Wreckless: the Yakuza Missions was a solid hit for the Xbox when it was released for the fledgling system earlier this year. The game's combination of cutting-edge graphics and arcade-style gameplay were a good offering for new owners of Microsoft's console. Noting the game's commercial success, Activision has opted to bring it to the PlayStation 2. However, rather than just port the game over, Activision and developer Stealth Studios are building on the Xbox game and adding quite a bit of new content. We recently checked out a previewable version of the game to see how a game coded specifically for the Xbox hardware would fare on the PlayStation 2.
Wreckless for the PlayStation 2 follows the same story as the Xbox version and unfolds in much the same way. You'll be able to play as a pair of police officers or a pair of spies with some very bad luck in a series of mission-based levels. In between each level, you'll watch a cutscene that will fill you in on the advancing plot and set the stage for the coming level. In addition to the two scenarios, you'll find a two-player mode that offers a few multiplayer options for you and a friend.
The structure of the two scenarios follows the structure of the Xbox version's scenarios closely, but it occasionally veers off into new territory thanks to the additions that have been made to the game. You'll find two levels of difficulty for each mission, easy and hard, along with secondary missions for you to accomplish in each. Evil gamers will be pleased to see that you'll now be able to plow over pedestrians in addition to most objects in the levels. At the end of each mission, you'll be awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medal based on your performance. If you do well enough, you'll also unlock a corresponding bonus mission in each scenario, bringing the game's total to 40. In addition to the bonus missions, you'll find 19 bonus cars to unlock. The two-player mode offers up seven different two-player games for you and a friend to play.
The gameplay has also seen some tweaks and additions for the game's PlayStation 2 incarnation. As you race through the streets of Hong Kong, you'll have quite a few more control options open to you. You'll steer the car with the left analog stick, accelerate with the X button, brake and reverse with the square button, and engage the handbrake with the triangle button. You'll be able to perform a powerslide or a 180-degree turn by holding square and X together. There will also be some new moves available. L1 will let you launch rockets from your car. R2 will trigger an "adrenaline boost," which slows time down Matrix-style to make it easier to navigate through hectic spots. Finally, the select button will toggle between third- and first-person camera angles.
While the PS2 version builds on the Xbox version in terms of gameplay and control, Stealth Studios was forced to take a realistic approach to bringing the game's graphics over. It used the game engine provided by Traveller's Tales, but rather than try to port the Xbox game directly or re-create the same look on the PlayStation 2, the developer has tried to make the most of what it had to work with. The majority of the lighting effects are gone, and the particle effects have been scaled back considerably. The overall level of detail in the game has also taken a hit, which was to be expected. We'll admit to being a bit surprised at the cutscenes in our build of the game, which were poorly compressed version of the cutscenes from the Xbox version. However, Wreckless does do quite a bit right on the PlayStation 2. The levels are still large and detailed, and the frame rate is respectably high. Overall, while the game doesn't match the visual quality of the Xbox version, it's solid-looking title for the PlayStation 2. The game's sound complements the game's visuals and does a good job of placing you in the hectic world of the game.
Judging from what we've played so far, Wreckless is coming along pretty well for the PlayStation 2. While the game's graphics could be sharper, the gameplay additions actually give the game quite a bit more meat than its Xbox predecessor. Fans of arcade-style games will want to keep an eye out for it this holiday season.