The console cousin to Activision's Interstate 76 line, the Vigilante 8 series, focuses on a group of good people who drive cars tricked out with weapons and fight against a group of bad people who drive cars tricked out with weapons. That's almost all the plot description you need, save for that the setting is the 1970s and the game recycles the only things anyone would ever want to salvage from that era: muscle cars, funk music, Afros, and fat sideburns.
The second in the series features a time-travel storyline, which of course necessitates the introduction of the weapon-laden flying vehicles that everyone's driving in the future as well as other bits of advanced technology that allow cars to skim along on ski slopes and water. As in the last game, you can play either on the good side or the bad side, each of which has its own mission requirements for each level, before all the other vehicles must be eliminated. As a good guy, you might have to gather stolen cash and return it to its owners, while the baddies have to actually steal it. The mission objectives are now more elaborate than before, which should be good but isn't, because they aren't always as clear as they should be. For instance, on one level, you have to protect a train and collect several toolboxes. To gather all the toolboxes, you have to shoot the train, something you'd assume you'd want to avoid doing to accomplish the other objective. In another level, you have to launch a rocket, which requires you to blast open a building, trigger a computer control to move the rocket to the launch platform, and trigger the control again once the rocket is in place. You can check over your objectives at any time in the game, but they offer scant instruction and don't check off once one has been accomplished.
One change in the series that has no drawback is that you can improve the performance of your car. Each time you destroy another vehicle, you can collect an icon that will add a few points to one of several factors (speed, armor, and so on). If you get a hundred points in any category, your car's chassis will automatically upgrade. The icons only appear for about ten seconds, so you'll want to be right on top of your opponents when you take them out, instead of up a mountain firing mortars from a safe distance. You'll probably encounter this feature first in the quest mode, but it's available in the arcade mode (in which you pick how many opponents you want and which stage you want to fight in) too, where you can build up your ride even faster.The graphics in V8SO look much the same as in the last game, save for more impressive explosions, a few minor bits of eye candy, and a greater variety of environments in the levels. The level design itself is much improved, with even more interactive elements (from ski jumps to hungry alligators and sharks in the water) and hidden areas, and now absolutely everything seems to be destructible. Meanwhile, the soundtrack sucks compared with the PlayStation version, but its batch of '70s tunes is decent enough considering the cartridge medium.
The main sticky point of V8SO is an aggravated problem found in the first game. In the original, you'd sometimes find yourself flying in the air after hitting a ledge just the right way, and because of the game's loose interpretation of gravity, you floated back to earth, instead of careening quickly back down. It happened infrequently enough in the first game so as not to be a problem, but it happens often when using the flying car upgrade, and since you're able to access it, that problem is significantly more frequent. In fact, you'll pretty much avoid using the flying car upgrade at all because of this and because it's hard to shoot vehicles on the ground with anything other than weapons that home in automatically. And you'll also likely try to skip traveling on the water except to collect a few power-ups, because the slow response of your boat car keeps it from being much fun. Beyond these complaints though, the control in V8SO is pretty tight. The analog control responds well, and using the hand brake lets you make tighter turns or throw the car quickly into reverse.
As before, the game offers a great deal of value - you can unlock a host of hidden characters, and there are two multiplayer options, a two-player cooperative mode and four-player deathmatches complete with computer-controlled enemies. Not to skim over the important multiplayer aspect of the game, but it's as different from the first game as you'd expect it to be: Positive or negative aspects of the single-player game are repeated here. One extra touch is that you can flip back and forth between third- and first-person perspective to combat camera problems when driving up hills and the like.
In the end, you just shouldn't have to deal with occasions where you're wondering what you're supposed to do next or when you're going to land back on the ground, and these make what could've been a great game instead simply very good.