Thursday, 24 May 2012

Mini Review: Armageddon Riders


While I was looking around the PSN store recently I came across a promotion called "the apocalyptic sale" which I assume was made to reference the so called end of the world this year.  Anyway I noticed amongst the largely ho-hum titles a car combat game called Armageddon riders for £3.99.  Being a fan of car combat titles I decided to give it a go.

Originally known as 'Clutch' back in 2009 on the PC this title is part Carmageddon part Burnout Paradise.  The story of the game is the Hadron collider one day created a massive anomoly that destroyed a city, turning it into a wasteland and no go zone for civilians.  The dark truth of it though, was that everyone in the city has been turned into zombies and the government keep a perimeter fence around the area to prevent people from finding out what really happened.  Rumours begin to emerge that the Collider can grant wishes (anyone else thinking STALKER here) and so groups of insane muscle car drivers decide to sneak into the city to earn their fortune, gathering artifacts (another STALKER reference) for sale to nutters who want them, while also searching for the Collider to have it grant them a wish.

The game itself has three open enviroments to drive around in a la Burnout Paradise.  In this free roam mode you can run over zombies, search for artifacts, grab cash and attack other cars that are driving around also.  Killing specific cars will grant you new paint schemes which you can change in the garage (more on that in a bit) and also get the hang of the controls.  Dotted around each enviroment are missions which take the form of races, destruction derby's and rescue missions.  There are also side missions which task you with protecting friendly cars as they collect artifacts, you hunting cars collecting artifacts, killing a specific number of zombies or just collecting items yourself.  Side missions play through multiple levels, granting bigger cash rewards and a higher challenge.  The main missions unlock new side missions and further the story.

The combat part of the game involves the classic Carmageddon style of ramming your opponents until they explode.  No rockets, machine guns or mines here.  The faster you move the more damage you do and trust me you will be moving fast.  Zombies represent the largest threat to you in the game since they can leap onto your vehicle and being punching it.  Each hit does a sizable amount of damage so you will need to throw them off your car quickly.  To do this you have to crash into a wall to knock them off, or speed around a corner fast enough to shake them off your vehicle.  Another quick way to knock off zombies is if you have a shocker equipped, you can shake the controller to electrocute all zombies on your vehicle.  Sometimes zombies will attack the driver side window doing huge damage which requires you to hammer the L3 button. 

Driving in Armageddon riders is really smooth, almost floaty which works well for this game.  R2 accelerates, X boosts, L2 brakes  The cars drift around corners effortlessly and give a great sense of speed and control.  Boosting gives you the same effect as Burnout, with everything becoming blurry and out of focus as the game focuses on whats directly ahead of you.  In races these mechanics work well as you drift around city streets hitting powerups and zombies, before boosting into the next straight.  The controls don't help so much when you need to hit other vehicles in the arena matches, but its not terrible. 

In the garage you can spend your hard earned cash to upgrade your death car.  Weapons include deployable blades to chop up zombies, flamethrowers and farm implements for impaling zombies.  The best weapons are the front mounted grinders, which mince zombies into paste as you speed into them.  You can also apply those unlocked paint jobs, equip shockers and add new boosters.  Its in the garage that you also buy and upgrade new vehicles.  Vehicles are unlocked by completing missions and killing a set number of a certain type in free roam and mission mode.

Outside of driving around like a maniac you can also go into split screen with another maniac for free roam/mission mode chaos.  There are unlockable artwork and several in game achievements outside of the games PSN trophies to aim for.  My only niggle is the lack of any online mode even for quick races or destruction derby deathmatches, but as a singleplayer experience goes it fun for a few hours.

Graphically Armageddon riders looks decent, for a downloadable title thats pretty good.  The cars all look unique and well designed.  Running over zombies will get your vehicle covered in blood while taking damage will see parts flying off.  The enviroments can be a little bland at times, but they are designed well enough that races don't become too samey and there are plenty of alternate routes to objectives also.

The music in Armageddon riders is to be honest pretty crap, you may want to turn it off and play some of your own tunes as you burn around the streets/docks/Hadron Collider.  The rest of the sound is fine, although hearing a zombie scream in pain is unusual for the genre of zombie games.  Car engines roar as you boost, metal crunching and scraping noises are right and the occassional lines of dialogue from your driver are awful, but in the good way.

Overall Armageddon riders is a fun title for people who enjoy car combat.  For the price at the moment its a steal and the game isn't too difficult that it would put you off playing.  Again it could have done with an online mode and maybe a few more cars would have helped, but as it is the game is fun to play in between the big retail releases of the year.

SCORE: 8.0/10

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