If you like to smash things into scrap metal, or were fans of the original PSOne games, this is the game for you.
The idea behind Destruction Derby Arenas (DDA) is pretty self-explanatory. The main focus of the game is to crash into other cars and inanimate objects. DDA offers three modes of play: Championship, Wrecking Racing, and Destruction Bowl. Championship mode is similar to a Cup mode in most other racing games and is made up of three Wrecking Racing circuits and one Destruction Bowl for a total of four events. The main object in Championship mode is to gain points by ramming into stuff while trying to score a high-ranking finish. Points are used to determine what place the player will come in and unlock new features like new characters, cars, and tracks.
Wrecking Racing is not your normal racing mode. Unlike most racing games, finishing with the lowest time is not the most important task. While racing laps, the player must also damage other cars and perform stunts to gain points. The more points you have at the end of a circuit decide the winner. Plus, your final time ranking of the circuit will also add to your point total. In most other racing games, speed is the main point of focus. If you go cruise through the course without bumping into things, you will probably finish with a high rank. DDA throws this idea out the window by forcing players to crash into things, which leaves the idea of speed as an afterthought.
Destruction Bowl is your classic demolition derby. Twenty cars will line up and have a go at each other in arena style game play. The player will not only have to be wary of the surrounding cars, but will also have to keep an eye on the interactive environments. Pistons will send cars flying sky high and the track will fall out from under you. While this mode can be quite fun, it is a major upset that the player is limited to a Time only battle. There is no Last Man Standing option. Each Destruction Bowl will only be played out for a few minutes. This lack of options drastically decreases the replay value. The player is forced to play for a set number of minutes. These minutes cannot be adjusted. Major bummer.
When you first pick up DDA, it seems like the player will be in for a treat. Many things to unlock, big interactive arenas, online play, and smashing cars to scrap metal all make this game sound like a winner. However, once you start playing, the cold reality sets in. The single player has some good ideas, but it is built on a weak structure. The Championship is made up of four total races: three Wrecking Races and one Destruction Bowl. After you complete one event, you move on to the other. However, say the player is on the third event of this Championship race and loses. The player is then forced to go back to the first event in the Championship race. The lack of any type of continues or retries starts to mold the game into a sloppy pigsty. Plus, the player is forced to use the same driver and car in each level until the game is completed. This is a complete shame because the player will unlock new characters as the game is played but won’t be able to use them in the main mode of play.
Besides from these complaints, the game also has some major control issues. No matter which car you use, each vehicle will handle as if floating in the air or gliding on ice. The touchy play control will frustrate the player immediately as crashing into walls when turning almost seems like a necessity. Also, this game is based around scoring points by crashing into other players. The game distinguishes many different types of crashes and scores them accordingly to how difficult the task is to put off. Because the game will score so many different types of crashes, it sounds like anything you do will generate points. However, in my experience, some crashes do not register and will not gain any points even though major damage has been dealt. This seems like a programming error, but it is quite aggravating to go without points when you heavily smash a car.
The camera control will also get hung up from time to time. Because of the floaty play control, the camera will often not catch up with the car (or vice versa). When you accidentally crash into a wall (due to the “ice skating” control style) the camera will jump to an awkward position. These abrupt camera movements are very distracting and disorienting. The L1 and R1 buttons are used to pan left and right accordingly, but this option will rarely, if ever, be used.
If the player manages to achieve a high score, he is given the option to input his name. It seems like a waste of time when you have to input your name every time a high score has been achieved. The game should automatically remember the player’s name that is on the save file. Even though this is small flaw, it can be quite annoying after playing for a while.
The graphics are PS2 quality. The car models look pretty nice but avid players will be able to notice that they are made of a low poly count. This is somewhat forgivable considering all the cars on screen at one time. However, I did notice a dramatic number of increase in jaggies when playing two player split screen. The environments look pretty nice and there are some decent particle effects like the fire blasts and nitro bursts. The audio is a different story. In the options screen, the player can set how loud he wants a specific part of the game to be. The master volume, and sound effects, and announcer can all be changed to fit the player’s wants. Keeping the default setting, I found that it is quite difficult to distinguish what the announcer was saying. After adjusting these audio options, I found the announcer to be one of most annoying announcers in gaming. His stupid comments are best kept unsaid. You are better off playing your favorite CD from a near by stereo.
With all of these weaknesses, DDA will create an enjoyable time for a few hours. However, after most objects are unlocked, the player will start to grow wary of this game. The online multiplayer will add to the replay value, but if online is not an option for you, then the two-player mode will only take you so far. The play control needs some work, as does the point system, and the graphics are slightly above average. And it is probably best that the player turns the announcer’s volume all the way down when playing this game. DDA is a great game for players who like to smash things, and could potentially hold you over until Driver 3 comes out.