• Destruction Derby Series – Forgotten Franchise

    Destruction Derby Series – Forgotten Franchise

    Features, Forgotten Franchises, Z1g
    Posted on Thursday, February 27th, 2014 at 8:00 AM by

    As I sat down to write this piece, I initially planned to write this as a straight retrospective piece on the first destruction derby game, reflecting on the game as a whole and reminiscing a bit about an old favourite. I mean, everyone will have heard about Destruction derby right? It was a big thing when it came out during the PlayStation era and was, for a while, a major title.

    But that’s the thing, it was the PlayStation era and that’s 4 consoles ago, generationally. While the PlayStation era might not feel like that long ago to me, in reality it was aaagggessss ago. The console came out in 1995; nearly 19 years ago. Wow, that’s a reality check; Destruction Derby is now old enough to drink legally in the UK…

    Suffice to say that, while I remember it and at 28 I’m, by no means even close to being considered middle-aged (hell I barely qualify as an adult depending on who you ask!) 18 years is long enough for a great many of our readers to have never heard of.

    Right then, surely the later entries of the series will at least vindicate my assertion that everyone will have heard of the Destruction Derby series? Destruction Derby Arenas was the last game in the series and, while it was a bit… rubbish… it at least continued the name right? So when did that come out?

    2004?? Ah…ok then…

    Tell me that doesn't look fun...

    Tell me that doesn’t look fun…

    So then, Destruction Derby…

    Destruction Derby was released, as we’ve established, in 1995 by Psygnosis (after being developed by Reflections Interactive) as part of the first wave of PlayStation games. Indeed, Psygnosis were rather prolific in their racing/driving games and were also responsible for Wipeout, which I covered previously.

    The game, as you may guess from the name, tasks the player with competing in stock car races, eschewing the traditional jockeying for position, lap times and overtaking lanes for all out violent destruction. Starting to see why it was so good yet? Pretty much anything went when it came to battling for position in the game, with players actively encouraged to bash, smash and crash competitors off the track in a bid to finish first. While hardly endowed with finesse, subtlety or, admittedly, much variety, the stock car race mode was certainly entertaining.

    To add a layer of tactical consideration and some level of realism, the cars had a level of destructibility, with areas of the car having a finite limit to the damage they could absorb before your car broke down. This was represented by an image of your car on the HUD with various parts that would change colour progressively from green to red as you took damage, finally changing to black when the limit was reached. Along with the progression of damage levels, the vehicle became more visually damaged, which was something new to players at the time and drew a lot of attention.

    While the stock car racing was the more extensive aspect of the game, the second, eponymous, Destruction Derby mode was the one that really gained the most favour with the fans. This mode placed the cars in a large circular arena, inspiringly named ‘The Bowl’ with the target of wrecking the most cars before everyone was damaged beyond repair. This mode, while consisting of a single track and little to no variety was the standout aspect of the game and pretty much the reason the game gained the following it did. The was also a Wreckin’ Racing mode, which took the stock car mode and added the awarding of points for wrecking other cars, but that was rather hit or miss compared to the guaranteed action of the main Derby mode.

    Following on from the success of the first game, its sequel, Destruction Derby 2 arrived hot on its heels the following year. Differing little from its predecessor, Destruction Derby 2 essentially offered more of the same. Basically, for a review of the 2nd game, just re-read the above paragraphs and add a 2 to the name. Everything from the race modes to the mechanics was the same. The main difference from a race perspective was the addition of several jumps on various tracks, which delivered even more carnage to proceedings.

    Wreckin' Mode - like racking, but better.

    Wreckin’ Mode – like racking, but better.

    The reception for the game was on a similar level to that of its predecessor, though on a slightly lower trajectory, most likely due to the aforementioned lack of any real progression in gameplay.

    This was not the case for the slightly belated sequel, Destruction Derby Raw. Released in 2000, the game was the first to be developed by a different studio, being taken up, as it was, by Studio 33.

    Graphically the game was a step up, as you would expect, but the main change was in the development of the game modes. The existing modes were, in the main, repurposed, with only stock car racing being omitted. Wrecking Racing takes its place as the main race mode, retaining the same format as its predecessor, with a greatly-expanded quota of 25 tracks and 19 competitors. Smash 4 $ was a career mode, in which a player purchased and upgraded vehicles by earning money from in-race challenges. The previously simple Destruction Derby mode returned, but with much more variety, with a series of tracks and new game modes, which can be split into 2 categories, team events and solo challenges. The solo challenges were Armageddon, which tasked the player with surviving as long as possible, Vampyre; where players steal points from their opponent when they hit them, Skyscraper; a standard Derby mode, but with the ability to push cars off the edges of the track and Classic Mode, which remained the same as previous years. The team events were Assault; which tasked players with protecting a CPU-controlled partner car and Pass Da Bomb, where players had to hit an opponent to pass a bomb to them and the player holding the bomb when it went off was eliminated.

