If you're not a fan of the Dukes of Hazzard, don't even consider buying Southpeak's Dukes of Hazzard: Racing for Home. If you're at a garage sale in the year 2010 reading this review on a tiny monitor embedded in your eyeball, and you say to yourself, "I have no idea who these Dukes of Hazzard are, but I can't go wrong for two yuan," rest assured that you can indeed go wrong. Any pleasure you're likely to get from playing Dukes of Hazzard will be predicated on having seen and enjoyed the TV show. For fans, the game is actually a decent re-creation of the experience of watching the program - only with boring, repetitive race sequences, which replace commercials.
The story in Dukes of Hazzard is actually a lot better than the gameplay. From the moment you hear the opening theme and watch the rendered version of the show's title sequence, the game captures the goofy, cornball spirit of the series almost perfectly. Each of the game's 27 missions is sandwiched between a well-made cutscene narrated by the original program's balladeer, Waylon Jennings, and scored effectively by the country band The Tractors. Unfortunately, the driving sequences that make up the interactive portion of Dukes of Hazzard aren't nearly as good as these little movies.
Each of the missions involves either driving from one point to another within a certain amount of time, evading a car, catching a car, or participating in an actual race at the county fairgrounds. While this structure could provide enough variety to carry an entire game, the poor car physics make the missions tedious to play. As in the show, the vehicles don't react realistically to the world around them, but neither do they react in any way that could be considered very fun. The cars seem much too light, and any collision, regardless of its severity, appears to be a completely random chance of either having no effect at all or causing you to spin completely out of control.
As an incentive to continue playing, many driving games start you with a weak car and later give you access to a series of increasingly powerful vehicles. Dukes of Hazzard inexplicably reverses this device by starting you off with the best car, the General Lee, and periodically forcing you to complete missions while driving something much worse, such as Uncle Jessie's almost uncontrollable truck.
Dukes of Hazzard is a port of a PlayStation game released earlier this year. Though the resolution can be increased to as high as 1024x768, the visuals have the grainy, washed-out look common to many PlayStation-to-PC conversions. Furthermore, all the missions take place in very similar-looking areas of Hazzard county - though the game contains 27 levels, they all look essentially the same. By the fourth or fifth mission, you'll be hoping for some visual diversity that never arrives. And it never arrives in a big hurry: When the game is on the default difficulty setting, you can finish Dukes of Hazzard in about three hours.
The developers have added a multiplayer racing mode that's playable over TCP/IP, IPX, and through the Zone, but it's nothing more than a chance to experience the game's frustrating control problems communally. The developers' time might have been better spent adding support for gamepads, joysticks, and steering wheels: Amazingly, Dukes of Hazzard is controllable by keyboard only.
Dukes of Hazzard is incredibly short, has awful car physics and poor graphics, and nobody cared enough to even implement joystick support. But it is packaged well. It's the kind of mean trick that would make Boss Hogg proud.