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PS2/Xbox Review - 'Hummer Badlands'

by Nicolus Baslock on June 12, 2006 @ 1:58 a.m. PDT

Using the legendary Hummer 4-wheel drive technology, Hummer Badlands lets gamers conquer any terrain on the ultimate log climbing, torque twisting, off-road Hummer competition. Race 19 different Hummer models, both on and off-road, and smash through barriers to uncover short cuts and hidden routes.

Genre: Racing
Publisher: Global Star Software
Developer: Eutechnyx
Release Date: April 11, 2006

Originally used as military vehicles, Hummers were designed to be capable of withstanding any road blocks or problems, especially if that meant getting dirty. A few years ago, the vehicle saw a boom of popularity for both the military and civilian versions. Feeding on that demand, General Motors began producing Hummers on production lines, albeit not quite what they once were. Having introduced two new models – the H2 and H3 – since this mainstream production began, it was only fitting that there would be a game in which you could race these vehicles and have a great time. That game was actually Mercenaries: Playgrounds of Destruction, where H2s and H3s can be driven around with far more enjoyment than this title, Hummer Badlands, can muster.

As the title indicates, there are Hummers in this game, so those who are really in love with those big blocky machines should have a field day. Unfortunately, that also means you must truly love them because that's all there is. Unlike most racing games, no matter how far you advance, you are still driving one of the three Hummer models which were available from the very beginning. Compounding that problem, they all drive exactly the same: terribly. Although you would think that the different sizes might make some variation, you would be mostly mistaken. This lack of options kills anyone who is used to a game like Forza or Gran Turismo, where a multitude of cars can be won or purchased.

The driving is identical on each of the maps, with your airy Hummer feeling as if it were floating around the various locales. Sliding around far more than an actual Hummer should, these vehicles have a hard time finding traction and end up moving back and forth across the tracks. I would have guessed that a vehicle weighing as much as a Hummer might be a bit less loose around turns, but apparently, I would have been wrong.

The game only features five maps, with five "different" versions of each map. Running the gamut of previously done maps, there are sand levels, snow levels and all the other uninspired standbys for racing games like this. In addition, the different iterations are nothing more than retreads of the same map, just with alternate paths. So instead of seeing different areas, you are playing on nearly identical versions, just backwards or with a slight difference. Included in each map are easily seen shortcuts which can cut time off your lap, but unfortunately, that means nothing with the AI implemented.

Featuring rubber band AI racing that will frustrate you to no end, the game allows drivers to catch up to you no matter what you do. I spun out competitors, had them all bunched up behind me, cut them off and had seconds over them, but magically, they would reappear right behind me. In addition to that fault, the AI is almost too perfect sometimes, staying in strangely aligned packs all the way around the track. With only four vehicles on the road at any given time – including yours – it's strange to see the three cars performing the "Top Gun" wingman style of driving, where they all follow one by one, in formation around the track.

Single-player championship mode is progressed through by beating the five iterations of a given map and placing first overall. As you win, you unlock new vehicle pieces and the three other tracks (you start with two of the five tracks playable). I found myself having more fun driving off the tracks during these races, but for a game that is about one of the most versatile off-road vehicles ever created, you are restricted to the point of absurdity when trying to go offroad. There are forest walls, which keep you out of the middle of maps, and fences, which keep you from going off cliffs. Yes, the racing is so over-simplified that players do not even need to fear going off a cliff, but can instead use the indestructible fences for help in making turns.

There are other standard features, like time trials, included in the play modes, but one of the more interesting is an off-road mode, where players traverse rocky, log-covered terrains in an attempt to beat given times on increasing difficulty levels. As you approach hazards, you are asked which kind of four-wheel drive you would like to activate, and then you go right over them. Unfortunately, graphical glitches seem to hurt this mode as well though; your Hummer drives through things, or entire sections of your vehicle will disappear into the ground. The idea is great; for once, you can actually use the versatility of your vehicle to travel over the ideal terrain for it, but the linear paths and graphical glitches make this a feature that takes about 10 minutes to complete, after which you'll be ready to put down the controller. Because there are only two different levels, the replay is basically non-existent as well. Multiplayer play is also available, but it's just more of the same.

The graphics for Hummer Badlands are horrendous. The Hummers are passable, looking a bit shinier than they probably should. They do take damage, but only the windows break, and the indestructible carapace rolls on. Levels repeatedly feature identical-looking textures, along with identical landmarks and fauna. I saw the same tree at least once on every single map, and none of them showed it in a particularly good light. Grass and ground textures are muddy, as are the backdrops.

While driving through maps, you are actually hovering over the road more than anything else. The tires never really seem to make contact as you slide around, which leads to a strange problem of your rear tires falling through the map. I never got stuck like that, but it happened anytime I landed after jumping or if there was an elevation change. There is also poor collision detection, and you will sometimes find yourself driving right through the trees.

Sound is obnoxious, with an over-the-top announcer and late '80s-influenced rock that plays loudly over the "sound" of the engine. The steady guitars and drums make any musical track indistinguishable from another. The engine itself reminded me more of a Honda Civic than what I would imagine a Hummer to sound like. The announcer sounds like he would be working one of those carnival games where they guess your weight or you shoot water into a clown's mouth. All of these things added together form a sound experience that is pretty painful.

If you like racing games, play Forza, Burnout, or Gran Turismo. If you are someone who likes Hummer vehicles, go and play Mercenaries to see how it should handle. If you like inflicting hours of torture on yourself while an announcer "urges you on," go on "The Price is Right." For no reason should anyone pick up Hummer Badlands, unless you are truly an aficionados of these vehicles and you really want to see them digitally recreated.

Score: 4.0/10

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