Scrap Metal: Xbox Live Arcade:Developer: Slick Entertainment
Scrap Metal is an old-school top down racer. Boy that takes me back; it has been a couple of years since I played a top-down racer... (at this point your Blogger racked his brain for an actual top down racer he played on the Xbox or PlayStation 2 or even original PlayStation.)
Okay maybe its been a more than a couple of years. Grand Theft Auto 2 was top down but it really wasn't a racer...Spy Hunter was sort off a combat racer but it's on a straight track... Auto Racing for the Intellivision? Hey I think we have a winner.
Okay so it has been since 1980 that I played a top down racer and in all fairness to Scrap Metal, it is more an isometric racer that a straight top down deal. So how do these two games compare? Well Intellivision Auto Racing has an actual open world where you can travel off-road between tracks and even to a hidden drag strip. Other than the ahead of its time (and somewhat accidental) sandbox features, I do have to give the edge to Scrap Metal in the battle of top down racers.
There is a reason top down racers were abandoned in the scrap heap of video game history relativity quickly. One of the problems with top down racers is steering. When your car is facing the bottom of the screen and one needs to make a left turn what direction do you point your controller? From the cars point of view you would push left but from the players point of view the car is turning to the right.
Intellivision Auto Racing faced this same quandary. Initially the programmers went the realistic route and players had to push the disc left to turn right when their car was facing south. There was some consternation from the public at this control scheme, so Mattel actually changed the cartridges halfway through production so that newer versions of the game had a more player friendly arcade steering. Scrap Metal using modern delivery methods and the lessons of the last thirty years has decided to allow both steering options right from the get go.
Unfortunately the arcade control scheme is dumbed down to the point of silliness. There isn't even an acceleration button. The RC "hardcore version" does have acceleration but you will take more wrong turns than Mr. Magoo at a Baja Rally.
Not that the cars in Scrap Metal would control well with even the best of schemes. The tracks seem to be covered with black ice, the cars turn like a 1978 Cadillac Fleetwood Broughams and the track is littered with jetsam that hangs up your vehicle on a regular basis. Even stranger it doesn't really seem to matter which car you have. They all seem to control about the same whether they are muscle cars or Wagon Queen Family Truckster.
With controls this hit or miss, combat basically consists of keeping the machine gun on and hoping someone wanders in front of you. Online modes wisely fill the dearth of human competition with computer controlled players so one should always find a game. (A nice feature some other games could do well to emulate.)
Though Scrap Metal manged to best it's nearest competition (Intellivision's Auto Racing) it pales against more modern fare. And by more modern I mean 1996's Twisted Metal 2 which honestly blows this game out of the water. Even the Demolition Derby minigame in Saint's Row 2 (Located inside the university of all places) offers better thrills and more tactile victimization than this effort.
So if you miss Micro Machines or are desperate for an R.C. simulator, Scrap Metal may fill the bill alas with some disappointment. Everyone else should view this as a lesson on why some game genres (even if done well and bluntly this one could have been done better) belong in the foggy nostalgia of the last century.
Also as a side note while Scrap Metal did best Intellivision's Auto Racing head to head (though the competition was much closer than it should have been ) Scrap Metal was however quickly defeated in the next round by the vastly superior Spy Hunter(1983).
Score: $3 (mainly for the fact you can put a large doughnut on your car and paint it in Simpson's colors.)
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