Metro 3D's Smash Cars offers players the chance to race RC cars through some wild environments and perform some amazing stunts along the way. While there have been several attempts at bring RC mini-cars to life on various platforms, Smash Cars is takes a different approach from most of the many previous titles. This is immediately apparent in the gameplay, which is a little bit deeper than you'd expect. Before you can begin the game, you first have to go through a relatively painless tutorial that teaches you the basics of driving and the surprisingly elaborate stunt system. Once you complete these training levels, you enter the main game. Your first decision is to pick which of the cars you'll race. There are a only a few beginner courses available initially, but more can be unlocked as you progress through the game, with a total of 13 available in all. These models range from dune buggies, to monster trucks and even some cool customized designs, each with three different skins available. Each car has a different set of strengths and weaknesses, and are ranked on stunt ability, acceleration and top speed.
In addition to racing, these supercharged mini-vehicles are also equipped with boost and jump abilities which allows you to perform some cool stunts, especially when you combine them. You can jump as often as you like but the boost is limited. You can earn more boost by running through checkpoints, performing stunts, or hitting objects or other cars. Once you begin to race, you'll face two main challenges: the other racers and the courses themselves. The other racers are quite aggressive and won't hesitate to knock your car off the track, but they are somewhat easy to handle. Players will also find that the environments are alive with objects and people who will knock your car off the track if you get in their way. You'll have to guard against beach bums, kart drivers and others who will block progress as well as environmental barriers that will stop you dead in your tracks. Navigating through the levels is a lot harder than it sounds because the path isn't always the obvious one and there are numerous sharp turns. However, you can shave precious seconds off your time by finding shortcuts. Each level also features an array of objects, such as cans and crocodiles that will impede your progress. However, if you hit them just the right way, you'll earn bonus points and boost. You can also earn bonus boost by performing stunts and landing them successfully.
Smash Cars' stunt system is intuitive and allows you to perform some wild maneuvers such as spinning the car upside down, turning and making big air. You can jump off a variety of objects including ramps, large cars, rock formations and many unexpected places. It pays to explore each level and find these. While the basic moves are easy to perform, chaining moves together and getting the timing down is much harder. Players receive points for successfully landing each stunt, and receive more depending how difficult that stunt is to perform. The unique and interesting thing about the stunt mode is that the action slows down into a bullet-time effect once you jump. This slow-mo feature is implemented nicely and integrates itself nicely into the standard gameplay. It definitely separates Smash Cars from the pack and it allows you to perform your stunts much greater precision, making landing these maneuvers much easier.
Even though the standard racing modes are exciting, Smash Cars has several other modes of play available. There are single and multiplayer modes that include standard and stunt tracks plus a versus mode where you can compete against 3 other racers in a split screen mode. Once you get through these modes, the main meat of the game comes with the expansive Championship mode. Here, you race a series of races in order to earn upgrades and increase your position in the rankings. Championship mode includes several types of races including standard RC racing mode, quick races, and underground Dark Horse courses where your objectives are less than noble, such as knocking other racers off the track or destroying them. There are also challenging Flashback races where your opponents have many upgrades, but you have none which means that these races require a great deal of skill in order to win. Finally, there is a final Radio Trophy where you have to race the difficult castle course. Winning this race unlocks extra items as well as the next level. Overall, the different modes included in the game offer plenty of variety and challenge, giving Smash Cars a decent difficulty level while increasing the replay value substantially.
Players should have little trouble controlling the cars because they are responsive and agile. Turning sharp corners can be difficult because the controls are a little oversensitive. However, jumping over obstacles and learning the course layouts mitigates these problems to a large degrees. The slow motion effect is cool and goes a long way in making performing stunts is easy to perform This can be a bit frustrating, especially since some of the level designs are non-linear and go in circle which can be confusing. However, the ability to drive against oncoming traffic can be exciting, though a little unnerving, since you sometimes think you're driving in the wrong direction. The key is to focus on your vehicle and not get distracted by the other ones. In order to compensate for the complicated level designs, Smash Cars includes a map of each level plus an arrow which should help to keep you in the right direction. Players can also choose to view the number of seconds they are ahead or behind in the HUD display, which can be useful when you want to know if you've fallen hopelessly into last place. However, the races are usually winnable even if you fall far behind, so you shouldn't give up, since you can make up lost time quickly using your boost and hitting some short-cuts.
Despite the game's sometimes annoying controls
and occasionally confusing level design, Smash Cars has a lot of features that
make for an enjoyable title. The standard racing is a lot of fun, and can become
quite addictive. While these modes are fun, Smash Cars shines in its excellent
Championship mode. In this mode, many different race styles are thrown at you,
preventing boredom from settling in. The stunt system is really cool and
surprisingly intuitive and allow you to make some and the course designs are
varied and challenging. Visually, the game looks really good for a PS2 title and
the racing environments are imaginative and clever. The RC cars are detailed
with cool designs. The game has a very smooth appearance with few of those
annoying PS2 jaggies evident and there are some good weather and water effects.
The course layouts are interesting but players will have to keep track of their
position since they're largely non-linear. Metro 3D has also created excellent
sound effects for engine noise and screeching tires gives Smash Cars a nicely
authentic feel. The soundtrack effectively mixes techno and rock compliments to
the furious action perfectly. Overall, the presentation is excellent, especially
the funky graffiti inspired checkpoints, which give the game a nice underground
edge. Smash Cars is a Despite some minor flaws, Smash Cars is a solidly
entertaining racer which some cool features and is highly recommended if you're
looking for fast, frenetic fun that also offers some depth and challenge.