A band of six desperadoes, known as the Coyotes, is wreaking havoc across the Southwest. A band of vigilantes, called, strangely enough, the Vigilantes, is bent on stopping the Coyotes by any means necessary. So all the players involved have mounted crazy government weaponry on their cars and gone into battle.
There are two modes of play in Vigilante 8. The quest mode has you pick one of eight cars, each of which has four missions. For the Coyotes, these missions usually revolve around blowing something up; for the Vigilantes, protecting something. At the end of the four levels a very short ending is played, which tries to reveal a bit about the character's story, but usually just ends up being confusing. The arcade mode lets you drop right into the game, picking a level and how many cars you wish to face. Two players can also play the game simultaneously with a vertical split screen. The game can be played cooperatively or competitively. This, of course, is the main draw of the game.
Each car handles differently and has its own special weapon. The special weapons fit with the personality of the car and its driver. Beezwax, the Arizona beekeeper furious at the government for irradiating and mutating his bees with nuclear tests, has a particularly deadly, nasty bee swarm weapon.
Graphically, Vigilante 8 is amazing. The light sourcing used when lasers are fired and when the sun reflects off the cars looks fantastic. The most noticeable difference between Vigilante 8 and previous vehicular combat games is the fast frame rate of the game, although the major explosions and other crazy onscreen mayhem can slow the game down quite a bit. All of this carnage can be seen from two different camera angles: a cockpit view and a chase view.
On the control side, Vigilante 8 is so easy to control, which really makes the game fun. You can use the game with the Dual Shock controller, which improves the control quite a bit. There are tons of different weapons that you pick up throughout the game. Each weapon also has two hidden moves that you can execute during play. However, these hidden moves aren't nearly as cheap and unbalanced as their Twisted Metal 2 counterparts.
Overall, Vigilante 8 is an incredible two-player game. The one-player side of Vigilante 8 is short and easy, even on the most difficult setting. Players who are still playing Twisted Metal 2 can finally retire their TM2 disc and move over to Vigilante 8.