WWE Crush Hour
WWF, E, whatever, is a pretty tawdry licence in the first place, so it's safe to say we weren't expecting much from Crush Hour, a £20 Twisted Metal-inspired vehicular deathmatch game. As you may recall, we had a bit of a go at Incog's online version of Twisted Metal the other week, arguing that it didn't need to go online in the first place and did nothing when it got there. It was, we argued, a total disappointment. At this point, vehicular deathmatch needs to do something new, and we're expecting that from Destruction Derby Arenas and/or Hardware, not WWE Crush Hour...
Given how low our expectations were then, we could hardly call it a disappointment when Crush Hour turned out to be rubbish, but it is a shame that more wasn't done to make it entertaining. The idea behind the game, in case you're interested, is that WWE has become so dominant in the world of "sports entertainment" that it owns pretty much everything, and has branched out into all sorts of areas beyond wrestling.
One of these is the realm of futuristic destruction derbies, with rockets and armour and turbos and other power-ups, and huge circular saws protruding from metal grills in the ground and slicing through combatants' undercarriages, not to mention flame-throwing ventilation shafts, massive ramps and the occasional near-bottomless chasm into which you'll plunge.
So you pick your wrestler, whether it's Stone Cold Steve Austin, Big Show, Triple H, Booker T, The Rock or whoever, and then race around various arenas pummelling adversaries with ordnance. Each successive round yields one of several objectives, and it's not always just to slaughter 10 people first (although, er, it usually is). Sometimes you have to follow an on-screen arrow to various stars, which appear at intervals in huge sky-splitting shafts of light, and be the first to collect ten without succumbing to too much fire - as death puts you a star behind.
Another mode combines last man standing and CTF, and has you duking it out with three other cars inside a steel cage before the survivor is presented with a "contract" and tasked with racing it to an objective somewhere. The cage is raised and it's a free-for-all, with the contract available to anybody who can take out the contract-holder.
An hour should do it...
Unfortunately these ideas (and the other variations sprinkled liberally over the arduous single player game) couldn't sustain our interest for any length of time. The physics and handling in general are pretty pathetic, with cars bouncing around, turning in mid-air, moving way too fast to manage or battle other people effectively, and managing perpetual sideways donuts without bothering the realms of realism. Crush Hour is hardly making a play for Gran Turismo's seat of power, but it's not exactly getting anywhere on the arcade scale either.
The controls don't help. Accelerate is mapped to A, and brake/reverse to B, but you tend to rely on the left trigger powerslide button for turning because there's virtually no need to brake, the upshot of which is that your finger's never on B. Cue frantic scrabbling for the tiny little fella whenever you get caught on a piece of scenery or stuck headfirst in a rut. Meanwhile, there are three weapon buttons - R for the piddly standard issue machine gun, which you'll use when you're squashing an enemy against the wall so he can't move or target you, Y for the "special" one-use weapon which charges up over time and acts like a railgun to the metallic flesh of any other racer, and Z for power-ups like twisty/homing rockets or the rather docile "annihilator".
Overall, the game just doesn't play very well. Each race or battle is as tedious as the last, and what little variation there is quickly blurs together. Even the two-player split-screen is justtedious. It might not be so bad if the game wasn't a basic, chunky polygon world with oversized racers and low-res textures, but it is, and it's also voiced over by typically shouty WWE commentators, whose bellowing is even more grating than usual thanks to the Captain Kirk-like disconnection of words and tones.
If you happen to end up with this thanks to a clueless relative or some other reason we won't embarrass you by going into, you could feasibly enjoy it for a few minutes - perhaps even an hour - but by the time you finish your 7th or 8th encounter, you'll be wishing you'd just whipped out Carmageddon again instead of plodding on with this gaudy nonsense. Not even wacky sub-Worms CG cut-scenes with Kane barbequing sticks of dynamite can save Crush Hour, although we wouldn't mind blowing it up ourselves. If you want to spend £15-20 on a game, explore the budget racks. Don't become one of a handful of people who have so far endorsed this shameless money grubbing.