Buckle up - it's going to be a bumpy ride as we
take on Namco's Xbox arcade conversion.
Smashing Drive is an arcade driving game that first appeared
in the arcades, then on Nintendo's GameCube. Players take on the role
of a New York cabbie trying to make a fast (literally) buck. True to
the arcade stylings, there are power-ups and short cuts to help you reach
your goal quicker. The quicker you get your fare to the finish line,
the more points (and money) you are awarded.
Many people will confuse this premise with Sega's Crazy
Taxi, and the comparison does a major disservice to Smashing Drive. Where
Crazy Taxi focuses on picking up fares and taking them to various destinations,
Smashing Drive has players going solely from point A to point B - the
fare, destination, and route are all predetermined. Where the player's
skill comes in is how well traffic can be avoided, how many of the power-ups
can be gathered, and how many shortcuts are used.
There are various power-ups throughout, including the
Turbo Boost (which hurtles the cab down the street at speeds that would
make Chuck Yeager blush), Crash (allows you to literally plow through
traffic), Sonic Blast (a horn of such power that all before it are blown
to the side) and 4X4 (transforms your cab into a monster truck that can
easily drive over virtually any obstacle). These power-ups are necessary
to finish the course on time, especially Turbo Boost, as without them,
you'll find the cab crashing into traffic and loosing valuable time.
There is always at least one checkpoint (sometimes two)
within a given course. Reaching these will extend the time available
to reach either the destination or the next checkpoint. The game is over
if time runs out.
Shortcuts almost always border on the ridiculous (driving
through a movie theater, basketball court, hotel or over the ferry for
example) and invariably shave a second or two off your time. Knowing
where the shortcuts are and liberally using the power-ups are essential
in this game. Not using them will result in a loss of fare, low score,
or just complete failure in the game. Thankfully, the game is arcade
based, so you can always just start over again.
The audio of Smashing Drive is a mixed bag. The songs
used are not varied, only two discernable songs are available, neither
of which you can choose from, they just automatically play. The repetition
of them will begin to grate on you rather quickly. There is no option
for custom soundracks, but then again, the courses are over so quickly,
that you wouldn't have time to really listen to them anyway. The sound
effects on the other hand are perfect for this style of game.
Visually, the game looks like it was brought over directly
from the arcade without any upgrades whatsoever. While driving down the
road (on the predetermined path, thank you) at breakneck speeds, it's
hard to tell just how the cars and pedestrians have been modeled. Pause
the game and you will see just how well blocks have been used to portray
One thing that puzzled me was how the framerate stuttered
at points. For the length of time it took to convert the game to the
Xbox, you would think that things would either be enhanced or fixed.
The game plays much slower than it's GameCube brother, a rather disturbing
The game is short, with only 12 courses overall (unless
you unlock the bonus tracks with a high enough score), each lasting no
more than about two minutes. It's possible to beat the game in about
30 - 40 minutes. There are 4 shifts, each containing three fares. I'm
not sure if this was cut from the arcade or not, but we never actually
get to see the fare. One has to wonder why more wasn't added to the game
to spruce things up.
The game is divided into Arcade, Survival and Head To
Head Modes. The only difference between Arcade and Survival is the addition
of damage to the cab, and when the cab is too damaged in Survival Mode,
the game is over. This acts more as a second difficulty level, rather
than a second mode of play.
The real fun of Smashing Drive is the Head To Head mode.
Unfortunately, there are only so many courses, and with the shortness
of each course, it's all over far too quickly. One nice touch was the
ability to change the multiplayer view - there are options for horizontal
and vertical views, as well as a diagonal view, giving each player a
full screen to see, just smaller (one in the upper left, one in the lower
right). Unfortunately, on every new course, the viewpoint reverts back
to the horizontal split screen. The gameplay speeds up a little bit,
but still is rather slow when compared to the breakneck speed of the
Smashing Drive is fun while it lasts, but it is over
far too quickly, and that ultimately is the game's downfall. The graphics
can be overlooked for being an arcade port, but not the sluggish gameplay.
There are a lot of shortcomings to the game, but what there is coded
onto the disc is rather fun.
Daniel "monk" Pelfrey
decries the lack of arcade games on the Xbox.
Smashing Drive: The Scores
Smashing Drive is fun while it lasts (if you can get
past how slow it is), but it doesn't last long. With
so many other games out there, this just isn't a game
that can be recommended for purchase. If you are feeling
the need to get some arcade style driving action in,
rent Smashing Drive, don't buy it.