Smugglers Run franchise has never been as commercially successful as it
ought to be. A racing game at heart, Smugglers Run is the best in the
biz at off-road action, but also adds strategy, tactics and bit of slick
defensive boom into the mix. The result is a fantastic gamea
challenging racer where quick wits are more valuable than quick thumbs,
but quick thumbs are still a necessity.
Run: Warzones is an upgrade of Smugglers Run: Hostile Territory for the
PS2. While there is a lot of new stuff here, basic gameplay and game
design are unchanged. There isnt enough new here to warrant a purchase
for anyone who played Hostile Territory, save perhaps the most diehard
fans. Nevertheless, on its own, Warzones is far and away the best
incarnation of the Smugglers Run series.
story is passable but more or less forgettable. Periodic cut-scenes help
keep things moving, but skipping them doesnt substantially detract from
the gaming experience. While this isnt exactly a glowing endorsement of
the story, it says good things about the gameplay. Our hero is a
smuggler, but hes basically a good guy. No drugs or nukes for this
smuggler; sure he breaks the law, but he only steals from bad people.
This is something of a shift from the first Smugglers Runand a
reflection of post 9/11 America and the thirst to stand on solid moral
series of adventures take place in Eastern Europe, Vietnam, and Russia.
There are thirty-six different missions in the single player game, which
is enough for five or six hours of gameplay, even is youre good enough
to tear through most of the levels without having to try a few times.
Theres also a great deal of replay; new vehicles, new countermeasures,
several gameplay modes and a nice multiplayer game round out the
most notable feature of Smugglers Run is the wide open maps. Enormous
levels seem to stretch on forever. Even more impressive, this isnt a
barren grassland or desert stretching on. Levels have varied terrain
that includes rolling hills, sweeping prairies, rivers, lakes, jagged
cliffs, mountains, tunnels, and a wealth of vegetation. In Russia youll
find these in the snow-covered frozen varieties as well. The levels are
active too. As you race to loose your pursuersup to ten police vehicles
at onceyoull encounter grazing animals, hikers, rival gangs, villages,
ruins, mine fields, military outposts, sudden avalanches, and trains
cutting across the landscape. Great particle effects rain, snow, and fog
to round out the levels.
gameplay amidst these sprawling levels is very solid as well. Generally,
you race across packages left for you, marked with smoke billowing
skyward, and race to deliver them to drop-off points, also conveniently
marked with colored smoke. Your main obstacle is the above mentioned
hordes of viscous, ruthless police and military vehicles. There strategy
is to hound you relentlessly, box you in, cut you off, and do whatever
it takes to take you down. There very good at what they do, though I
found Warzones easier than past Smugglers Run titles. Maybe Im just
finally getting the hang of it, or maybe they took it down a notch for
the Gamecubewhich isnt a bad thing since Hostile Territory was a very
difficult game. Gameplay varies occasionally, asking you too run down an
escaping enemy, trail an adversary without being spotted, or compete for
large amounts of loot , with two teammates, against a rival gangmy
favorite type of mission.
aid you in your smuggling endeavors, you unlock counter measures as you
progress through the game, eventually youll have two per vehicle.
Countermeasures are offensive and defensive tricks that include a speed
boost, oil slick, bomb, vertical boost, cloaking device, repulsion
sphere, and acid spray. It is this fact, combined with the variety in
the nine different vehicles, that brings the most depth to the gameplay
experience. Vehicles are vary in strengths and weaknesses, so each
mission can be completed using a number of different strategies and
playing styles. The vehicles are well balancedmuch more so than in
Hostile Territory, so they are all playable and all legitimate options.
Although some vehicles are obviously superior in certain environments,
theres room for innovation.
graphics are solid; theyre on the upper end of GCN, but not the
pinnacle. While the stages generally look great, the vegetation could
use more depth and the vehicles themselves could use more detail. Still,
its all delivered at a flawless 60fps and the action zips by,
the visuals deliver the goods, the sound certainly does not, being
wholly disappointing. The voicework, radio-transmissions, and so forth
are adequate, but the music is an abundance of annoying techno-dribble
that ranges from unremarkable to awful. Usually I could block it out,
but sometimes it bothered menot just the music, but the fact that
someone probably got paid to make it.
multiplayer game offers a variety of options, including vs. co-op
matches, and something that looks a lot like tag. Extra stages are
availableveterans of the original Smugglers Run will recognize
themand this adds a lot of variety to the multiplayer experience. New
levels and plenty of game modes for up to four people provide a solid
experience, but the duration just isnt there for long term enjoyment.
Diminished screen size for the split screen action is much more of a
burden than it is for other gameslike FPSs. Its important, vital even,
to be able to read the terrain and see the position of vehicles around
you. The ability to do this is really hampered in split screen and this
detracts from the overall experience.
Warzones is a great game that will satisfy fans of driving games as well
as the more action oriented gamers. The Gamecube isnt exactly
overflowing with solid titles, and this is just another reason why
Smugglers Run : Warzones, shouldnt be overlooked. Besides, its fun to
be the bad guy sometimes. Even if youre a good bad guy.