Scrap Metal Review

I've always been a fan of car combat games. I enjoy many variations from I'76 to Twisted Metal to Mario Kart (okay, maybe that's pushing it a little). But there are a alot of pioneering car combat games that were specific to consoles. RC Pro-Am, Rock n' Roll Racing and Twisted Metal. The list goes on and on. These games did alot to shape then conventions of Battle Racing. In fact, alot of the ideas present in RC Pro-Am still resonate in car combat games today.

Enter Scrap Metal (SM) from Slick entertainment. SM is a top-down battle racing game from slick studios that is one of many recent arcade releases that makes no secret that it is a homage to great top down racers from the past. Just like Shadow Complex from Chair entertainment billed itself as a spiritual successor to Super Metroid, SM takes alot of cues from Rock N Roll racing and other console racers, right down to the metal soundtrack and the odd blend of junk cars with future tech. Now throw in some archetypal characters and special abilities and you're good to go!

Like many recent throw-back type titles for the Xbox 360, SM is a beautifully rendered 2.5-D game, meaning that although it uses 3-D graphics, the game play is essentially restricted to a 2-D plane. Unlike the isometric look of some older racers, SM (sort of) reminds me of the top-down look of Super Off-Road or the Micro Machines series of console games.

The control scheme seems to be the most debated issue of the game. The game offers you two options: The R/C type option, where your vehicle is controlled like a remote-controlled car or the 'drive by wire' option where the direction is relative to the screen - up makes you head to the top, left to the left hand edge and so on - the left stick controls both direction and speed. I'm personally more of a fan to the R/C option, as the stick controlling both acceleration and direction is a bit too abstract to me, although I will admit that it does make shooting easier in a lot of instances.

Your upgrade options are really good throughout the game. The are item pickups on the track (nitros, etc) and depending on your rank at each race's end, you'll receive upgrade points to spend on all the usual aspects - Guns, engine, armor and so on. You will also win new vehicles as you progress, that you will store in your garage.

I've seen alot of negative reviews regarding the fact that there are only 4 slots for storing cars and there are SO many cars to be had. I can't comment, becuase I haven't played ALL the way through, although I will say that there may be too many variants ... I know that sounds odd ... but ut does seem like some of the builds are a bit disposable. You just use them for one particular race or mission and then move on to something else ... it can be frustrating after you have invested points into upgrading a vehicle. That's kind of an odd approach, since there are already special vehicles you will be provided with (on the track) for certain scenarios - things like construction machines, etc.

Where Scrap Metal depart from the norm is the amount of races/missions/challenges. Each of the tracks in the game can be revisited multiple times, each time the rules and conditions will be different. Sometimes it's a race  ... the next time a demolition derby ... the next time an escort mission of sorts, where you have to protect a certain vehicle for 3 laps. Add to that boss battles and SM certainly treads some new ground not seen in previous arcade-style racers.

So all in all, I think SM is a good effort. I'm not sure I rate as a 1200 point title. It feels like an 800 pointer to me, but I'm stingey. If your still on the fence, wait until it crops up as the deal of the week (likely) or perhaps it will be discounted in the future (likely a long time from now?)

but don't just take my word for it ... here's what the professionals are saying:

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