Version 2 Studios, a brand new studio based in India, is hoping to start their development career with a bang with PlayStation Network exclusive Smash ‘N’ Survive; an explosive car combat title with a penchant for destruction.
The main single player campaign takes players on a tour of all the game modes on offer, including checkpoint races, territory control, escorting missions, survival, bomb planting and deathmatches — either as a team or one-on-one. The variety is very welcome and playing each of the modes is an enjoyable affair, at least initially.
Progressing through the main campaign earns players in-game currency known as ‘bounty’. This bounty can be used to unlock vast amounts of vehicles, including muscle cars, buggies, SUVs, sports cars and trucks. These unlocks are the proverbial ‘carrot on the end of the stick’ and reward persistent gamers with a garage full of deadly machines. Vehicle customisation comes in the form of a small selection of bumpers, wheel rims and spoilers to choose from that don’t affect gameplay, but do make your vehicle look that little bit more unique.
Each car has different stats and pack either a melee attack, flamethrower or a sonic boom weapon that blasts your enemies into the air. Most vehicles handle in their own distinctive style, which will be of benefit depending on which game mode you play. A big truck is far more effective in battle, whereas a sports car will naturally be a better fit for checkpoint races.
The controls are easy to pick up and function as you would expect, but the cars don’t always handle as consistently as you’d hope. So while you may be weaving through enemies on the road one moment, the next could see you career into the environment and cause yourself unnecessary damage, despite seemingly using the same techniques. This isn’t so much of a problem on open maps but in more enclosed environments, the problem definitely feels amplified.
Smash ‘N’ Survive offers up ten arenas to test your skills in, all of which are suitably varied, with a highlight being three aircraft carriers that bob in the water and require careful ramp jumps to traverse between each one. Often the areas feature unique dangers of their own, such as flames, car crushers and ramps designed to challenge players that little bit further. Unfortunately though, beyond these fleeting moments of excitement, the actual environments of these different locales offer little else to rouse and are mainly bland looking, not presenting much visual flair. Sadly, this also extends to the vehicles themselves which are detailed in their design but not backed up with solid models. These details, or lack of, aren’t bad enough so they detract from the action, but certainly don’t match up with other titles of a similar price such as WipEout HD or Gripshift.
What ultimately holds back Smash ‘N’ Survive from being a far more diverse affair is the limited AI competition — it seems to swing wildly between suitably vicious in the combat focused modes to simply appearing confused in most other modes. It’s not uncommon to see an enemy driving into bits of the environment repeatedly or having difficulty in entering a building as it bumps along the outside until it finally finds its way in.
Given the combat focus of the game it’s no major surprise to find a heavy-sounding soundtrack, sadly the amount of music variety on offer is so minimal that you’ll be bored of it within the first few missions. For example, the main menu tune is the same as that played during a pause and eventually it grates to the point where you’ll certainly want to turn it off entirely.
Despite these complaints, one appreciated addition to Smash ‘N’ Survive is something more and more games are increasingly seeming to neglect – the addition of local split-screen. The split-screen action is confined to just two players but gives plenty of opportunity to battle against a friend for bragging rights. All of the modes are enjoyable at a basic level, however it would have been nice to see the option for AI bots to join in. This would make the local combat a lot more interesting, as there’s only so much diversity that one-on-one bouts can bring. The addition of bots would also make the ‘plant the bomb’ mode actually work properly, as with just two players the games end when one has blown the other up, and that’s surely not the way the round should conclude.
When Smash ‘N’ Survive does shine it is a fun little title, but it seems to be held back by technical issues that prevent it from fully reaching its clear potential. The AI needs some tweaking, the handling isn’t always consistent and the longevity currently on offer just doesn’t quite feel substantial enough. Hopefully once the online multiplayer is added in April its value will increase, but at present it feels like an unfinished product that’s been rushed out the garage door a bit too early.