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Wreckless (Xbox) Review

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The most amazed that I have ever been of any videogame screenshot was the first screenshot I saw of Wreckless. I thought that videogame reality was here. It looked as if you were staring at a picture of a real city. I couldn't wait until the release of this game and just like many times before, the anticipation of this title was better than the title itself. I would have to say though that my expectations were very, very high for Wreckless and maybe the whole thing was doomed from the start. But after the haze wore off and I settled back down to reality, what I did find was a game with tons of beauty and very average gameplay.

Presentation/Graphics : 90
There's no doubt about it, Wreckless is a graphical sensation and a tribute to the power of the XBOX. All the different parts of the city flourish with life as pedestrians roam the streets doing their day to day activities. Traffic vehicles also share in the awesome graphical splendor. Everything is nice and tranquil until you drive your car like a scalded cat through the downtown city streets. Most of the time it's hard to look at what's going on around you because you're focusing on the target in front of you. But when you do have time to stop and look, buildings are beautifully rendered and each one is more unique than the next. Nothing's stamped out in this title. Bunkasha has come up with an engine capable of producing marvelous lighting, flare, and lens glare effects. Just about everything you see can be obliterated or smashed into a ball of sparks that looks like a small fireworks display. Everything is highly detailed in Wreckless right down to the tread patterns on the tires. The chrome rims on the Delorean scream with brightness. Easily the best looking tires I've ever seen in a game. You can also see the detailed interior of the cars and drivers while you watch them turn the steering wheel of the car you're driving. They also lean back and forth when making hairpin turns. It's all cool stuff. The graphics engine isn't without its flaws. Wreckless doesn't run at 60fps but instead it runs at what may be considered a smooth 30fps. The lower framerate is noticeable at times and some clipping does find its way into the game. I've spotted some slowdown here and there but it's mainly when there are more than 4 or 5 cars on the screen all crashing into each other at once. There are some effects in the game that I don't particularly like. One is a blurring effect that happens every now and then. It has a look of heat that's rising up off the road and it causes the whole screen to get blurry. If I wanted blurry I would have played a racing game on my PS One. Another thing that's not too keen is that the lens flare effect can be a bit overwhelming. It can get a bit difficult trying to smash into things while you're being blinded by the sun.

Presentation/Audio : 62
Audio-wise, Wreckless tries to make good use of the system's Dolby Digital 5.1 capabilities, but unfortunately, the generic techno music is weak and the sound effects are small. Pedestrians, on the other hand, make loud screams and funny comments while trying to escape your vehicle's reign of terror. You can adjust the various sound levels, but crashes and engine noises lack oomph even at the highest setting. That's not good since this is a driving game. One more oversight is you cannot replace the weak background music with songs you have stored on the Xbox's hard drive a major disappointment. The goofy voice acting and dialogue sort of go with the nature of the game, though the characters' voice-overs during gameplay quickly become boring. Overall I'm disappointed with the sound.

Gameplay : 55
Wreckless gets rid all of the usual constraints you might associate with racing through crowded streets. With a physics model that owes quite a bit to Crazy Taxi, your vehicle will for the most part annihilate all it comes into contact with. While you follow your omnipresent green directional arrow and enemy opponents through the streets, vehicles of any size will crumple and rebound off of you like butter. On the other hand, one thing that's annoying is anytime you touch another vehicle in the street, they will start flashing and disappear in about 5 seconds. When I wreck into someone I want the carnage to stay. Kinda' like a cat that's playing with a half-dead mouse. You just don't get to enjoy your kill enough. I want to be able to cause massive traffic jams and 10 car pileups when I play this type of game.

Now what's a little ironic is that your vehicle feels ridiculously light to control but you can smash a city bus into a building. All the vehicles in Wreckless feel this way whether it's a monster truck or even a tank. This won't be a problem for the casual gamer to overcome, but veteran players will for sure be disappointed. The lack of weight is obviously there to enable the game to flow freely through the city, but maybe if your vehicle were a little more stable and not so light, you would have an easier time maneuvering it. Another blatant control problem is that your car's pivot point is smack dab in the middle, as opposed to steering using the front wheels. It makes driving your car feel a little unnatural and not as much fun. Overall I just kept getting frustrated with almost every gameplay aspect of Wreckless. The whole gameplay portion just needs a major overhaul including the weak, apathetic missions.

Replay Value : 40
How long can you stare at pretty graphics? That's about how long the replay value is for this title. Other than the boring gameplay, boring sound, and just the general short length of the game, Wreckless would have been great (insert laugh track here). And once you beat 90% of the missions, you will never want to go back to them because they were just too easy. There's just not much substance to this game. Also where are the multiplayer modes? In this time of high-powered systems, if you have such a weak single player mode, there better be a great multiplayer mode. There's no such animal here. Wreckless has zero 2-4 player options. A good game of tag or at least a free roam mode would have added some sorely needed fun to the mix.

Overall : 68
The stereotypical supermodel would be a good way to describe this title. The first few moments spent with Wreckless will really impress, but once you start investigating a little you'll notice a lack of substance. That doesn't totally mean that you can't have fun with this supermodel of a game it's just that the fun won't last for too long. There's no reason to spend 50 bucks on this title but it is easily worth a rental. The way that I see it is Wreckless has a great gaming engine. Clean up the frame rate a bit and develop a more interesting way to play this game and we will all be running down to our favorite videogame shop to purchase it. Just as we all did with Grand Theft Auto 3 hint.

By: Michael Wicks 5/5/02



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