You can play as a bunch of white trash bums or the police, which adds some variety to game progression though the essential game play is the same. The game is broken down into missions where you have to get from A to B while crashing insanely through C, D, E etc sometimes picking up or destroying X, Y and Z causing total mayhem in the process. One of the more bonkers early tasks actually involves you in a madcap mission to gather the finest hot dog ingredients to remedy a catering oversight at a posh VIP party. Any damage to property and vehicles on the way gains you a damage bonus. Your car will eventually break though so there is a certain amount of thinking and avoiding things to be done. It’s all just a bit silly. We like silly.
Everything here is totally OTT. The driving is so arcade-style you can almost hear the other machines in the background and everything is exaggerated for comic effect. San Francisco’s famous stepped slopes provide the scene of some totally unfeasible jumps and the way you can collide with a bus or a streetcar and send it flying into the air is a little daft. Realism can take a running jump though; this is fun. Vehicles available range from a moped (we kid you not) through trucks and sports cars to a tank (yes it’s got guns). A certain amount of sense goes into vehicle selection, as the nippier motors are a bit fragile and better suited to collection runs while the more destructive missions require sturdier wheels. All handle quite differently, if unrealistically, are quite fun to drive and can be tweaked in the garage if you’d prefer stiffer suspension with a minimum of fuss. The map is littered with alternative routes and it’s left mostly to you to decide how to tackle your task; there’s definitely more than one way to skin a cat (or at least run it over) here.
Graphically it’s a mixed bag. There’s enough traffic to give you something to aim at or get under your feet without getting excessive or causing too much slowdown. The obligatory yet strangely nimble pedestrians are there but it’s pointless trying to squish them (yes we know you’ll try). Everything at the roadside can be interacted with – all right smashed up – apart from a few more solid things you’ll learn to avoid. Chain link fences are sturdier than you’d expect though while larger containers are begging to be smashed. All this busyness in the foreground comes at a price, alas, and scenery popup is pretty awful with whole tower blocks snapping into view. Occasionally this can affect game play as what looked like a tunnel turns out to be a wall too late to brake. That said it doesn’t happen often enough to kill the game completely. Collision detection is also a bit suspect in places with considerable clipping. There are also odd times when your car is brought up short despite colliding with nothing at all! The frame rate is acceptable though not as good as say M-SR or Sega GT. That aside everything is bright, cheery and clear with good modelling of cars and the city is accurate as can be. There really is a lot going on around you, and the illusion of a living, breathing city is good. There’s even a subway with working trains ferchrissakes.
So what of the smashing and bashing? Sadly it’s a mixed bag. You’ll find yourself stuck to buildings with no hope of just grinding your way off frustratingly often. When you hit a lamppost you’ll stick momentarily before sliding through it like on Rentaghost. It’s a shame as apart from that the feeling is quite good and the sense of mayhem is intense and gratifying. You bash things like cars around and they behave like real physical objects while other items tend to disintegrate in arcadey fashion then fade, spewing debris all over the shop. Your car also can take 70-foot drops in its stride. If you can accept these distinctly virtual world leanings in the spirit of fun that’s intended there’s little here to stop you buying this game. It doesn’t get tedious before it’s over and just driving round on a free run smashing things up is disturbingly rewarding. Beating your high score in true arcade style is always there as an option so there is some replay value. Having said that, you’ll have completed most missions in a weekend so you’d better like trying to up your score as your incentive to play on.
We doubt this game will still be being played in a year’s time but the time you take fooling around in it will be fun time. Nothing is to be taken seriously at all and it’s just total, escapist fun. The rawk music and surfer-dude guffaws might get on your nerves a bit after a while but you can turn stuff on and off. If you’re looking for a car-based smashathon you could do a lot worse but hardcore racing enthusiasts wanting to tear up the streets of San Francisco know where to go instead by now.