|When I was a kid I remember racing home from school every day to
watch the further adventures of those bad southern boys, Bo and Luke Duke. Not only did
they have the coolest car (better even than Starski and Hutch), but they were always
getting into scrapes and having to evade the law. We never expected Rosco and Flash (with
jowles only slightly bigger than Boss Hoggs) to be able to catch the General Lee in
an out-dated police cruiser, and with the edge-of-your-seat chase scenes and death defying
jumps, we were never disappointed. Most of the boys I knew were in love with Daisy and
would have given all their lunch money for a month just to be on the receiving end of one
of her southern-hospitality hugs. So you might imagine I was pretty excited to get my
hands on a game that would put me in the drivers seat of an icon of pop culture from
my youth. After playing it, however, I realized that it needed a lot more than the
nostalgia of youth to make it a game that would, like the TV show, pass the test of time.
The game begins with an animated version of the original opening credits from the show, complete with the crooning of Waylon Jennings. I was so excited, I may have even sang along! (ahem) Anyway, the action begins with a trial run around the fairgrounds to get you warmed up and then follows with a sequence of nine episodes (three scenes per episode) that are connected by plot exposition through animated cinemas. Each scene has a separate goal to accomplish which in some way involves racing objectives. The difficulty level can be set at easy, tuff, and hard, which changes the number of obstacles, power-ups, and time available to get things done. The game also comes equipped with a two player mode which has three selectionstime trial, race, and "run the jug," (a type of tag with props).
As far as plot goes, I felt like the writers really hadnt stretched their imagination as much as they should have. My adult mind will admit that the TV show only really had two or three basic plots, but for the savvy videogamer, a little more ingenuity would have been nice. This might not have been an issue however (as lots of racing games are just as fun with little or no plot), if it had more variety in other elements.
The graphics were really solid, although they werent attempting anything amazing in the visual department. I realize that a racing game limits some of the types of scenery and set-up that other games might have, but I think that in the whole of Hazzard County the programmers might have found a bigger variety of visuals, tracks, and obstacles than what they came up with. The cinema screens, however, were interesting and well developed, and were probably one of my favorite parts of the game.
While racing, the screen is set up with a very simple blue-print of your car which tracks damage, a clock in the scenes where time is a factor, and an icon display of available power-ups (arrows, oil slicks, dynamite, nitros, toolboxes, and the jug). If your car receives too much damage, you automatically fail your objectives and have to start the scene again. On certain settings of the two player game, however, your car is replaced with a new one without incurring a loss. For me this was a bonus, as although racing neck and neck with an opponent was fun, many times we found ourselves halting all forward motion and playing crash-up-derby instead. I think it would have been fun to see the damage on the car as well as on the blue-print during these side-line amusements!
The camera was an interesting thing to play with during the game. The standard view was a hovering third person behind the vehicle, but could be changed to two other settings. This was especially important during the two player sections as you really needed to "zoom out" to be able to see the whole track on your half of the horizontal split-screen. I liked the ability to play using the drivers perspective, especially when pulling off stunts, but the camera automatically backed out of it when you wrecked (which would have been the best part to experience this way). Probably my favorite part of this game was crashing. Yes, I know that may sound weird, but I loved going off jumps, doing flips and crashing headlong across the landscape. Many games cut short your crash experience to get you back on the road, but Dukes of Hazzard: Racing for Home lets you have all the fun and still made it easy to get right-side up and moving.
The driving control for this game was smooth, although you really werent able to feel the speed of the car as you can on some other games. You can add controller vibration, but it didnt add much to the realism. A plus, however, was the fact that the different cars did handle differently and had different (although unstated) specs. The police cruiser had a top speed of around 92-3 without nitro (no wonder they could never catch the Dukes!), and was a lot harder to maneuver on jumps.
The music for this game was great. I found myself having flashbacks of HeeHaw and "pickin and a grinnin" as I drove over Choctaw Bridge. With the intro by Waylon and the great background music, I felt that they had set a mood that was perfect for this type of game. The sound effects worked well (loved the General Lees horn), although Lukes pithy comments criticizing Bos driving and Roscos siren got really old, really quick.
Something that puzzled me with this game was the amount of load time necessary before each course. I would have understood if it were before cinema screens, but most racing games Ive played dont have that much wait before actual gameplay. Admittedly, the loading icon (a small General Lee spinning showroom style in the bottom corner of a black screen) was great, but it was still an odd thing to have to wait.
The one-player option didnt take all that long to beat, and the cinema interruptions get annoying eventually as they add to the wait time to play tracks (youre stuck with the game chronology). The replayability rests in the two player option, and youre quality of play depends on the fun your able to make for yourself within the tracks parameters.
On the whole, Dukes of Hazzard: Racing for Home is a game that had lots of potential and pulled off certain aspects very well, but left me feeling lukewarm (no pun intended). I would have liked more variety in plot and objectives, track set-up, and car choices. I think that what the game did, it did well, but with such great material as the Dukes of Hazzard, they really could have pushed things much further than they did. Maybe thats my nostalgia talking, but I was expecting something a wee bit more grand. This game is fun for a first run, and wouldnt be a bad rental, but as far as staying power, it doesnt come close to replacing my fond memories of the Dukes, or the other racing games currently on my shelf.