The Test Drive series has been around for what seems like forever, with the first installment in the venerable racing line hitting the Commodore 64 and Amiga way back in the ancient history of 1987. Since then, Test Drive has covered nearly every facet of racing that we can think of, but the good folks at Monster Games have found a new one: demolition racing. Their new Test Drive game, subtitled Eve of Destruction, doesn't aim to give you an ultra-realistic driving experience as past games in the series have done. Instead, it presents you with a hard-driving, car-smashing experience that may just remind you of your childhood trips to the county fair.
The racing in Eve of Destruction is both fast and furious, but unlike those who tweak their fancy production cars to drive in illegal street races, you won't care about dinging up your clunky old ride in this game. In fact, it's to your benefit to crash into as many of your opponents as you can, because the more rival cars you disable, the easier it'll be for you to win. Eve of Destruction uses a very loose, arcadelike physics model that isn't particularly realistic, but it makes the game really easy to just pick up and play. Even those who aren't particularly inclined toward being good video game race drivers (though we're not talking about ourselves here, honest!) ought to have no problem just picking up a controller and jumping into the action.
There are two ways to access the racing in Eve of Destruction: career mode and action mode. Career, naturally, is the meatier of the two modes and sees you starting out at your humble abode, having just received a rather modest ride from your grandmother. You'll also have a little bit of cash on hand, which you'll be able to use (along with a trade-in) to procure a new car, if you want. You'll also be able to head down to the local hangout and challenge other drivers to grudge races to increase your reputation, and finally, you'll be able to hit the local organized events--called eves of destruction--where you can compete for cash money with which you can buy new cars. Ultimately, you'll try to climb the ranks and sit atop the heap of demolition racers, making your name known far and wide.
The action mode is a lot more straightforward than career, since you'll simply be able to select from a large pool of the cars that you've unlocked and then dive into one of the many (many) racing events that Eve of Destruction has to offer. In any case, these events are where you'll really dig into the meat of the game and it's where you'll find a surprisingly wide variety of race types. Among the basic types are the jump race, which features lots of ramps, and the last man race, which eliminates the driver in last place at the end of each lap.
The events get a lot crazier from there, though--soon you'll be racing a school bus against a track full of other school buses, or driving in the suicide race where half of the cars race in one direction and the other half, well, race in the other. The figure eight jump race gives you a track shaped just like a figure eight, with a jump at the cross of the track--you can imagine the calamity that results when two cars jumping the ramp collide in midair. And of course, everyone's favorite--the demolition derby--is included if you just want to jump into an arena full of junky old cars and start smashing up everything in sight. In all, we counted 22 available events in the game, all of which are pretty much completely unique, so there should be plenty of crashing and racing to keep things fresh regardless of which mode you're playing.
Eve of Destruction is shaping up nicely in visual terms. The cars are unlicensed but resemble the sort of real cars you'd expect to see at events like this. There are over 30 vehicles available in the game. In addition to the standard assortment of compact and muscle cars, you'll see such oddities as a police car, a school bus, and a hearse later on in the game. The cars smash into each other good and hard--there's a particularly satisfying pause-and-rotate camera effect that happens when two of them hit midair--and you'll see a decent amount of body damage becoming apparent as the races wear on. The game's tracks are a bit sparsely detailed but definitely look as grungy as you'd expect them to. The game looks pretty similar on both the PS2 and the Xbox, and even in this prerelease state, both versions are running with a generally smooth frame rate.
On the audio side, you've got the standard assortment of revving engines and metal-smashing sounds that you'd expect out of a demolition racer. In other words, all of the effects fit in with the onscreen action. The soundtrack of the game also seems tailored for this type of racing's typical audience, as it's full of nu-metal acts like P.O.D., Saliva, and Godsmack, and we heard a little Rob Zombie and even the Scorpions thrown in for good measure. An excited-sounding announcer also does a pretty good job of providing commentary as you tear your way around the track.
Test Drive: Eve of Destruction strikes us as a pretty unassuming game that's good at what it does--that is to say, it provides a hard-hitting, arcade-style racing experience without too many frills or layers of complexity to get in the way. There's unfortunately no online support planned for the game, although split-screen multiplayer will be available in both versions. Test Drive: Eve of Destruction is slated for release in early September, and we'll bring you more on the game soon.