Genre : Action
Publisher : Midway
Developer : Terminal Reality
Release Date : October 14, 2003
Rockstar changed the videogame world in 2001 when they released a little game called Grand Theft Auto III on the Playstation 2. The game was cool to gamers (it was fun), cool to non-gaming adults (it had style and mature themes), and cool to young kids (they were playing a "mature" game). Needless to say, GTA3 sold like hot cakes. When it's sequel launched a year later, it enjoyed some very nice sales. And finally this month, an Xbox version of the two games (bundled together in one package!) is going to be available, undoubtedly set for some high sales figures as well.
All these sales mean that copycats were right around the corner - just waiting to take advantage of the next big thing. So I can imagine one day Midway executives were holding a meeting, and they decided that they needed their own super-violent car-driving game. Roadkill is the result.
The game is very violent, loud, and in-your-face. Guns, explosions, and inevitable blood are extremely common sights while driving down the street. Constant cursing and especially strong use of a friendly four-lettered word are here in full form. There are cutscenes that are so politically incorrect that if any raging mothers might get their hands on this title, it would shoot right up there with GTA on their hit list.
Roadkill actually plays less like Grant Theft Auto than it does like another violent car-based game. It's gameplay is largely based on combat which is reminiscent of the Twisted Metal series. You actually never leave a vehicle at any one time; though it's possible to change cars at certain points, you always are in the driver's seat of one car or another. There are your basic acceleration and braking controls, and you can fire a gun or use some secondary weapons, like a proximity mine. It's also possible (and not uncommon) to carry around a man in the back of your truck who controls a large gun turret. It seems that all of the cars were designed to take advantage of this kind of gun, which I suppose bodes well for defense.
You'll take part in a number of missions, then watch a cutscene or two, and go on to do some more missions. After a while you'll move on to the next level. This is essentially how the entire game is set up. There are missions where you need to find certain goods and retrieve/destroy them, destroy other cars, run over a number of pedestrians, or race other vehicles, among others. Some of the missions are optional and others are required, and while the developers have done a fair job of mixing the objectives up, I still got pretty tired of performing these tasks. And it didn't take too long before I started to get annoyed. The missions just aren't original enough - it feels like I've been here and done that countless times before. And since most of the tasks are fairly simplistic, they don't require a lot of skill or finess - generally, if you want to blow up a car, you approach it and jam on the fire button. You usually have enough health to keep from dying yourself, and if you do happen to get low, it's not hard to lose the bad guys and find a power-up to fix your car up.
All three of the levels actually are fairly expansive. While they don't dwarf most other games by comparison, there are a good number of things to see. It takes a good few minutes to get from one end of the map to the other, and the landscape is littered with side streets and multiple paths. It's also easy to reach high ground via parking garages, airport runways, and so on. There are even a good number of angled ramps, which can lead to some fun jumping. Heck, I had just as much fun driving around and blowing things up mindlessly as I did when I actually worked on the missions. Unfortunately, it's not always very easy to find your way around; though the game employs an onscreen map like that of GTA3's, it is too hard to make out separate streets and determine the best way to get to your destination. Sometimes there is only one road which will get you to your target, and it can be tough to find that road on the map.
The graphics are not stunning, but they get the job done. The car models are a bit rough around the edges, and never particularly excited me in their design, but there really aren't any that were particularly bad. The environments are also okay, with a few interesting locations and monuments to investigate. Pedestrians really don't look that good at all, though; they animate in a stiff fashion, and don't really look realistic. In other bad news, the frame-rate could stand to be a bit better, too. It's not that it's unstable or ever makes the game unplayable, but next to other car games, it is not as smooth. Explosions, on the other hand, are actually pretty cool and satisfying to watch.
The sound in the game is also a mixed bag. Sound effects are okay, and generally appropriate with the action onscreen. The voice-acting is generally convincing, and while not ground-breaking, it works well. Though often unfunny, I heard a few humorous lines here and there while playing. The music element nods to GTA3, again, as it features a radio-station setup. There are a few stations that play music, and a few stations that feature talk-shows and the like. There are actually only about a half-dozen stations, which seemed a tad bit skimpy to me. I found a few okay tunes on the ones that actually played music, but as the soundtrack consists of mainly rock and rap songs, I wished I could import custom soundtracks to spice things up and add a little variety. The talk shows come off as cheesy and fake, which wouldn't be bad, except they really aren't written that well - so I found myself avoiding those stations when I could. So while the audio isn't all bad, it really isn't too good, either.
All in all, Roadkill is a game that tries to mix a few popular games together in order to come up with something good. The problem is that the developers really didn't add anything we haven't seen elsewhere. The gameplay becomes tiresome within a few hours, and frankly, it just doesn't offer any new material. It's not that there's anything terribly, fatally wrong with the game as a whole. In fact, I can see one having a fairly good time with it - for a short time, that is. This is the sort of game that makes for a good rental, but I would really hesitate on a purchase (especially if you haven't tried it beforehand). If you're interested, give it a rent, you might have some fun with it. I wouldn't make any long-term investments in this one, though.