Test Drive: Eve of Destruction E3 2004 Preshow Hands-On Impressions

We smash up some cars real good in our hands-on preview of Test Drive: Eve of Destruction.


The Test Drive series will take a surprising detour with the newest addition to the franchise, Eve of Destruction. Whereas the Test Drive franchise is primarily known for standard arcade racing (aside from a couple of forays into off-road racing), Eve of Destruction brings the series into the uncharted territory of demolition derby-style races. The game is also a bit of a departure for the usual NASCAR projects handled by the developer, Monster Games. We recently had an opportunity to get a hands-on look at the new derby-style racer at a pre-E3 press event.

The most noteworthy aspect of Eve of Destruction is its myriad racing modes. There are 25 different types of racing, encompassing the most outrageous and crazy race types you can think of. The most tame of these is the figure-eight race, which, as the name suggests, involves racing cars around a track that is the shape of the number eight and features a jump in the middle. As you can imagine, this setup leads to plenty of collisions. The goal is still to drive a certain number of laps as quickly as possible, but along the way, you're sure to ram into other cars. Execute a particularly nasty crash in midair and the game will go into a Matrix-like slow-motion rotation around the impact as it happens.

Eve of Destruction, of course, offers a full-damage model to show just how badly you're wrecking the game's 20 different vehicles. You'll see glass breaking, body panels denting and then falling off, and more. Aspects of the environment are also interactive, such as the tire walls, which can be scattered easily by being rammed. The walls of hay bales, which can catch fire, can get knocked around as well. Not only must you try to win each race by finishing first but also, as a driver, you need to worry about your reputation, which is affected by how many other cars you take out and collide with. A better reputation allows you to unlock better cars, tracks, and extras, but you'll have to be careful though. The developers have included what they call "vengeance AI," which means that the drivers in the game remember who hit them and will seek revenge whenever they have the opportunities to do so in a race.

The driving "feel" in Eve of Destruction is pretty solid, with an easy-to-learn arcade slant. Still, it's easy for careless drivers to lose traction and fishtail on loose dirt, and cars will also become noticeably less maneuverable the more damage they take.

Beyond figure-eight racing, one of the other crazy race modes in Eve of Destruction is the suicide race, where cars race around an oval track. Sounds pretty standard, right? The twist is that half the cars go in one direction, while the other half go in the other direction. Additionally, trailer races involve cars that are hitched up to (surprise!) trailers, some of which carry boats or campers. Trying to be the first driver to complete a set number of laps with a trailer still attached to your car is definitely not easy!

Gauntlet is yet another race mode that involves one driver who's behind the wheel of a hearse. After getting a brief head start, the hearse driver must attempt to complete as many laps as possible while the other cars in the field attempt to take him out using any means necessary. In our play test, we observed AI cars using a variety of tactics to keep our hearse from advancing. Some would try to chase us from behind so that they could run our hearse into the sidewall. Others would set their cars up perpendicular to the track to attempt to create a moving wall. Still others would simply drive around in the wrong direction so that they could aim for a head-on collision with us.

The craziest thing about all these modes is that they are all based on real-life events that real people actually participate in. Video interviews of destruction derby drivers and event footage are included as unlockable extras in Eve of Destruction. Watching the vehicular carnage and the people who participate in it is almost as fascinating as playing the game itself.

With so many race types, a full-career mode, and split-screen multiplayer for up to four players, Test Drive: Eve of Destruction certainly isn't lacking for content. Fans of demolition derbies and even race fans who are looking for something outside the norm should definitely keep their eyes on this game, which is scheduled to ship for the PlayStation 2 in September.

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