Disclaimer: This page and the one that follows it is nothing more than my personal opinion based on game play. Your experiences and attitudes may be different. The songs used are not in the games, as I prefer to smash cars to my own beat anyway.
On this page, I will be discussing demolition derby games that came out in the PlayStation format. You may ask yourself, “who makes me a better judge of what makes a video game any good than the people who made it or do these things for a living,” so…
Warning: Personal horn tooting about to happen:
I did some of this stuff — for real. For 15 years I bought, built and drove my own demo cars, eduro (like a circle track demo), and drag cars as Yellow Dove Racing Team Pro Smash. I had some fun. The name was always part of the joke. There was really no team, for the most part. I did have help sometimes but it was mostly me. The Pro part was the real laugh. I have one trophy for second place and that is it.
Virtual smash has its own pros and cons. The big con is there are never any bragging rights for winning a race in a video game. Seriously, think about it. No good story around a campfire littered with empty beer cans started with, “So I was playing video games.” Unless somebody walked past you with a gun or no clothes on — even then, not really.
The pro is the ability to satisfy your carnal needs for automotive carnage at anytime, no matter how broke you are at the moment. You can do it no matter the time of year or the weather, and you can even get some beer, sit on your living room floor and drink and drive. Nobody will say a word.
You don’t have to find it, drag it home, build it, listen to the village complain about it as an unregistered motor vehicle, and you don’t have to get rid of it when it is no longer useable. Just push a few buttons after the race and the car is as good as new. If only real life was like that.
Demolition Racer, 1999
This is the first game that I experienced. Destruction Derby 1 & 2 are older, but we are going to skip them. Games were evolving past the format of Pong at the time, so they are not really that good.
The point of this game is to come in as high in places as you can. But the points I really like are the crash points. They are multiplied together for a final score. The harder you hit someone, the more points you get. More points may be added on if the car spins, flips or hits the wall. So hit like you mean it. And land on somebody. “Death from Above” is a one hit kill and worth 500 points. See Video 2 for an example.
The graphics are really good for its time and gameplay, even today, is just nuts. The cars twist and bend — even the hoods open then fly off. Axils wobble if the cars take damage but it doesn’t effect how the car handles. A few lost realism points there. Not that any car would be useable for even spare parts after a 150 mph impact anyway.
As you hit objects like walls (trust me you will) and other cars, your damage meter goes down. Once it hits 21, your car belches a smoke screen so thick you can’t see for a while. If you are planning a hit, make sure all of your tires are on the ground and theirs are too. Most of the time the hit will not register otherwise, but you will take damage. Other times the game might screw up and cars will fade together.
When you choose a car, you will be racing against cars just like the one you choose. They all appear to be all-wheel drive and do awesome roll back burnouts. The paint shop is straight forward with a two color paint scheme, and cars can have logos from a premade list.
When you first start out, you have the option of using the Marauder (which looks like a 70s muscle car) or the Bobcat. The Bobcat looks like a sick twisted mating of NASCAR Herbie and a Smart Car. It is quick, but handles like a car that is too light, has too much engine and banana peels attached to the tires. It can’t take a hit at all without crashing and is real weak.
The Marauder is rather quick, tops out around 150 and is not that hard to control. It’s hard enough, though.
The Cruiser is an unlockable car and the best car in the game in my opinion. The Cadillac looking monster is slow on the get go, but tops out around 165 and can take a hit.
After that it gets kind of bad. Remember what I said about the banana peels? In the Semi-Pro League you have a choice between the Renegade and the Mantis. Both cars are faster, squirrellier and less able to take a hit. The Renegade is almost bearable to control. The Mantis is not. And your first race with be Meltdown. This track is hard. Two things I can tell you, get Death From Above at the beginning. Restart until you time it right. You will need the points. And when the road splits, go to the left, always.
After that comes the Predator. This thing accelerates like a rocket, tops out at 230 and control goes out the window.
There are two other unlockable vehicles, the Widow Maker (hearse) and the Vandal (van). Widow Maker is not bad, moves quick and does about 200. The van is just a waste of time. Call it the “roll over queen.”
During game play you may find little boxes lying around. The white, blue and green boxes are good stuff. The black ones with the skulls in them — not so much.
