In this day and age, the demolition derby has become something of a lost art. Though never an especially popular pastime in the grand scheme of things, derbies still made for some good old-fashioned intelligence-free entertainment in their heyday. Over the years, a handful of game companies have tried to take the art of the demolition derby and turn it into a game--though all with, at best, limited success. Global Star Software and 3 Romans' Ultimate Demolition Derby is yet another failure in a long line of subpar derby games, though the level at which this game fails is really something to behold. It's hard to imagine a more dismally lifeless and uninteresting game based upon the concept of fast cars wrecking into each other at high speeds, yet somehow Ultimate Demolition Derby manages to suck all the fun out of its subject matter and replaces it with half-baked driving physics, an ugly graphics engine, and a host of frame rate and compatibility problems that can, at times, make the game nearly unplayable.
There are nine cars to choose from in Ultimate Demolition Derby, including an old pickup truck, a hot rod, a jeep, a slightly different looking jeep, something that vaguely resembles a Mini Cooper, and a hertz. In the game's single-player mode, you'll have four basic race types to choose from, though some are just variations of other races. Essentially, your options are to take part in a traditional demolition derby, where your goal is to drive around wrecking into your opponents until the last car is left running or time runs out and you have the highest score, or you can race against five other cars in a basic demolition race or a stunt race, where you'll need to do flips and spins to earn points. Each mode essentially just keeps going each time you win, until presumably you either quit or completely lose your mind. The game does feature a multiplayer mode, but it can only be played on a LAN. Maybe if the game weren't so horrible, this might seem like a good addition, but sadly, this is not the case.
The bulk of Ultimate Demolition Derby's gameplay problems lie in its driving controls and physics, which come across as pretty haphazardly put together. Ultimate Demolition Derby does support game controllers, but a controller actually won't work in the game's stunt race mode, because the shift key is required to spin your car when you're in the air. The game generally just controls better on a keyboard anyway--a digital controller felt much too squirrelly to be of any use, and analog control wasn't much better. As for the game's physics, they're essentially nonexistent. Apart from slower cars moving appropriately slower, and faster cars moving faster, essentially every car feels pretty much the same--awful.
Your car jerks around in disconcerting ways if you turn too sharply; pulling your hand brake just makes you stop and doesn't allow you to slide (or do anything remotely realistic); and crashing just doesn't seem to work right. Most times, if you run into a wall, you'll somehow manage to just drive halfway up that wall rather than actually crash into it. Half of the hits you deliver to other cars don't seem to register properly, and it's near-impossible to gauge whether other cars, or even your own car, are on the verge of destruction or are doing just fine. There is a gauge in the bottom left of the screen that is supposed to show where your car is suffering from the most damage, but it doesn't do its job very well.
Topping all those problems off are the game's graphics, which, simply put, are terrible. The whole game looks like it was designed in about an hour and a half, with only the most rudimentary concept of texture mapping and animation in mind. Cars feature a bit of real-time damage modeling, but none of it looks very realistic, or good, for that matter. Every environment, though different, has the same flat, nasty look to it, and in addition, few if any of them make any contextual sense in the game. One minute you're getting your derby on inside a large cave, and the next minute you're inside some sort of nondescript building, complete with glass doors you can't wreck through. All of these problems pale, though, in comparison to Ultimate Demolition Derby's mind-numbingly erratic frame rate. On a high-end PC, complete with up-to-date graphics drivers, every single race mode ran horribly, chugging along in such a way that you'd think your PC was literally about to catch on fire. On a midrange computer, we couldn't get the game to load up at all--it would just shut off our monitor upon startup. The fact that a game could be released with such amazingly obvious graphical problems is simply mind-boggling.
Ultimate Demolition Derby's audio is just about as grating as everything else in the game. Though the engine noises are fairly adequate, everything else sounds awful. Crashes are bizarrely understated, and they don't really give you the feeling that you've just wrecked into another car at top speed. In-game commentary shows up from time to time, both from the arena announcer and from other drivers, and all of it just flat-out sucks, thanks to some awful voice acting and equally bad dialogue writing. There's also a sparse bit of music that plays during races, but it's all badly compressed, and none of the tracks are the least bit memorable.
If Ultimate Demolition Derby succeeds at anything, it does manage to make you want to go out and take part in a real demolition derby--or, to be more precise, it may make you want to get into a car and drive it into some manner of solid object at 100 miles per hour. It is just an awful game through and through, and it won't be enjoyed by anyone. Simply put: Don't play this game.