Smugglers Run 2
Review of Smugglers Run 2
I remember playing the original Smugglers Run title at the PS2 launch and walking away very impressed with a few things. The draw distance in the game was very much next gen. It appeared that you could look into the distance for miles…and the nicest part was that you could actually drive to the locations that you see far off in the horizon. The other thing that I really enjoyed was the all out “balls to wall” premise of the game. The object was to pick up contraband and deliver it at a pre-designated location, all while avoiding law enforcement officials and rival gangs. The game played well but the car controls were a bit too loose for my liking and the game had a very slim storyline. Overall though, this was a nice solid launch title, especially for people that enjoyed racing type games.
Enter Smugglers Run 2. Gamers will now be treated to a whole new (and greatly improved) menu interface that brings the game into the 21st Century. The primary mode is still mission based, but now things are fleshed out much better and the ranking system employed appears to take a lot more variables into account. There is also a much more cohesive storyline with this game complete with real actors delivered via FMV at strategic points in the game. The FMV is delivered in an intentionally grainy format that would presumably mimic a recon transmission. It certainly sets up to proper tone and atmosphere for the game, that’s for sure. The mission menus are also have a much more slick layout and there is still the excellent voice description that accompanies it.
Throughout the game I came to appreciate all of the other tweaks and improvements that were implemented compared to the original. The general control of the vehicles, while still somewhat frustrating, is much better than the first. Each vehicle has its own handling characteristics that vary greatly from one to the other. There is definitely a “best vehicle” for each mission, that you won’t necessarily know until you have run though that mission once or twice.
As with the first SR game, you are basically a mercenary who’s primary motivation is cash. The core single person game is still mission based and played out in a multitude of environments. The two primary locations where the game takes place are Russia and Vietnam. The terrain in these locales varies greatly as you can imagine. Russia features sand and dessert areas as well as hard mountainous regions complete with snow, ice and blizzard conditions. Vietnam is well portrayed as a hot, steamy jungle setting where negotiating mud and boulder slides is all part of the experience.
The core gameplay is still the same as well with your Merc’s primary goal consisting of picking up contraband at specified locations and delivery them, again to specified locations. There is now a lot more to overcome now though. The landscape is littered with landmines, there are avalanches and the computer opponents lean heavily on the kamikaze side of things. The missions have a good deal of variety to them. Some missions will have you simply going from place to place picking up and delivering while other missions have you competing against rival “gangs” to see who can delivery the goods first. These missions often feature multiple vehicles on each side (general three on your team and three on the other) with you controlling one and the computer controlling the other two for your team. In addition to being able to select your vehicle, players can also select the other vehicles that they want in these missions. This sets up a nice little strategic element to these types of races that I truly enjoyed. Oh, many of the missions are on a counter (timed)…which occasionally seems a bit too short for my liking.
At the beginning of the game you are given several training missions in which to become familiar with your wheels, the nuances of the environment and the overall flow of the gameplay. Gamers are only given one car in which to start with, with others being unlocked as you progress through the game. The game starts off easily enough but the level of difficulty ramps up considerably once you hit the Vietnam missions. The law enforcement officials are frickin ruthless and tend to swarm at all of the worse moments. SR2 is easily much more difficult than its predecessor. Luckily each vehicle comes with its own countermeasure such as bombs, oil slicks and smoke screens that can be used against the other cars when things get too hectic.
Graphically the game benefits from the obvious familiarity that Angel Studios now has with the PS2 hardware. It is certainly not a showcase title but the virtually everything has been improved over the original version. The car models are now nice and solid looking thanks to more polygons and better texturing. There are also a lot of fine touches like smoking and flaming exhaust pipes, little moving engine parts and better overall collision detection.
The backgrounds have also been spruced up considerably with textures being used more generously, better particle effects for weather and explosions and improved use of colors especially in the Vietnam levels. The wonderful draw distance is still there and the game glides along at a rock solid 60fps with no slowdown no matter how busy things get.
Like I said, the game isn’t a showcase title graphically, but it certainly holds its own in this type of genre.
The music, sound and voiceovers are all wonderfully implemented. From the menu tune to the in game music, everything fits in really well and blends nicely into the gameplay instead of taking away from it or drawing too much attention.
The sound effects are right on the money for all of the action that is occurring on the screen. Nice crash, explosion and other special effects noises abound.
Even the voice acting is top notch with the actors portraying their roles extremely well and really adding a lot of atmosphere and enjoyment to the game. This is one of the few games that I actually sat and watched the FMV’s instead of just skipping through them.
In addition to the main mission game SR2 also has some kick-ass 2-player modes called Turf Wars. Here you can grab a friend and play a round of bomb tag which is basically like Hot Potato. Try to pass the bomb to someone else before it explodes. Crook & Smugglers is a contraband war…the first to meet their quota wins. Checkpoint Races will have you and a buddy negotiating various checkpoints with the winner getting through all of theirs first. Finally there is Loot Grab where you much try to grab as much loot as possible. To round things out, there is also a Joyride mode that allows players to cruise around the environments with no time limits, no opponents and no pressure. This is THE mode for becoming familiarized with your vehicle and the surroundings.
All in all this is a very worthy successor to SR1 and a great game in its own right. The only drawback is that the missions, while varied, may get a bit too redundant for some people and become more of a chore than a challenge to complete. This certainly wasn’t the case with me, but I still realize that it would be for others.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Smugglers Run 2' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
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