    The game itself was relatively well-received, with average reviews at the time, though significantly down on previous iterations, mostly down to the lack of refined controls and, again, lack of major gaming variety.

    Again, a 4 year delay occurred before the next, and final, game in the series arrived in the form of Destruction Derby: Arenas. Still developed by Studio 33, Arenas was quite a deviation in theme from the previous titles. The overall purpose remained the same, but the presentation was very different, shifting away from the realism of the previous titles to a more arcade experience. The game was poorly received, with many citing the cartoon-like stylings and rather outlandish characters. Indeed, the very fact that the game had characters at all was a huge change in style, one that put many players off.

    The overall reaction to the game sounded the death knell for the series and Arenas proved to be the last Destruction Derby game to be released to date. Studio 33 were bought out by EA in 2003 and became EA North West and the Destruction Derby name disappeared from the industry, though similar games such as Empire Interactive’s Flatout continue its legacy.

    Destruction Derby wasn’t big and it certainly wasn’t clever, but what it was, was damn good fun and the fact that the last version of note to appear was over 13 years ago means that few younger gamers will have ever had the chance to play such a brilliantly joyous game.

    If ever there was a franchise in gaming that is ripe for a revival its Destruction Derby… so long as they don’t mess about with the formula too much.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to listen to some Steppenwolf and get some pixelated smashing on.

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  • Destroy All Humans – The Greatest Game You’ve Never Played

    Destroy All Humans – The Greatest Game You’ve Never Played

    Forgotten Franchises
    Posted on Tuesday, May 28th, 2013 at 6:30 AM by

    We all know the story of The War Of The Worlds. In fact if you don’t, get out as you are no longer welcome reading this article. It was the radio show that frightened your grandparents, the film that enthralled your parents, the musical score that has engaged so many, and the American remake which has disappointed almost everyone who watched it. And it was whilst I was watching the American remake that my distracted mind stumbled on a question I had not asked myself before; if I was an invading alien, how would I go about taking over the planet? That is why today I am writing about Destroy All Humans, the greatest game you’ve never played.

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  • Forgotten Franchises – Cool Spot

    Forgotten Franchises – Cool Spot

    Forgotten Franchises
    Posted on Thursday, May 16th, 2013 at 8:00 AM by

    The 1980s to 1990s was undoubtedly the era  of the platformer. Bearing witness, as it did, to the spiritual birth of the console era proper, the period can boast many of the best examples of the genre. In those heady days of discovery, the games industry had something of a wild west feel to it; a feeling of a new frontier with fantastic new discoveries being unveiled seemingly every week.

    From this brave new world came some of the true luminaries of the industry. The stomping ground of titans like Sonic and Mario, the final decades of the 20th century set the tone for what could be argued to be platforming perfection, refining the genre to the point of virtual perfection.

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  • Delta Force 2 – A Blast From The Past

    Delta Force 2 – A Blast From The Past

    Forgotten Franchises
    Posted on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013 at 6:30 AM by

    All I wanted in my early teens was a Sega Saturn. I was desperate for one, however my mum would never buy me one. She was more interested in making sure that I went outside, socialised and got some exercise. Because of this, I can’t really remember how I ended up with this game. It’s also why I hate the outside world and actively avoid conversation with other people. Nevertheless, what I do know is that Delta Force 2 was my first proper first person shooter and formed my expectations of the genre all the way up until Call of Duty Finest Hour.

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  • Forgotten Franchises: Clock Tower

    Features, Forgotten Franchises
    Posted on Sunday, August 5th, 2012 at 5:00 PM by

    The Clock Tower games are a series of survival horror games created by Human Entertainment and then picked up by Capcom. There are four games in the series; Clock Tower (1995), Clock Tower (1996), Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within and Clock Tower 3.

    Clock Tower (1995) wasn’t released outside of Japan so when the second Clock Tower game was released to the rest of the world in 1996 it was called Clock Tower 2 in Japan but just Clock Tower everywhere else, what makes it worse is that the first two games are actually connected even though the first one has never been released outside of Japan, the third is more of a spin off and the fourth one doesn’t really have any connection to the ones before it but we’ll come to that in a bit. For the purpose of this article we’ll call the first game Clock Tower (A) and the second game Clock Tower (B).