Over all this game is still a lot of fun if you can get past the late 90s graphics. I still visit this one from time to time, and still enjoy it. It can be picked up for low cost on e-bay or Amazon.
Destruction Derby Raw (DDR), 2000
This came out right on the heals of Demolition Racer (DR), and was the second smash game that come across my PS2. I had a lot of fun with this one. It is the third installment in the series, and the only one really worth mentioning. I am not saying that 1 & 2 where not good for their time, just not worth mentioning now. The fourth game, Arenas, was crap. We may explore this crap later as a slap fest, but enough on that for now.
The theme is much darker than in DR. The backgrounds and cars are nowhere near as bright and colorful. It just makes me more sinister, anyway. There was not a great deal of focus on how the cars bent, so don’t expect to see twisted metal or hoods flying like DR.
One new feature is that the cars you compete against are not all the same model or have the same paint schemes.
In the squirrelly car division — this game has a new way of doing it. A great deal of effort was put into the suspension travel. Way too much attention, in my opinion. The cars bounce on their shocks and springs so much that it is hard to not hit the wall or get a bead on a victim in desperate need of a front bumper enema.
One thing they did do that no one to date has, it the more damage your car takes, the more it malfunctions. Most games the car can be a twisted, smoking pretzel but still drive like it came from the showroom floor. Not here. Brakes, acceleration and handling can be adversely effected by damage.
They are definitely a fan of tight turns and it can be difficult to get the darn…thing…TURN! after you have used the front end as a battering ram for the last five laps. It is also harder to land the car on jumps.
Something that adds to the fun is nitrous. Just push a button to get your big butt a movin’ and a shakin’. I like to dish out the pain so I am on the NOS from the green light. But you can run out, so use it wisely.
To win a race, like DR, you have to place high in the pack and rack up smash points. Hitting them is not enough. You need hit multipliers by making the cars flip and spin. Aim for rear quarter panels and front fenders to get them to do tricks. There is a list of the points in the manual and they have some really cute names.
Teeth Rattler: 10
Jaw Breaker: 30
Bone Crusher: 50
Flatliner: 300 (Kill)
Angel of Death: 1000 (Spin+Roll+Flatliner)
Most tracks you will see twice but they have slight differences to them. The turns are tight, and some of the tracks are massive and have multiple ways to go, so the pack may thin out on you and give you nobody to hit.
In the Smash for Cash mode, you can own up to seven cars and upgrade them for better traction, speed, braking and armor. The car never gets completely destroyed, but you have to pay to fix it. I will tell you repair costs so you know if you are breaking even at least. The game ends if you do not have a car ready to go. These are the cars I have in my garage.
Scorpion: 926 repair cost
This thing looks like a 70s Caprice to me. Overall, it is the best car in the game and the one I use most often. It is rather quick, maxing out around 120, and has good armor.
Razorback: 649 repair cost
This looks like a Trans Am and is good for Over Flow short and long and Up and Over long (most tracks you see twice, just different versions). Don’t ask me why. It just seems to work.
Stinger: 721 repair cost
I use this car for both Fall Outs. It power slides around the dirt corners better than the Scorpion to keep from falling down to the lower level. It is faster if you can manage to stay up top.
Grizzler: 1029 repair cost
This thing looks like a massive woody wagon. It takes a punishment too. I use it on Leap of Faith, Slammer, Four and Sidewinder, just for the abuse it can be put it through, and to abuse anything that moves. Just figure out what an E-brake is for and you will be alright.
Scorpion: 926 repair cost
Wait a minute. Didn’t he say this car already? Go ahead, look. I will wait … Back?
You need two if you seriously want to play this game because it can only calculate up to around $64,000, then it resets and leaves you without enough money to fix your Scorpion for the next race. I call it tax season. So have another one hand so you don’t get stuck using a car you don’t want.
All video played, shot and edited by Scott Downey
Text editing by Sarah Fuller
- Video 1: Was not Was. “Walk the Dinosaur”
- Video 2: Accept. “Balls to the Wall.”
- Video 3: Limp Bizkit “Rollin”; Sammy Hagar “Fall in Love Again.”; Godsmack “Alive.”