When I was a kid the first thing I would do when I bought a new motor racing game was to drive around the track the wrong way and smash headlong into the oncoming pack, causing as much automotive carnage as possible. So when I got the chance to take Rage's European Xbox launch title Crash for a spin I grabbed the outsized controller with both hands.
Crash is designed in the best Destruction Derby tradition, with the focus firmly on smashing your vehicle into the opposition and causing as much damage as possible in the process. Imagine a drunken bout of dodgems with everyone driving over-powered American cars and you get the idea. There are no time trials or driving tests to complete, just a variety of bowl-like arenas and dusty circuits to roam around as you seek out your next victim. The key to winning is to cause maximum destruction in as spectacular a fashion as possible, and your score mounts up as your exploits entertain the crowd. The bigger the crashes, the more points you will earn. Obviously manufacturers aren't particularly keen to see their babies being destroyed panel by panel in an orgy of motorised mayhem, and so Crash doesn't feature any real world licensed cars. Instead you have a variety of wild muscle cars and fanciful hotrods to pick from, each with its own unique attributes governing handling, acceleration, toughness and so on.
Thanks to the graphical capabilities of the Xbox the crashes are amongst the most visually impressive we've seen to date. Cars are modelled in great detail and constructed of around thirty seperate sections which can all be dented, destroyed or detached as you collide with other vehicles and run into obstacles. Doors swing open and get knocked off by passing cars, bonnets flap up and down as you go over bumps, panels get smashed in and windows shattered, bumpers scrape along the ground and wheels fly off. As your car nears the end of its life sparks fly and smoke billows out of your engine, while big collisions can scatter flaming debris across the ground or hurl entire cars into the air. For maximum effect you can let rip with a nitro boost, lining up your car on its target and then hitting the turbo and hanging on for dear life. With a little practice the results can be spectacular. Luckily then Crash comes with a full set of replay options, allowing you to watch edited highlights or entire matches once the dust has settled. Up to four players can also battle it out in anarchic split-screen multiplayer modes, which should be perfect for those "just back from the pub" late night gaming sessions. Although it's likely to be overshadowed by the likes of Dead or Alive 3 and Halo, Crash is an entertaining if not particularly deep arcade-style action game. It's easy to control, entertaining to watch and strangely enjoyable to play.