    During the late 90’s survival horror games were growing in popularity thanks to the Resident Evil series, but whereas most of the other games had you playing as hardened special forces agents with a vast array of weapons, healing abilities and skills at your disposal, Clock Tower bucked that trend and placed you in the body of a young teenage girl with no abilities apart from running and screaming.

    Playing more like the movie Halloween than a typical game, all four games involve young female protagonists with limited or no weaponry and require players to make use of the scenery and surroundings to hide from the heavily armed villain that is on the lookout for her.

    The first Clock Tower game was released on the Super Famicom in 1995, later it was ported to the PlayStation1 and renamed Clock Tower: The First Fear. It tells the story of a young orphan called Jennifer Simpson. Jennifer and her three friends, Lotte, Ann and Laura, who are also orphans, are informed that they have been adopted by a Mr Barrows and are brought to the Barrows Mansion by a lady called Mary. As the girls settle in and wait in the foyer, Mary goes off to find Mr Barrows but doesn’t come back. Jennifer offers to go look for her but as soon as she leaves the foyer she hears a scream, rushes back to find her friends missing.

    Over the course of the game Jennifer must find her friends, solve the mystery of the mansion and avoid the games villain, Scissorman. Scissorman is a deformed human who wields a massive pair of scissors which he uses to kill. Jennifer isn’t able to defeat him or fight back, all she can really do is run and hide, sometimes Scissorman will find her hiding places in which case she can struggle with him a bit until she is either killed or is able to run off again to find somewhere else to hide. Scissorman’s appearances are usually random but for the most part there is some music or a trigger that causes them, other times he’ll literally burst out of a wardrobe or from behind a shower curtain.

    The game also has multiple endings depending on if you completed certain tasks, found friends or solved puzzles. There were nine endings in total, some with Jennifer surviving and others with her dying.

    Clock Tower (A) was a moderate success in Japan so it allowed Human Entertainment to create a direct sequel and the first game to be released outside of Japan. Cock Tower (B) was released in 1996 on the PlayStation 1. The game takes place 12 months after the first game, Jennifer has been adopted by Helen Maxwell, an assistant of a psychiatrist who is helping Jennifer get over the terrible events of the first game. During her therapy Scissorman reappears and begins to attack friends and colleagues. This eventually leads the larger ensemble cast back to the Barrows Mansion.

    While many aspects of the first game still remain, no weapons, hiding, puzzle solving, the game differed in respect to the fact you could chose the playable character. Essentially all the characters were the same in respect to the inability to fight back but it gave you a chance to see what else was going on in the game.

    As with the previous game there were multiple endings, five for Jennifer and five for Helen depending on which you chose as the main protagonist, again some of these end well and some not so well.

    I’ll be honest with you right now and say that these games are awful, the graphics are clunky at best, the voice acting is so hammy it could be used in a sandwich and the plot is ridiculous but there is just something about them. I remember playing Clock Tower (B) with my friend on the PlayStation 1 late one night in the dark and I’m not sure I’ve ever been so freaked out by a game.

    The two remaining games Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within and Clock Tower 3 don’t have any real connection to the first two games. Clock Tower II deals with a young girl called Alyssa who is adopted yet finds she has another soul living inside her, this soul is called Bates and he’s not a nice man. The game was not well received, critics pointed out the rather obvious plot holes, the ‘so bad it’s bad’ voice acting and the fact that towards the end of the game the character acquires guns and weapons to fight back.

    In 1999 Human Entertainment folded and the Clock Tower franchise was sold to Capcom. Clock Tower 3 was developed by Capcom and the only link to the original games is the game play. You play as a girl called Alyssa who returns home to find her mother missing and a stranger called The Dark Gentleman in her house. Alyssa soon learns about her dark heritage, her time travelling abilities and comes face to face with deadly twisted killers.  The game style changed from point and click to direct control of Alyssa.

    By 2002 when Clock Tower 3 was released the survival horror genre had become saturated and watered down, critics praised the game for trying something different as opposed to the mass of point and shoot clones that had flooded the market. Fans of the series were not as praiseworthy with complaints aimed at the lack of singular villain and that the game did not have multiple endings like its predecessors.

    Clock Tower 3 was the last game to be released in the series; currently Capcom has no plans for a new game. There have been rumours of a movie adaptation for years, in 2008 a series of posters were released for the movie but the movie never appeared. According to IMDB the latest update is that David R.Ellis (Snakes on a Plane) has signed up to direct with a release date of 2012……

    Personally I think the franchise is due a comeback, despite the game’s many weak points they have retained a cult following and Scissorman is still considered one of the great video game killers. With Resident Evil moving away from the survival horror genre it created I think now is the perfect time for a real survival game to fill the gap.

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