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Which March game are you looking forward to the most?

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Game Profile
Xbox Live Arcade
Slick Entertainment
Slick Entertainment
GENRE: Racing
PLAYERS:   1-4
March 10, 2010
 Written by John Scalzo  on April 05, 2010

Review: I love the sound of machine gunnin' cars.

Scrap Metal is a game that wears its inspiration on its sleeve. The Slick Entertainment-developed Xbox Live Arcade game is a top-down racer in the mold of R.C. Pro Am and it's instantly apparent that the guys at Slick have a real love for the genre.

The Scrap Metal experience is made up of 60 missions spread out across eight tracks. The game includes a wide variety of race types and each course has at least one specialty mission. Choosing from a stable that will eventually number 20 cars, players can customize their Scrap Metal vehicle with a unique paint job and decals all the while maxing out the car's speed, armor and weaponry.

Yes, just like R.C. Pro Am, if you don't have a roof-mounted cannon or a machine gun strapped to the hood, you're nothing in the world of Scrap Metal. Constantly upgrading your ride to get the best balance between weaponry and speed is the only way to beat the game's eight bosses, who will often have to be taken down in a wide open destruction derby arena.

The bosses are flat 2D images with names like Mr. Awesome, Cletus Clutch and Alex Alternator who dispense their challenges through text boxes before each race. Even though they don't speak or interact with you in any way, all of the game's characters have a lot of character to them. Actually, the colorful cars and characters contrast greatly with the realistic-looking and, frankly, drab racetracks.

While the visuals of Scrap Metal won't make anyone's eyes explode out of their skull, the overhead racing feels great. Cars are controlled simply by pointing the Right Stick in the direction you want to go. It takes a little getting used to, but after a while the controls become second nature.

Scrap Metal features a variety of race types including lap racing, elimination races, and destruction derbies; it also boasts several different kinds of missions, including "assassinate that car," "protect that car," and a handful of other one-off events.

Protection missions are annoying because A) when aren't escort mission annoying? and B) the game often shunts you off into a unique car just for that mission. The one-off nature of these events often means they don't work as well as straight racing and the protection missions are doubly hard because using a car you're unfamiliar with (and often equipped with a subpar weapon) just feels unfair. However, the worst one-off mission has to be the Monster Truck track. The game sets you up behind the wheel of a Monster Truck and tells you to crush all the cars you see. The only problem is, the truck can only crush cars when it comes to a complete stop, which makes for one very unexciting mission.

The game works best during racing missions and destruction derby missions, and thankfully, these make up the bulk of the game's events. Racing around the tracks and pumping your opponent full of lead is incredibly fun, as is racking up a ridiculous scrap count in a destruction derby event. Fans of R.C. Pro Am, and top-down racers in general, will find a lot to like about Scrap Metal. However, unlocking some of the game's more loaded cars (including a muscle car with machine guns and an F1 racer with a laser cannon) makes the game's later levels a bit too easy and severely shortening the time gamers will need to complete the game.

Scrap Metal also includes a splitscreen multiplayer mode for local four-player matches and several online modes to bring the racing to your friends across the country. The online modes don't feel much different from the single-player game (except for the online-only "King of the Hill" mode, which combines racing with a destruction derby and is just plain awesome), but it's nice to have.

Bottom Line
Scrap Metal is a tad too slight to command 1200 Microsoft Points ($15) from gamers' wallets, but there is still plenty of fun to be had here. Overhead racing fans in particular will be able to stop comparing any new entry in the genre to a game that is more than 20 years old and will instead be able to point to Scrap Metal as an exemplar of the genre.

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