. That's not what I got...
The first thing that strikes you about the game are the visuals. If I were to compare Smash 'N' Survive to, say, a game from the PSOne days, yeah the graphics are OK. But it's 2012; we have a library of car combat titles like Twisted Metal, Burnout, and Full Auto 2: Battle lines, so... lets see. Bad? Really bad? [Supercalifragilisticexpiali-atrocious? - Ed.]
For example: when whatever vehicle you’re driving (it doesn’t matter its all the same texture) catches fire around the general front part of the car, the 2D texture can’t decide whether to render the 2D smoke or 2D fire so it jumps between the two. You can see the seam line down the centre of the texture it's trying to draw, too. It's neither representative of actual fire or good looking. Vehicle damage is represented by simple textures appearing on the skin of the vehicles - until you die; then the vehicle changes to a solid black wreck, like it's made of charcoal.
This game lacks in so many areas visually, it really is sad to see it in its current state - like a lost, wet dog and you’re not sure if you want to let in or not.
Flipping your vehicle - which happens a lot (I guess real world physics were not a priority with Smash ‘N’ Survive) - results in your vehicle just... disappearing. The camera just sits there for a few seconds then teleports you to a spawn point somewhere else in the arena. Sometimes, when you destroy an enemy vehicle, you see their car disappear and the driver just floats there in the air. At least that was genuinely amusing, I guess?
Smash ‘N’ Survive offers you 40 different vehicles to unlock as you play through the campaign, by earning ‘Bounty’ for completing objectives and destroying the AI vehicles in each level. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter what vehicle you use. While there are bars indicating handling, speed, and damage, they all feel and handle the same - like bouncy bricks.
The AI, too, is terrible. I tested it by sitting idle near a doorway in a warehouse building. It was laughable how the AI just bounced against the wall outside repeatedly about seven times before it fluked its way inside. I drove out and observed similar issues with the AI trying to get out of the building. From what I can tell, the AI will simply strike an obstacle (rather than try to avoid it) and then reverse and try again until it randomly makes it past.
And while V2Games boast the fact you can customise your vehicle, you can only customise one type of vehicle. So while you can buy a vast array of Coupes, Trucks and Buggies, you can only customise the Coupes (which all look like concept Audis). Except for the ridiculous spikes or cattle movers stuck on the front of them - which you can’t remove or customise. All you can customise is a selection of front and rear skirting, spoilers, and tires - from about eight or so choices... that’s it.
Each vehicle has a “special weapon” attached to the front of it, but while they all appear to be different, they're are essentially one of three types: a pushing weapon which shoves a vehicle away from you, a flame thrower to deal damage to anything in front of you, or a lifting weapon - which doesn’t do anything but move up and down. This latter "weapon" simply goes through an enemy vehicle as if it's ethereal or not even there at all, as vehicle-to-vehicle impacts alone seem to just lift vehicles into the air anyway...
But none of the weapons matter as, when a vehicle has been hit enough to cause an icon to appear above it, you can tap it lightly and press R1 to make them explode, no matter how far away you are. Simple as that. As long as you scrape the side of the vehicle with an icon above it, tap R1 and they blow-up. Fun.
Another bizarre design decision is that, every time you make some damaging contact with another vehicle, the camera enters an action slow mo and focuses on the impact for about 5 seconds. This was awesome in the Burnout series and I guess they thought so too... but when the game looks this bad, it's not such a good idea as all you're really doing is emphasising just how bad the game looks
The campaign goes from level to level in the simplest way possible, while text on the loading screen tries to add some “story” about gangs called Necromancers and... surviving this game or something, but there is no dialog, and no cut-scenes. The levels are practically chained together game modes which you can play separately in the ‘Game Mode’, these consist of Checkpoint runs, Deathmatch, and a Bomb Run mode where you have to disarm or arm a bomb by running into an opponent.
Level design consists of a couple of open circular arenas and a couple of small town arenas, all of which are terrible. Well, one level had you jumping between 3 aircraft carriers - which actually swayed in the water surrounding them, which is a cool idea - but it’s still executed very badly.
Some arenas feature ‘The Crusher’ where you can try and force an enemy vehicle into them, but you’ll most likely drive yourself into it and get stuck behind it and unable to get out, so you have to restart the level.
Smash ‘N’ Survive features some music - two or three tracks - but you'd better like metal / rock. The menu music consists of about three cords that are repeated over and over; it's great to listen to (sarcasm) when selecting your vehicle, as you wait 10 seconds for the game to recognise you pressed the "accept" button and want to get into game before you lose your mind.
Oh and you can play ‘versus’ online with your friends, but why bother? It's just as bad as playing the campaign, and I’m sure no one else will buy this.
It’s a shame, because they had some really good ideas here, based on the foundations of solid car combat games as it is, but it's all implemented so badly you have to wonder what went wrong.
As a gamer, I cannot recommend to anyone that they buy this game. I can’t think of a single person who would like it. Even if you have money to throw away... just throw it away, or at least check out something else on PSN. ANYTHING is better! Or use it to feed a homeless man. Something, anything other than supporting this kind of junk.
And if you did happen to buy Smash ‘N’ Survive, and do enjoy it, then please send V2Games an email detailing how much you like it; they're going to need some support after this one if they want to continue to make more games.
Seriously, this “game” - and I use this term lightly - is $29.90 on the NZ PSN store. If it was $2.99 I could possibly cut it some slack but, to be honest, it’s not even worth the bandwidth to download it.