Reviewed: April 13, 2003
Released: July 30, 2002
There is certainly no shortage of racing games, but one sub-category that has often been overlooked is the demolition derby game. Aside from Reflectionís PSX classic Destruction Derby, there are very few games that have dedicated themselves to this small but violent niche of deathmatch racing where winning is more about survival than having the fastest car.
Totaled! is the first and only destruction derby style game currently available for the Xbox and it does a surprising job of bringing this unique type of racing to the next-gen console. Packed with ten cars that range from muscle cars, hot rods, and performance racers, and eight arenas or tracks with more than 24 unique and varied race events, this is definitely a racer that stands out from the pack.
As typical with most racing games you have a few modes to choose from when starting your game. You can opt for the arcade mode for a quick race or start a career and advance through a series of increasingly more difficult races to unlock new cars. The multiplayer modes allow up to four racers to either compete in a free-for-all deathmatch or pair-up for some team games.
You get to pick from various sub-modes like Last Man Standing or you can race for points that are awarded based on the type of impact. T-Bones are worth more than a Sideswipe and the speed and force of the impact can increase your point total. Of course you have to finish the event to receive those points so you need to keep an eye on the damage meter to avoid getting ďtotaledĒ by the competition.
Some events take place in domed arenas and others take place outdoors on sand or snowy tracks. Since there is no start or finish line you will often see cars going in opposite directions or even driving across the infield. Itís all very chaotic and very fun in a primal and instinctive kind of way. When you arenít trying to destroy the competition you can try to set new jump records by speeding up ramps and sailing over busses or other large objects.
Another interesting variation is the Tag game where you are awarded points for hitting the target car. When you become the target you need to avoid as much damage as possible. Itís not terribly original but itís a lot of fun and car selection often makes a difference.
After you complete each challenge you are awarded a new car, track, or perhaps even a new mission. There are a substantial amount of extras to be unlocked, but the game isnít very difficult and with no skill or difficulty settings you will probably unlock and win it all in a single sitting.
A racing game is only as good as the control of the cars you get to race. The analog stick does a good job of steering the cars while the triggers are used for gas and brake. The face buttons function as nitro, handbrake and camera control and it all comes together quite nicely in an arcade sort of way. Totaled! never claims to be a serious simulation and it definitely focuses on the fun and more violent side of destructive racing.
Totaled! is a varied mix of excellent cars placed on rather dull tracks. The car models are very detailed with excellent paint jobs on reflective metallic surfaces and they are designed to realistically smash apart into dozens of pieces complete with smoke, fire, sparks, and violent explosions.
Unfortunately, all of the CPU power must have gone into rendering and animating the cars, as the racing environments are less than spectacular. The indoor arenas are rather simple and lifeless with low polys and hardly any use of real-time lighting or shadows. The outdoor tracks have some average textures but they do get repetitive and there are no noticeable bump-mapped effects that you would expect on natural terrain racetracks.
The music is surprisingly well done featuring a good mix of several diverse genres that you can actually choose from in the options menu. If you donít like the pre-programmed selection of rock, rap, jazz, techno, grunge, or alternative you can make use of the Xbox custom soundtrack feature and tailor the music to your personal tastes.
Sound effects donít deviate too far from the normal stuff you hear in just about every other racing game. Cars all have distinctive engine noises and they crunch nicely when they contact each other at high speeds. Explosions are loud and shake the room even though there is no Dolby Digital mix or direct support for my sub-woofer.
You can speed through this game in 4-8 hours. There isnít a lot of content and what little there is can easily be won with little effort. A difficulty setting would have added some extra challenge or even a stunt track editor would have gone a long way to adding some additional gameplay.
Even though the solo experience is all too brief there is a lot of potential for extended racing in the multiplayer modes. With support for up to four racers, this could easily become a new party game favorite. Itís a shame this game pre-dated the release of Xbox Live. This would be the perfect title to make use of online multiplayer gaming and we can only hope for a sequel now that the Xbox Live is out and starting to build up a good following.
Totaled! definitely gets some points for originality, and I can only hope that a more developed sequel is in the works; one that will take advantage of Xbox Live. Even though there isnít a huge amount of content, the basic premise and core gameplay is solid and a lot of fun whether you are playing alone or with a group of other reckless racers bent on your ultimate destruction. Totaled! is a definite rental and a good addition to any hardcore arcade racerís Xbox collection if you can find it for a discounted price or in the budget bin.