Drive to Survive will make you want to do neither.
- We played it, so you don't have to.
- Unforgivably bad camera
- Stupid computer-controlled opponents
- Simple, monotonous race designs
- Controls are loose and unpredictable
- This game is being sold in stores.
Sometimes with budget-priced games, there's the urge to cut them a little slack for minor performance or design flaws. If the music's kind of lame or the textures look crummy, hey, it's no biggie. It was only like $10. Two hundred nickels just so happens to be the magic number for a fresh copy of Drive to Survive, yet despite its out-of-the-gate, deep-discount price, there will be no slack cut for this aggressively wretched, mostly broken car combat game. No, for Drive to Survive, 10 bucks is 20 bucks too much.
Drive to Survive is a combat racing game similar to last year's Full Auto games, though what it most reminds us of is Atari's 1989 arcade racer Badlands, which was essentially Championship Sprint with guns. You'll do laps around short racetracks while picking up predictable power-ups like machine guns, oil slicks, and landmines, with the usual goal of running your opponents off the road or simply blowing them up. While Full Auto went with super-shiny concept cars and Badlands was all Mad Max, Drive to Survive goes for a toy-car look and feel. It's actually not a bad way to go, and the tiny, primary-colored cars and the flat, simple environments are probably the best things the game have going for it. Actually playing the game, unfortunately, produces such a blinding sheet of white-hot rage that it's difficult to have much appreciation for the game's appearance.
Aside from the shooting-and-driving commonality, what makes Drive to Survive particularly reminiscent of Badlands is the game's poorly conceived camera, which follows your position on the track, but not the direction that you're facing. It feels weird and mechanical, and it's totally counterintuitive for the camera to begin rotating around a corner before you're supposed to actually start turning your car. This, on its own, would take some getting used to--but wait, there's more! The game's most common race type, the battle race, has no set number of laps, and instead requires you to either blow up your opponents or pull far enough ahead of them; and in this mode the game insists on fitting every car onscreen at once, which causes the camera to pull up and away as the distance between the cars increases. Not such a big deal if you're in the back or middle of the pack, but if you're actually winning, your car will be at the very top of the screen, giving you absolutely no way of knowing what lies ahead. It could be a power-up, an explosive barrel, a straightaway, a hairpin turn...who knows? There are other, more traditional lap-based and checkpoint races that don't suffer from the crazy camera-zoom thing, but even then the camera still follows the track instead of your car. Either way, it's as if the game actively hates players who are winning.
Keeping with the whole toy-car motif, the cars you'll drive are all really squirrelly and unpredictable, though not in a zippy, fun way. You'll slide uncontrollably around corners, and slight nudges can cause unreasonable changes in speed and direction. Even though you'll always be driving the exact same car as your opponents, it's not uncommon for any car, including your own, to speed up and slow down at random, as though they've all got serious fuel-valve problems. The computer-controlled opponents have been tuned roughly to "bag of hammers," and have been seen repeatedly launching themselves off the exact same section of track, race after race. Also, the other racers are a real bunch of Chatty Cathys, and an unending barrage of tinny sounding insults is used to mask an otherwise nonexistent sound design. It gets annoying and repetitive right quick, but there's something oddly nonsensical about their attacks on your character, which include "myopic lemur," "slime puppet," "stump head," "spray-on vomit," and our personal favorite, "Democrat."
You can also punish your "friends" for their various slights and wrongdoings with Drive to Survive's four-player support. If you're short on controllers or you've really got a grudge, you can try to force them to play using the "shared controls," which has two players using one controller at the same time. It's already weird and uncomfortable to have to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with your buddy as you each hold half of a DualShock2, but the real kicker is that the controls still require two hands to use, which means that you'll have a total of four hands fumbling around with the controller at once. That the developer spent time implementing this stupid, stupid feature instead of working on an actually functional camera system almost makes a sick kind of sense.
Drive to Survive seems to have received blissfully limited distribution here in the US, so your chances of accidentally running into it in the wild are fairly slim. Still, should you have a chance encounter with this terrifically bad game, take the safest course of action and simply go the opposite direction.