After SingleTrac stopped making the Twisted Metal games, it seemed that no one would ever do a good car combat game again. Sure, their Rogue Trip was lots of fun, but it came off more as a middle finger raised reply to 989 Studios' sorry Twisted Metal 3. When Vigilante 8 rolled onto store shelves, a lot of people were surprised by it, and while far from perfect, it still blew the other two games out of the water. Now the sequel, Vigilante 8: Second Offense is here, and while it improves a lot on the previous game, it somehow seems too big to fit comfortably on the current Playstation. The game is a tour-de-force of super-looking graphics and special effects, and has loads of replay value as well, but a few problems bring it down to earth, like a shot duck.
As before, there are lots of selectable characters from the outset, and more, as you make your way through the Quest Mode. The story is one part Terminator, one part Road Warrior, and the vehicle design is fantastic, blending the look of 70's cars with stuff out of a Syd Mead art book.You can choose which side you want to be on, and it makes a difference, as far as level objectives and the endings you receive. This makes the main game feel something like a cross between Driver and the old arcade classic Roadblasters, with enemies that shoot back! One little problem is that the story gets a bit too derivative, and some players out there looking for a quick destruction fix may skip the missions entirely because of this. But I guess that part of the charm in this case is if you've seen a lot of 70's action movies, you know that they're full of cliches!
A few times you'll get caught up in destroying stuff, and lose a mission, or you'll lose track of what you need to do because you're busy trying to avoid getting blasted into scrap metal. But it's no big deal, as restarting an area actually helps you learn where the cool pickups are going to pop up! Speaking of pickups, some of them are level specific, like the big skis and snow treads in the winter arena, and the propellers and fins for water travel. The best, and toughest of the new upgrades are the ones that transform your vehicle into a futuristic hover machine of death. It takes a while to get used to handling a car or truck with no traction, and in some areas, it's not a good thing to rely on, if you need to do a lot of sharp turns. But practice does make perfect, I always say, so the game has a few other cool modes to play around with.
In Arcade Mode, you can select the number and variety of opponents, but even on easy, they don't let up, or blow up right away! On Hard, just call your next of kin- chances are slim you'll be back in one piece...You can also upgrade your car, based on the icons you pick up from destroyed enemies. The catch is, they disappear after a few scant seconds, so it helps to hunt the wounded like a vulture, if you catch my drift! Survival Mode is just plain brutal, for those of you who like it rough, but again, you can use skills learned here in the main game, and it really helps out a lot! The environments are pretty large, and chock full of destructable stuff, like buildings, trees and billboards, as well as warps that can send you right into (or out of) trouble. The areas are bordered by invisible walls, and it's not a good idea to run into them at anything resembling a fast speed- depending on the vehicle you've chosen, you'll either flip like a pizza crust, jacknife, or roll over, exposing your ride to all sorts of unwanted damage from any enemies on your tail. Annoying, yes, but you learn fast- if you're good!
Controls are simple to learn, and the physics vary from vehicle to vehicle- you'll want to play all the characters for a bit, to find out who suits you best. Generally the cars handle well, with the only problems coming from the above mentioned invisible walls. The graphics are really sweet, and even though there is some pop-up, it's tolerable for the most part, even in the two player mode, except when the occasional solid obstacle makes it's presence known as you're heading in its general direction! The next game definitely needs the power of the PS2 in order to really show off some of the more flashy graphic effects, like explosions and special attacks. The sound effects are great, and you'll really feel every bump and crash, with a Dual Shock controller. As for the music- It's simply the the best out of all the car combat games, with it's 70's-sounding funk, pop, and rock 'n roll beats including some hysterical lyrics! I'd buy the soundtrack, if one existed...
Chalk up another winner for Luxoflux and Activision- Vigilante 8: Second Offense is, in my eyes, the reigning king of the car combat genre, and poor 989 has got to be looking over their shoulders and scratching their heads, as a heat seeking missile explodes right up its tailpipe! Poor Sweet Tooth has just become a smoking cavity in the asphalt! I can't write anymore, as I feel the funkified grooves of the game music behind me calling... See you on the road, Baby!