Over the years, there have been a few attempts to bring the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985) in to the world of video games. As a series that was mostly about driving fast on dirt roads, jumping cars over obstacles, outrunning the law, and screaming "yeehaw" as often as possible, The Dukes of Hazzard is a natural fit for a video game. But, to date, most attempts to bring the franchise to consoles have been weak. Hopefully, that will soon change, because Ubisoft is in control of the license now, and it's teaming up with Ratbag to deliver The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee to the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox this September.
Like a lot of other games out there these days, Return of the General Lee has an open-ended, free-roaming setup to it. Though you'll be forced into missions from time to time, you can also spend a lot of time just driving around Hazzard County, racing around on dirt roads, hitting jumps, and so on. The mission structure starts out by retelling the origins of the General Lee. The Duke boys are driving around in a pretty ordinary black Dodge Charger, but with a paint job and some new parts, the local mechanic, Cooter, will transform your regular old car into the hemi-orange spectacle known as the General Lee. From there, you'll sink right into some decidedly Duke boys-like action...saving the local orphanage from foreclosure by attempting to win a stock car race. The game will contain more than 15 single-player missions, and there will also be a hidden two-player mode that allows for split-screen racing and destruction derbies.
When it comes to re-creating an old TV show as a video game, there are a handful of tricky things that must be done to get the atmosphere just right. Heretofore, the game seems to do a pretty good job of capturing this atmosphere. Several members of the original cast even provide voices, so you'll hear the original show's actors representing Bo, Luke, Daisy, Rosco, Enos, and Cooter. Another nice touch to the game is the inclusion of a button that causes screams of "yeehaw" or "yeehoo." Again, accuracy is key, and the ability to shriek in true Dukes of Hazzard fashion--with the touch of a button--is a fun little feature.
Right now, it's hard to tell how the final game will shape up, because the prerelease version of the game we've seen appears to be rather early. The in-game models look pretty appropriate, and Hazzard County seems like it's large enough to house some decent racing action. However, the roads seem pretty bare, and the driving physics look like they could use some touching up. It's also fairly difficult to tell where you're supposed to go, which could be helped by the addition of a Crazy Taxi-like arrow or an onscreen map, which would be far more useful than the rudimentary map you currently get on the game's pause screen. The frame rate is also pretty unstable, but that's definitely something that can be fixed prior to the game's release.
The Duke boys haven't exactly had a solid track record when it comes to video games, but Return of the General Lee, if nothing else, appears to have the potential to break the slump. Will it come together? We'll have more on the game as it approaches its late September release date.