|System: PS3 (PSN)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Psyonix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Psyonix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 9, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars is one of those games that wants you to take all your highbrow notions about depth and games-as-art and trade them in for one thing: fun. To many gamers this is a good proposition. Sometimes we just need games that are flat-out silly in design and you "get" the concept after spending five minutes with the game.
If Battle-Cars delivered in this respect ,than it would be a fine downloadable title. However, what holds it back from ever climbing above average is that it never really excels. By slapping together two genres - soccer and arena-based combat - the developers made a compromise where neither gets properly fleshed out. The sport component feels rudimentary and there are a plethora of missed opportunities in the combat department. When you pair these shortcomings with the $14.99 price tag, you've got a title whose fun surface quickly erodes, leaving you with a underwhelming experience.
The easiest way to describe Battle-Cars is to think of a soccer game played with Twisted Metal vehicles. Every tournament match has two goals and a ball is placed in the middle. Using your micro-charged car, you slam into the ball, trying to score in your opponent's goal. The base level of strategy comes from learning how to properly maneuver your Battle-Car across the arena.
Aside from standard driving controls - such as accelerate, brake, and handbrake - you can pull off a lot of tricks. Not only can your Battle-Car jump, but hitting the jump button again will result in a double jump - useful for hitting a high bouncing ball or dodging opponents. You can also flip your car forward and each flip will reward you with more momentum, allowing you to slingshot across the map. Boosting is dependent on your stock of boost fuel, which you pick up either via capsules or boost pads that are spread across the arena. A standard boost will fire up your rockets; if you pair a boost with a jump, you can literally rocket across the arena in a matter of seconds. Build up enough speed and your car goes supersonic, leaving a trail of blue sparks and giving you the ability to obliterate other cars with a single hit.
The boost pad system and obliteration idea illustrate some of the missed opportunities for the game. The fact that your boost meter can get depleted and you have to continually hit pads is a neat idea - by limiting your supply, it forces you to think more carefully - but what about pads for other things? Here's a game that has "Battle-Cars" in the title and there is no form of weaponry for your vehicle. It seems like such an obvious idea to include weapon pads for things like rockets and bombs, yet the developers completely missed out. Obliteration is supposed to be a substitute, but it has no real weight. When you destroy another car it immediately re-spawns - this leaves you with no sense of reward and does little to panic your opponent.
What about the soccer aspect of the game? While you can pull of precision turns and some spectacular tricks with your Battle-Car, trying to get the ball in the goal is actually one of the harder aspects of the game. Since there are in-game physics at play, you have to take into account the height of the ball - in case it's bouncing - and the force you apply. Often, you may completely miss a jump-hit or slam the ball too hard, sending it over the goal. Even when you have a shot in what seems to be a direct line for the goal, it may miss. This is because you car acts like a pool cue, so the exact angle you hit the ball greatly affects whether it lands in the goal.
To help you cope with this kind of haphazard shooting mechanism, there is a camera toggle that tracks the ball, so you can more easily line up your shots. However, this camera will often get stuck in the side of walls or underneath the floor, turning your once-optimal vantage point into a focal hodgepodge. It's really unfortunate that a lot of your shots come down to luck more than finesse.