V8 Second Offense is possibly your best option for vehicle carnage on the Nintendo 64.

User Rating: 8 | Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense N64
(+) great level design with plenty of interactive elements; air jets and scuba gear spice up the action nicely; bright and colorful graphics

(-) gravity is kind of floaty; the audio is somewhat generic

Vigilante 8 2nd Offense is a sequel to a game that was made primarily to turn some people away from the critically acclaimed Twisted Metal 2. The car combat sub-genre was pretty revered back in the 1990s, and the competition was feirce. V8 has always been the biggest contender to Twisted Metal, but unfortunately the series ends pretty abruptly and it would have been great to see some future installments in this series. There was rumor of another release on the PS2 but it was canceled long before development, and a quick-and-dirty port of the original game found its way to Xbox Live but it's improved graphics are a poor trade off for completely mangled controls and glitches throughout.

In case you aren't familiar with the basics, V8 2nd Offense is almost exactly like its predecessor; a 1970 themed demolition dirty where the vigilantes, or good guys, compete against the coyotes, or bad guys, for supremacy. It's the same run-and-gun weapon heavy car combat you may expect if you've played Twisted Metal, but Vigilante 8 improves on the formula in a number of ways.

The basic gameplay involves choosing a driver and using weapons on the enemies in death matches. You can only have up to three items at a time, and if you pick another up you risk losing the item you were presently using. There are also plenty of power ups, like X icons which multiply the amount of damage you do, and wrenches for when you need to recover some health. However they don't recover nearly as much as the health pick ups in Twisted Metal. Newly added to this game are additional pick ups that allow you to either drive over water or hover in the air. However, the gravity for the vehicles is pretty floaty in Vigilante 8, and while it may be fun to hover throughout the horizon it aggravates this problem even further. Once you've taken enough damage you'll lose that power up, which can lead to problems especially when you're using the scuba gear. You can still use one more special move on an enemy to total their car, and newly added to this game is the ability to pick up speed, offense, and defense pick-ups after totally your enemy, which can be very useful in story mode.

You have the option to play story mode, either alone or cooperatively, and choosing either the vigilante or coyote side will change your experience to a fair degree. As a vigilante, you'll face off against the coyotes and have side missions where you must protect several destructible monuments in the environment. This isn't nearly as fun as playing as a coyote, where you respectively fight off the vigilantes and your side goals are to destroy different monuments in the level.

The character roster is pretty large and varied, with some unique looking vehicles with character specific special attacks. You also have some spiritually second comings of characters from the last game, such as Boogie with his signature disco ball attack, and bus driver Molo who uses his exhaust to stun and destroy other cars. You also have some that are downright awesome, like Dallas in his stylish golden hover mobile uses a large laser beam to blast through foes, and the Flying All-Star Trio in their motorcycle bombarding opponents with fire missiles. Some of the character models are downright bizarre though, but its not necessarily a bad thing given the game's playful vibe. For example, Sheila who drives a Wonderwagon with a missile bombarding move, wears a white t-shirt and red-short shorts. In one of the three character animations for her at the selection screen, she's turned backward and looking forward, with her butt-crack visible plain as day. And I will leave no further comment.

The level design in Vigilante 8 2nd Offense is very good. You have different maps with plenty of personality, such as a nuclear power plant, beach, shoreline factory, and steel mill. And each of these levels have plenty of interactive elements as well as destructible objects. For example, the Launch Site level allows you to ride a rocket into the air then drop down to pick up several items that are hidden throughout the air. And the Nuclear Plant has three rooms with chemical bombs that explode and do devastating damage as well as stun and shove enemies whenever they're shot and destroyed. Even the first V8 was an improvement over Twisted Metal as far as level design, and this sequel cranked that number up even further.

The graphics in Vigilante 8 2nd Offense are also impressive. The car models as well as environments are bright and colorful, and they have style to spare. There aren't very many texture or lighting effects, but that's to be expected by a game in this console generation. But still, the presentation is incredibly solid. The audio isn't quite as impressive, the music feeling pretty generic compared to the superior audio in the Playstation version, but vehicle and weapon impacts are appropriately executed.

Vigilante 8 2nd Offense is possibly your best option for vehicle carnage on the Nintendo 64. Great level design with plenty of personality and interactive elements, brand new little enhancements like hovering and scuba gear as well as power ups, and impressive visuals as well as the same, proven formula of raw vehicle carnage makes this a must for anyone who doesn't own a Playstation and wants to activate some weapons to destroy enemy cars, as well as others who've played enough Twisted Metal that they need to take a breather and give another alternative a shot. It's truly a shame that V8 couldn't quite stand the test of time, because it would have made a great effort on the future generation of consoles and the series had enough potential to spare at least a few more sequels. But as it is, this is still a relic for old-school entertainment despite its age.