WWII: Desert Rats is a good example of a budget game done right.
WWII: Desert Rats is a good example of a budget game done right. Instead of being a substandard clone of a full-priced game, it takes a unique little gameplay twist and milks it for all it's worth. Like most value-priced games, it's a little rough around the edges. Fortunately, though, the central play mechanic is solid enough to support the entire game.
Here's the Desert Rats gimmick: It's a third-person shooter, but instead of walking around on foot, you drive a jeep. You also control a gunner standing on the back of the jeep. You operate the vehicle with the keyboard and use the mouse to aim and fire with the gunner. This means that you can drive in one direction while shooting in another. You'll notice that the gunner only has about a 180-degree field of vision, so in order to fire at something behind you, you have to turn the jeep around.
It doesn't sound like a huge innovation. And it's not, really, but it's both unique enough and well implemented enough to hold your interest for the duration of Desert Rats. The vehicle physics aren't especially refined--there's no powersliding through tight turns, and, in an homage to classic arcade racers such as Outrun, the jeep has just two gears, "hi" and "lo." But this simplicity works well given the fact that you have to concentrate on shooting as well. You won't be worrying about realism while catching air off a sand dune and simultaneously trying to keep a Messerschmitt in your sights.
The game's 12 levels are all set in North Africa during World War II. Each mission includes multiple goals, which generally involve driving somewhere and then blowing something up while fighting any Nazi soldiers, tanks, or planes that get in your way. The mission areas are big, and the goals often don't have to be completed in a specific order. This gives Desert Rats an open-ended feel that complements its driving mechanic. Additionally, ammunition isn't automatically restocked between missions. Supplies for the next level can only be gathered by running over crates strewn across the current level, giving you plenty of incentive to explore a little. On the other hand, the game's restrictive save system (you can only save between levels) acts as sort of a counterbalancing disincentive to exploration.
In spite of its desert setting, the game actually manages to provide a lot of visual variety. Missions take place during different times of the day and night, in different weather conditions, and some involve driving through narrow city streets rather than open sand. The graphics are on the good side of adequate. Objects aren't particularly detailed, but the view distance is long. The game has one really cool effect: As planes make strafing runs on your jeep, they kick up a swirling cloud of sand that eventually engulfs you.
The Nazis don't speak German, though their words are usually drowned out by the roar of your engine as you speed by them or cut off as you plow into them, so it's not as big a deal as it might have been. Other than that, the sounds get the job done--big guns, big explosions, big engines.
You'll notice that WWII: Desert Rats has no multiplayer, that the cutscenes are terrible, and that every time you put the disc in, Desert Rats thinks you want to uninstall it. Despite all that, the developers have managed to tune the central driving-while-shooting mechanism to the point where it's undeniably fun. And that gives Desert Rats a distinct edge over most of its bargain-priced competition.