The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee
Release Date: September 28, 2004
Not many people anymore are familiar with the old television show “The Dukes of Hazzard” if you were to ask them what the show was about, and yet inexplicably nearly anyone can recognize the famous ’69 Charger with the orange paint scheme and the characteristic horn or the title theme for the show. Somehow or another everyone at least knows about the car, dubbed the “General Lee”, which speaks well for the widespread popularity the show enjoyed. “The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee” isn’t the first game to feature the General Lee or the Duke boys, as there have been two prior games on the PC and PS1, but on the same note it seems like this game might end up equally as obscure.
It’s not that the game is bad, as even for a preview it is rather entertaining and largely bug free. Rather, it seems like the game was crafted solely as a vessel for fans of the series to take a trip down memory lane as opposing to putting forth an actual game. The game starts out much like an episode of the series, with the Duke boys (Luke and Bo) planning on entering a dirt track race with the intent on giving the winnings to a woman in need. From there is a brief flashback showing the origins of the General Lee, which also serves as a tutorial on how to control the car. After the flashback the Duke boys end up getting caught in a dirty trick and caught up in Boss Hogg’s latest scheme, and from there the plot handles much like it did on the TV show.
The gameplay in DoH:RotGL is made up entirely of you driving the General Lee around to accomplish various objectives, such as outrunning the police, collecting things, following other cars, and racing. Between objectives you have largely free reign over where you want to go, and can explore a fairly good sized video game replica of Hazzard County. In its current state however, there never feels like there is much oomph behind the gameplay, as even the car itself feels like a toy in comparison to how powerfully it was portrayed on the show. There is ample opportunity for the General Lee to catch some air, crash through flimsy wooden signs, but it never looks or feels much more involving than loosely arcade-like.
It’s not as if the game doesn’t show promise however, since as far as can be seen DoH:RotGL is faithful to the original show about as far as it can go. Most of the original cast has lended their voice talents, the General Lee and many of the game’s locations are modeled and textured with a high level of accuracy, and overall despite a much needed coat of polish it feels very much so like it was born out of love for the series rather than a developer trying to use a popular title for a quick buck. It’s just that, much like most games based on anything popular, it has rather weak gameplay.
Stunts in the game are enjoyable, but there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities to really see them in full glory. For certain stunt areas a good grab of air will cause the camera to track the General Lee as it sails through the air in slo-motion, but since it is limited to certain areas it doesn’t appear as often as one would want. Still, there are many opportunities for some wild driving over bumps at top speed to catch a bit of air or barreling full throttle down a winding dirt road, trying to get to an objective before time runs out or simply driving around between missions trying to find out what’s around the bend.
Graphically DoH:RotGL isn’t that hot, but what it does it does well. The General Lee is what you will undoubtedly see the most, and thankfully it has been recreated with every detail down to the color and the confederate flag on the roof. In cinemas when you actually see the characters such as Boss Hogg, Luke, Bo, and Daisy they don’t look half bad at all, which is surprising since you never see them at any other time during play; that alone is a corner most developers like to cut. The General Lee can get scraped up when you accidentally hit a guard rail or what have you, but parts never fall off and the car is never totaled. Normally this would be a bad thing, but in this special scenario it just wouldn’t do the series justice by showing a crumpled General Lee sitting by the roadside.
Sound, as stated before with the real voice actors, is equally accurate and faithful to the series. At the menu screen the Dukes of Hazzard theme plays, which immediately brings images of the good ‘ole boys in the General Lee, or of Daisy Duke, whichever you prefer. However, the rest of the games sounds seem a bit dull and uninspired, even the sounds made by the General Lee itself. Considering that since DoH:RotGL isn’t a game based off of gunfire and explosions, it is that sound that makes up the majority of the sound effects you will hear, which only compounds the problem.
Still, I find it hard to discredit the game despite its flaws. Even though the game is not complete and some of the problems and rough areas can be smoothed over by the time the game goes gold, you don’t have to be a fortune teller to see that the game is made by Duke fans, for Duke fans, and as such will likely make little more than a blip on most gamer’s radar. If you are a fan of the series you should undoubtedly keep an eye on The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee as it will likely be the best game based on the series yet, but for the average gamer who is under twenty saying the game is a good replica of a series they have barely heard of doesn’t go very far. Either way, nevermind the fact that it is flawed the game has heart and a charm of its own, and even those barely familiar with the series would do well to at least keep casual tabs on the title as it matures into gold status.