When Psygnosis took Destruction Derby in-house, developer Pitbull Syndicate needed to find a quick outlet for its PlayStation-based tribute to automotive aggression. Infogrames took the developer up on its offer, allowing it to deliver Demolition Racer, a quality mixture of demolition derby and track racing. A year later, Infogrames has called upon Pitbull Syndicate to bring us Demolition Racer: No Exit for the Dreamcast. An enhanced version of the original, the update promises better visuals, tweaked gameplay, and enough options to choke a horse.
In terms of options, the Dreamcast version of Demolition Racer features a total of 18 tracks, 24 cars, and a bevy of additional secrets. You begin with the country league, demolition race, and no-exit modes initially available, with six cars spread between them. As you complete each league, new modes, tracks, and cars are unlocked. There are five single-player racing leagues to complete: country, arena, city, industrial, and bowl. For those who don't want to take the time to complete the leagues, there are also five single race options to choose from: a track-based demolition race, a "no exit" arena-based demolition derby, a suicide demolition derby, a last-man-standing demolition derby, and a chicken race. The game also has a few fun minigames, which become available by highlighting extras from the main menu once you've completed a league. Other than the single-player leagues and the DR Hunter minigame, all the race, demolition, and secret modes feature support for two-players via a split-screen graphical display.
A thick set of features is nothing without good gameplay. Luckily, Demolition Racer: No Exit delivers the goods. During a race, you have two goals: collide with cars to earn points and finish the race in as high a position as possible to gain a decent point multiplier. If you hold first place the whole way, you'll have no points to multiply. However, if you lay back and stock up on points, you may not have a multiplier to augment them. Thus, you must spend the entire race jockeying in and out of position, crashing into cars and taking the lead when necessary. It's an original take on the standard racing gameplay, and it works. Each car also has its own unique speed, acceleration, handling, and armor statistics, yielding yet another positive gameplay trait. Should you find yourself weakened or lagging behind, there are six different power-ups scattered around each course in the form of boxes that yield invincibility, stronger collisions, armor repairs, or hit point increases. Each course also contains between three and five bonus coins - worth three upgrade points each - that can later be traded for speed, acceleration, handling, and armor upgrades.
If anything, the only real flaw in the PlayStation version's gameplay was that rear- and side-impact collisions were the only way to score points. There was just no emphasis given to rear-bumper, tail-sliding, or top-landing collisions. The Dreamcast update atones for this oversight. Spin collisions, airborne landings, and side-impact crashes are now in full effect. If you smack into an opponent's side panel with enough speed, you'll score a one-hit kill, aptly titled a "T-bone." Should you fly through the air and smash down upon an opponent's roof, you'll impart "death from above." However, watch out that the enemy doesn't land on you, or you'll get to see the big "DNF," which is short for did not finish. By altering the collision options in this manner, Infogrames has added chain reactions, finesse nudging, and skill-based aerial combat to an already deep game.
Visually, Demolition Racer: No Exit continues the trend of improvement. Formerly 30fps, the frame rate is now a smooth 60. Gone are all signs of the slowdown, polygon dropout, texture tearing, and graininess that hounded the PlayStation game. While the color depth and texture detail of the game's tracks and arenas lag behind those of games such as Tokyo Extreme Racer 2 and Ferrari F355, visual niceties such as parking cones, metal fences, swooping airplanes, car body damage, and skid marks accentuate Demolition Racer: No Exit's graphical offerings. Also, there's barely any loss of detail or speed in the two-player modes, which is impressive considering the game still pushes 60fps the entire time.
About the only aspect of Demolition Racer that isn't greatly improved over its PlayStation counterpart is the game's sound. While announcer snippets, crashes, and tire screech effects are crisp when compared with those of the PlayStation version, they're insufficient compared to the more refined effects found in Tokyo Extreme Racer 2 or Ferrari F355. Not much has improved musically, either. Empirion makes its triumphant return, delivering four bass-laden dirges, while Fear Factory turns out six fitting anthems of its own. However, additional bands such as Cirrus, Coffee Boys, Junkie XL, and Brujeria lend their own compliment of 11 soothing techno creations to the game, all of which painfully clash with Demolition Racer's otherwise gritty visual feel.
Regardless of the unbalanced sound situation, Infogrames has lifted a formerly average game on the PlayStation to greatness on the Dreamcast. Demolition Racer: No Exit has better visuals, more tracks, improved gameplay, and enough secrets to induce a gaming fugue state in all who dare to play it. The Dreamcast may lack a healthy assortment of demolition-style racing titles, but Infogrames' Demolition Racer: No Exit stands at the top of the heap.