Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Looking back: Destruction Derby 2

"Total destructionnnnnnn!" the cheesy announcer screams out as I smash an opponents car to a wreck against a concrete wall. All while I'm grinning at the screen, tapping away at the d-pad to turn the wrong way again and make another spectacular crash.

Enter the mayhem that was Destruction Derby 2, all the way back to 1996. It is, without doubt, one of my absolute favourite racing games ever.

"It is, without doubt, one of my absolute favourite racing games ever."
I remember it so clearly. I was a young teenager on work week with my middle school. Together with a friend we had got a job at an electronics store. We were told we could play on their Sony PlayStation system during breaks, the very week Destruction Derby 2 was released. Being the age we were, both the PlayStation and this game appealed so perfectly to us.

We were hooked. I can't really recall what completely pulled us in. The graphics, the destruction or the amazing tracks. Probably a combination of it all, making up the total carnage that was racing in DD2. I think our obvious enthusiasm for this game probably sold more than a few copies to customers passing by! At first we were simply trying out the physics in the game, remember that in the mid-nineties racing games with so much destruction was a rarity. It stood out from other racers like Ridge Racer and it was a sort of Daytona USA on steroids for the PlayStation, with focus on smashing and wrecking cars.

Standing in front of the shops PlayStation stand, we rammed into walls, barrel rolled off jumps, drove consistently the wrong way and tried every imaginable angle for the car to crash. "Hey, what if we crash like this?!" "Or how about driving the wrong way!", "What if we jump off the edge at an angle?!" and so forth. Our imaginations fuelled the fun we had!
"I think our obvious enthusiasm for this game probably sold more than a few copies to customers passing by!"
Eventually we progressed from the initial amazement of the crashes and graphics. We wanted to get new tracks and tried winning races. I remember we had real difficulties achieving this. Approximately a year later when I finally purchased the game under the Platinum brand (I didn't get a PS1 before the following year) I understood why; the game was unforgiving and really hard! Not simply because the opponents were ruthless, but because the game was based on physics and gave way for endless possibilities; the races became very unpredictable.

A simple jump could send the car bouncing in the wrong direction as it impacted with the ground after flight because of the damper physics. A serious crash could have you losing a wheel or a simple touch of a wall could affect your turn and make you spin off the track. The worst case scenario; the car took so much damage that it totalled. Which meant game over. No restart race. No new car. Just a DNF (Did Not Finish) in your season statistics.

Luckily you could pit stop during races, and hammer away on the X button to repair various areas of your car. The most important being the front, where the engine was. Other areas affected the wheels. Loosing or damaging these usually resulted in a lost race. This interactive pit stop is actually something I'd like to see again in a arcade racer!

The unpredictable pattern of each race made replaying race after race was an enjoyment and a new scenario. It also meant each race victory made you feel like you had really achieved and fought to get that first place! I realised then with this game, and for a lot of games right up to this very day, that; good physics in racing games really pay off to make each race unique. It was hardly realistic, but it felt right and made each and every race different. 

That feeling was something the English developer from Newcastle, Reflections, really perfected in it's next game: Driver. The weight of the cars in DD2 feel heavy and drift styled, making way for some really exaggerated, yet amazing moments. A first you would drive the safe beginner car with incredible grip, then you moved on to the slightly looser feeling of the medium difficulty car and at the end you drove the Pro car. Mastering the pro car gave way for some really cool and neat driving.

I think I learned every dirty trick in racing games through DD2. I ended up being really good at getting opponents overturned, spun-out or simply smashed towards concrete walls. Skills I have often used since, especially when playing for fun against friends in various racers since. Multiplayer brings out the worst in people, and DD2 taught me all that!

I must mention the destruction bowls. One cannot avoid to mention them in a write-up about a Destruction Derby game! They put the 20 car facing each other in a arena shaped concrete bowl with one goal: Survive and smash all the other opponents  The moment you got the green light, the insane carnage began. Smashing 20 cars into each other, combined with the fact that the cars no longer were glued to the ground like in the original DD1, meant you were airborne quickly. Seeing a huge car flying into the sky and smashing down was so amusing. Although the racers were far better in DD2, the actual destruction bowl was better in DD1. There, it was far more tactical and felt less random.

Destruction Derby 2 is truly one of my favourite racing games ever. A real eye opener to why I love this genre so much. I can still hear that over-the-top commentator voice in the game screaming; "wow, mind the paintwork!" or "total destruction!" or some other cheesy line. The combination of DD2's fantastic races, and DD1's tactical and addicting destruction derby bowls are still rivalled to this very day in my opinion.

A great memory among racing games for me!

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