The second offering in the Xbox Live Arcade Block Party delivers a trip down memory lane with Scrap Metal; an overhead racing game that combines the mechanics of classic racers such as R.C. Pro-Am and Super Off-Road with the combat mechanics of Twisted Metal. This combination brings yet another fun-filled experience to Live Arcade even if it has some minor drawbacks that keep it from being to-tier. If you have fond memories of tossing endless quarters into Off-Road back in the day, or simply are looking for something to keep that flame of hope kindled for a new Twisted Metal, Scrap Metal is definitely worth checking out.
There is no doubting that Scrap Metal borrows heavily from other games; the first of course being the top-down perspective. When you first boot up the game you are offered two control schemes: beginner and advanced. The beginner controls are similar to those classics I mentioned in that wherever you point the analog stick, your car goes. It takes a bit to readjust to this scheme unless you have for some reason spent the last ten years perfecting your skills at Off-Road. The advanced scheme really gets confusing as you use the left and right triggers for acceleration and braking, while steering with the analog. Both control schemes constantly force you to adjust your brain whenever the perspective changes, which can be disorienting to say the least.
Once you get accustomed to the controls things get smoother, and the game really opens up. The single player game consists of several levels broken down into a series of missions. What I really enjoyed was the diversity between events. One segment has you racing in the traditional sense, while the next has you battling it out in an arena for a set amount of time. Rarely do you find yourself repeating the same events over and over again unless you are trying to earn more stars. The diversity keeps the game moving at a steady pace, and also keeps you from getting bored of one particular type of even throughout the course of the game.
As you progress you can also earn new cars by destroying them in the single player. You have a garage that can hold up to four, so choosing your favorites is a delicate process. You also earn stars for each mission depending on your placing. These can be used to upgrade various aspects of your vehicles such as armor, weapons and grip. Upgrading your car is a must for some of the later missions as you will constantly be put to the test to survive. You can easily get wrapped up in customizing your cars, but I also found that it was too convenient to swap out for a new ride completely ignoring all the work you poured into the other cars. The fact that you can plop donuts and mattresses on the tops of some of them only sweetens the deal.
In addition to the single player experience you can also hop online or split screen for some multi-player action. The premise is exactly the same and even contains the quintessential modes such as race, demolition derby and king of the hill. Playing against real players is much more engaging and relentless than the hapless computer AI. In the matches online I found myself constantly being pummeled by explosions and ran off the road in desperate attempts to claim first place. The online is definitely a blast and really rounds out the package nicely.
Visually the game looks good even with its limited color palette. The track designs are well done and the debris lying around can cause some massive pile-ups during a standard race. What can be a problem is losing your car during a race as it sometimes blends into the background. The explosions rock the screen and I like the subtle nuances when your car is heavily damaged. The still artwork used for the characters though really should have been reworked. They are absolutely terrible. The sound is decent enough and the soundtrack will often fade into the background as it is not memorable, but the game does a nice job as a whole in delivering solid presentation.
Scrap Metal is definitely a solid addition to the XBLA library and definitely shines when played online. It is hard to fault the game too much as there is little like it on the service. While 1200 points may be a bit steep for what you get, it definitely delivers on being more fun than it should be. If you enjoy arcade style racing games with a bit of violence thrown in for good measure I recommend giving this one a go. There is plenty of enjoyment to be siphoned out of this $15 experience.
Review copy provided by publisher.