Slick Entertainment first came onto the scene back in February of 2008 when they released a port called N+ for the XBOX 360's XBLA. Originally a flash game called N, developed by Metanet Studios, N+ was one of those game exceedingly reminiscent of early console nostalgia while still allowing the gamer to enjoy a rich depth within its gameplay.
Fast forward to now, particularly the show floor at PAX 2009, and Slick Entertainment was on hand to showcase their next game, and their first release completely developed in house from the ground up. Scrap Metal shares some similarities with N+ in that it feels like an early NES isometric racer. To put it quite simply...this game is RC Pro-Am with guns. If, like me, you grew up having an NES, or at least enjoy old school gaming, this prospect should send tiny shivers of delight up and down your (probably over 25 year old) spine. Now yes...that's some pretty serious verbal hype. Does it actually live up to it? Well, I got some play time with this title at PAX and I can say yes and....maybe?
As a top-down isometric racer, Scrap Metal does many things right. The controls are perfect and revel in their very simplicity ,while the handling of the vehicles is floaty in a console classic sense without being too hard to control. To pick a modern equivalent I would say that the drift within turns feels around the same as GripShift with being perhaps a few notches tighter. It can feel awkward at first, but once you get a feel for it you can pull off some fun maneuvers around the track.
The demo had two modes and two tracks. The first was a straight racing mode. Now of course this is not just an ordinary racer, its a racer with GUNS. So you have two choices, play the race to win by being the fastest or blow up the competition until you are the only one left. If I was a betting man...and I might just be...I know where my money would go on how most people will probably play this game. If regular racing isn't your thing there is also VIP protection mode, target-Take Down, rampage mode and Demolition Derby modes. Which all should change up the gameplay nicely. Destroying other cars allows the player to take ownership of them and add them to their garage between races. Winning races and destroying cars is also a way to gain points which can be used to upgrade your vehicle as well.
Ah...so RPG elements? Well...a bit. Seems your car is upgradable between races in single player mode but they were a little hazy at the booth as to how this transferred to online gaming. As a quick aside...I was talking about the game with a Booth Girl, and Booth Girls are usually given an extremely rudimentary understanding of the game they are looking hot for and not much else. So when I asked about a players Scrap Metal character being persistent when gaming over XBLA, her look of feigned excitement slowly melted into one of very real and awkward bewilderment. It was a magical moment.
I do have a few concerns with the game as it stands right now. During my playthrough I didn't notice any variation of weapons at all. Each car had a fairly standard machine gun and that was about it. Though the website does boast “powerful weapons” it doesn't make use of the word “multiple” which would be quite a shame if it were true. One of the draws of car combat games has always been the various, and usually creative, weapons which can be employed as you plant your seeds of destruction. Its one of the main things that makes games like Twisted Metal, Vigilante 8 and even Mario Kart such a blast to play.
My other concern is the look of the game. Its brown. I'm talking lots of brown here people. Quake looks to have the palette of a god damn kids show compared to this game. Besides being uninteresting to look at after awhile, with the frantic pace and tight quarters of the racing I sometimes found myself getting confused as to where I needed to go. Some color variation would have helped immensely. Some (well two) of the screen shots do show a little more variation so I hoping this is not as big of a problem as it seems.
Scrap Metal boasts 4 player online multiplayer and 4 player split screen multiplayer for those drunken party gaming moments. And really, its those party moments where I think Scrap Metal will truly shine. Though I'm not sure if we're looking at any Mario Kart killer here, with the right price this game could be a good addition to the hard drive for moments when pure racing / destroying bliss is what the doctor ordered.
Scrap Metal is slated for release sometime in 2010 on XBLA.