|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
You're sitting in rush hour traffic. There are cars everywhere, and none of them is moving. You have somewhere to go. Simple solution: vehicular weaponry. Auto Destruct, a Sony PlayStation game from Electronic Arts, gives you this opportunity and more.
In Auto Destruct, you play Booth, a gearhead who has lost his wife and daughter to the Cult of Lazarus, a sort of Mafia. Now as an agent of "The Temple", you get to exact your revenge on their disciples in road combat.
Players drive a sleek car through various cities, beginning in San Francisco and changing about every ten stages. Each stage has its own goal, from wanton destruction of enemy vehicles, to defusing hidden bombs, to rescuing hostages. Eliminating innocent citizens and vehicles is frowned upon, but isn't worth more than a slap on the wrist.
The car's sleek look is matched by some slick controls. It responds well to the player, making fast turns and backing out of ambushes without a hitch. Only at high speeds does it becomes a little wobbly, but using an analog controller helps to ease this response. Switching among the various camera views and the weapons is likewise unproblematic. Gas and brake each have their own buttons, but instead, using Up and Down on the control pad is the way to go.
There's no time for sightseeing in these towns of above-average graphics. The storefronts and malls are carefully detailed with signs and the like. High-speed chases aren't so high-speed, but are fun. An on-screen radar picks out items, pedestrians, and enemies for the driver, alleviating what may be an otherwise unnecessary chore. But none of the special effects the PlayStation is capable of are used, which otherwise could've provided some great extra touches.
As for the background music, it sounds like leftovers from an episode of "CHiPs": funky, simplistic, repetitive. Rather than design anything imaginative, Electronic Arts unfortunately designed to thrown in some very ordinary tunes. Yet the sound effects are satisfying, with realistic siren wails, exploding automobiles, and shrieking bystanders.
The varying stage objectives makes for a different challenge each time. In some you'll need to be a fighter, watching your armor levels while keeping a bead on the enemy; other times, speed is called for, and a swift route must be plotted. Although driving by only the compass will get you where you're going, the map is a useful tool to expedite the journey. The city does not change often, meaning the same ground will be travelled repeatedly before it's time to pack up and move to another location. Progress through the stages can be saved with either a memory card or a password. As new cities become available, time trial races can be made to compete for best circuits.
Auto Destruct is a fairly entertaining title. Despite a poor soundtrack and graphics that aren't extraordinary, it's great to have the freedom to drive where and how you want, and to heck with sharing the road. Kids, try this only at home!
This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 16-Mar-98