Gamestyle Archive intro: Apologies for the downtime recently, but now the Archive is back and we’re in March 2002 with Chris about to take us on a tour in this wrecking experience.
The generic name ‘Driving game’ has become a label for many different games with wildly differing requirements. There are straight first past-the-post racing (Gran Turismo), racing around cities perfoming tasks (Driver) games that use realistic physics and rules (Ferrari F355) and those that don’t (Midtown Madness).
The recipe for Wreckless is one city, fleshed out and populated and trafficated, where you play as either elite cops (known as the Dragons) or spies, both vying to take down the Hong Kong mafia- the Yakuza. So far, so like Driver. Add in some Midtown Madness-esque physics, such as the ability to take out a bus with a mini, and cook for the Xbox at launch. Put portion in fridge, and unwrap at Christmas for PS2. Check recipe again, and cook another helping of portions for this edition, but bear in mind that the outer cover won’t look as good as it once did. Serve liberally, for one to two eaters.
Wreckless is a fast and a furious game which requires you to drive at high speeds through a Hong Kong styled city with little regard for its populous. Scenery, citizens, cars- they’re all tyre fodder. Buildings and concrete walls will stop you, but everything else is more of a distraction than a barrier. The citizens do get in your way though there is no GTA-style blood, they just scream a bit and roll over your bonnet. Forget them though- your car doesn’t take any damage, so crashing and hit n’ runs are okay. In Wreckless, slapstick rules ok. I’ve mentioned quite a few generic comparatives, and to describe the gameplay here’s another one; Smuggler’s Run in Hong Kong, which is what most of the action comes to. You chase cars and ram into them and then have to do something else. There’s a lot of imagination and variation that has gone into the levels to reduce repetitive actions. You’ll chase cars for stolen number plates, race accross town with blood for the hospital, find your superior’s broken down car in the sewers, engage in a late night street race and destroy trash cans on the top of a huge dumper truck.
The sewer level is worth the asking price alone, bearing more resemblance to a platformer than a racing level and marking perhaps the most diverse objective. Many of the others require you to learn the layout of the city, while others restrict you to a specific path. This is made more difficult by the mini-map in the corner of your screen being the main form of navigation, and not an entire city map as in Driver. The other form of navigation is the straight line arrow, which Crazy Taxi veterans will atest, is not to be trusted. On levels with multiple targets it doesn’t know which to choose from, and the nearest is not always the most logical. With experience of the city, you’ll learn the shortcuts and back alleys, yet you have to learn the hard way. There are double the number of missions than the Xbox version including sub-missions on every level.
The bonus missions are unlocked after you beat the ‘hard’ levels, and they reward you with a selection of cheats and bonus cars. Eight two-player levels are available for versus and co-operative play, such as a Speed rip-off. These are played without split screen, which is a novel, if not bizarre idea. Initially it is confusing, and it means that not all the levels work- especially the strange (and mainly unhelpful) rolling starts in some levels- yet it adds a further reason to play. In fact the game seems to have had an entire overhaul from it’s Xbox incarnation (see review here) and it’s for the better.
The handling is great, the controls are responsive and the play screen less cluttered than before. If you want to count a list of games that are superior on PS2 than Xbox then Wreckless will be on it. Graphically it’s very impressive, showing many objects onscreen without slowdown, though sometimes the visual cacophany is too much and your eyes will care not for the many cars, obstacles and visual effects that almost overbear the game. It’s well presented with cut scenes which are well animated, though annoyingly voiced. Be warned, the game takes an exorborant time to load. The gameplay isn’t especially deep and the arcade aspects may put some people off, though fans of Crazy Taxi will be right at home.
Sometime Wreckless is too chaotic for you to properly digest it. There can be too much onscreen action and it blends into one big mess. The sounds have been well mixed and there are lots of toppings. It won’t fill you up and is more of a microwave snack than a main meal, though it’ll take you a while to eat it all- be aware that it is an acquired taste.
Gamestyle Score: 6/10