Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Angel Studios
Release Date: 8/06/2002
Smuggler’s Run: Warzone’s is not so much a full-fledged sequel to Smuggler’s Run 2: Hostile Territory, which was released on the PS2 last October, so much as it is an enhanced update to it, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s the perfect blend of straightforward objectives and tight gameplay for people just getting into the series. Keeping in tradition with Rockstar’s history of releasing controversially flavored videogames, SR: Warzones is all about delivering contraband and keeping the coppers at arms length. You’ll be able to pilot all types of vehicles to help you pull this off: from high-powered quad-runners to ultra reinforced 4X4’s, each with their own unique set of attributes. The one-player set of missions is identical to that of Hostile Territory and like that game the plot will be pushed forward via FMV scenes which depict your character briefly going over the mission you are about to attempt. You will traverse through a few different areas, beginning in Russia and concluding in the deep jungles of Vietnam, all the while working on behalf of a shady Russian colonel.
There is a total of eight playable vehicles in the game, one of which is exclusive to the NGC version: an insanely fast hover sled. Expect also to get behind the wheel of a Baja truck, a tank-esque Kavostov, a nitro-equipped Super Buggy, a jumping D-5 Hondo, an ATV Monster, the extremely durable Grenadiea, and the fastest vehicle in the game the Special Du Monde. Each is equipped with two unique ‘counter measures’ that range from your run-of-the-mill oil slicks and smoke-screens to more exotic functions like a cloaking device and vertical boosting systems.
While actually driving all these vehicles around on a plethora of differently styled terrain can be incredibly entertaining and visceral in itself, it’s the enemy law-enforcement agents who constantly dog your every move and attempt to track you down to put a stop to your smuggling ways that really give the game a heightened sense of tension and urgency. They will often think a couple steps ahead by setting up roadblocks and trying to flank you from the side as you cross their path, speed alone won’t be enough to successfully out-maneuver the A.I. in Warzones. The various objectives in the game do little to keep the action feeling fresh however, as they too often require only that you perform Crazy Taxi-like delivery errands.
The multiplayer aspects of the game is where the Gamecube version really shines, up to four people can play at the same time via split-screen. Seven of the eight vehicles are available right from the onset and there are a variety of different modes like One On One where you can compete against friends in Turf Wars or Checkpoint Races, A.I. players can take the place of human players and any combination of A.I. and human racers can be set up at your discretion.
Aside from the added multiplayer modes the only other difference with Warzones from Hostile Territory is it’s graphical enhancements. They are pretty insignificant all in all but do include some cool particle effects and updated textures thanks to the Gamecube’s 4-pass bump mapping capability. As with the PS2 version, there are apparent draw-in issues as the system renders atmospheres on the fly, but it isn’t as noticeable and hardly detracts from the overall experience. The environments in the game are believably delivered, from the Southern Russian countryside with it’s withered communities and unkempt nature-life to the abrupt and precipitous hills of Vietnam. Visually Warzones delivers on many levels but hits just short of being impressive. The FMV cut-scenes are presented through a film-grain-type filter and feature actors who, while certainly not AAA talent are believable and give performances that are a notch or two above b-movie caliber. The sound in the cut-scenes are strained through some kind of high-frequency filter that gives it a tinny, irritating feel and the house-techno soundtrack rarely feels fitting to the on-screen action. The various sounds of the vehicles as their engines roar and bash into each other are cool though, no two vehicles emits exactly the same kinds of sound-effects. The ambient atmospheric sound-effects are also quite well done and help to give the game’s areas an immersive feel. Definitely a nice touch.
Smuggler’s Run: Warzones is a great addition to anyone’s Gamecube library as it features the entirety of SR2 and even a map from the original SR in the multiplayer mode. But if you’ve played the game on the PS2 there isn’t much new stuff to see here aside from the multiplayer modes and an additional unlockable vehicle, which is admittedly, pretty damn cool. On the whole, it is worth at least checking out if only for it’s incredibly entertaining multiplayer modes even if you’ve played part two on the PS2, but if Warzones is your first introduction to the series then there is no doubt that you will be consistently and thoroughly entertained from beginning to end.