Hands-onDestruction Derby Arenas

We check out an early version of SCEE's online racing game at a press event in London. First screens inside.

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At a press event in London earlier this week, we were among the first people in the world to play Destruction Derby Arenas, the latest in Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's long-running series of action-packed racing games. Arenas will be the first game in the series to allow players to compete with each other online, and we were able to put this feature to the test on an eight-machine network set up for the event.

The first thing we noticed about the game is that the realistic, almost muted colors of the previous games have now been replaced with a much brighter palette that wouldn't look out of place in a Wipeout game. The most colorful things in the game this time around are undoubtedly the cars, all of which sport over-the-top paint jobs featuring flames, skulls, American flags, and the like. The handling of the cars is probably the least realistic the Destruction Derby series has ever seen, but since the circuits are packed full of large jumps, corkscrew ramps, and numerous destructible objects, the arcade-style controls suit the game perfectly.

One thing that did surprise us a little, given the nature of previous games in the series, is that the damage our car sustained when crashing into objects or landing on its roof after a failed corkscrew jump seemed understated. There are six damage points on each car, but no matter how hard we tried to total our vehicle, the damage only ever seemed minimal, and the handling wasn't noticeably affected. Though, while the lack of damage seemed strange at first, it's likely that this change has been necessitated by the series' move to online play, as we can't imagine that limping around the circuit in a wreck would be much fun for anyone if other players were still racing. As it is, even cars that have suffered a number of collisions and less-than-perfect landings can be driven competitively, and judging by the fact that nobody at the press event ever put their controller down mid-race to go grab a beer--even when they were in last place--that's definitely the way it should be.

In addition to being awarded points for their finishing position, players can improve their score by smashing into destructible objects, performing stunts, and, of course, spinning opponents. There are a number of power-ups scattered around the tracks, including score multipliers, nitro boosts, and a shield of some kind. These same power-ups were also present in the "titan bowl" level that we got to see--a somewhat futuristic-looking, almost surreal arena that incorporated giant clock faces, transparent walls, and a giant rotating obstacle that resembled some kind of food blender attachment. Since the object of the game on this level was basically to accrue points by smashing up opponents and being the last car standing, the damage to the cars was definitely more pronounced, and we're pretty certain that our handling had been adversely affected by the time we had thick smoke pouring out from under what was left of the hood.

No release dates have been announced for Destruction Derby Arenas at this time, but it certainly wouldn't be a bad game to have on store shelves in time for the PS2's online launch in Europe--whenever that may be. We'll bring you more information on Destruction Derby Arenas as it becomes available.

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