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Game Profile
Stealth Studios
GENRE: Driving
PLAYERS:   1-2
November 11, 2002
Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions

Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions

 Written by Ilan Mejer  on February 07, 2003

Full Review: A mediocre game gets a mediocre port

When Wreckless made its debut on the Xbox shortly after its launch, it was met with incredibly poor sales and rather mixed reactions from those who did buy it. The primary complaint lay solely in the games poor gameplay despite its rather impressive visuals. It was a great application for the Xbox as a technical demonstration of sorts, but it was a poor show of the system's capabilities as a gaming machine. Given the game's poor sales, the developers took their game to the Playstation 2 and the Gamecube in an attempt to garner more sales. However, what Sony and Nintendo received were inferior versions of an already poor playing game.

Speaking strictly of the Gamecube version now, Wreckless suffers from plenty of technical problems. Some of them are modest and understandable while others are absolutely unbearable and horrid. Part of the fault may lie on the fact that the Gamecube isn't quite the powerhouse that the Xbox is but the majority of the problems are a result of just plain negligence of the developers and their porting abilities.

The beginning of Wreckless centers around two female police officers in Hong Kong. Apparently, the Yakuza, or Japanese mafia, have opened up shop in Hong Kong and these two detectives are investigating the fact. In addition to this, two idiotic secret agent type characters make up the second part of the story and their missions overlap with the two officers in many different ways. In the two storylines, your job is to drive the cars of the spies and detectives to carry out very specific objectives. The objectives themselves are uninteresting and range from destroying a certain vehicle in a specific amount of time or reaching an area quickly in the time allotted. In addition to these objectives are secondary missions that, when completed, will open up difficult bonus levels which unlock all new vehicles such as tanks and faster cars.

Speaking of the cars, each of them handle a bit differently and many of them have very different speeds as well. Obviously, a little buggy can't outperform a sports car when it comes to speed and weaving through traffic, but the tank doesn't have to worry about traffic since it can basically waft over the streets with little to no effort at all. Regardless of the vehicle differences, the game itself feels terribly slow thanks to terrible framerate problems that crop up on many occasions, sometimes for no apparent reason at all. The game will literally chug even if the streets are clear and there is no one around. If you were to revisit that same street five minutes later, with people and vehicles sprawled all over the place, it will suddenly run smoothly. It's very annoying and hinders the gameplay greatly.

Aside from the speed and framerate issues, the cars handle terribly and every car has the same problems as the last, including poor turning rates and just plain bad control. Performing a slight turn, even while slowing down, may tip your vehicle over in the street, no matter how insignificant the turn is. It's a problem that was prevalent in the original Wreckless and it's sad to see it unfixed here, despite the overwhelming number of complaints.

One of the more appealing factors of the original game was the ability to pretty much drive anywhere and destroy anything. The streets were always filled with people and items to crash through and the graphical effects from such crashes were a sight to see. Unfortunately, the Gamecube version has been toned down considerably. The particle effects are not nearly as plentiful and the high resolution textures are gone as well. One addition Activision did make to the game, to help clear out some of the obstacles in your way in a timely fashion, is the all new bazooka attached to your vehicle. It's a neat little effect when it blasts a car out of the way, but the Gamecube version of Wreckless has been given much tougher pedestrian vehicles that don't disappear on impact and much tougher enemy cars that render the bazooka useless. It was an interesting idea, but one well done tweak means absolutely nothing to players if it can be overridden so easily by ramping up the difficulty.

The sound in the game is roughly the same as the Xbox version and the music is probably the highlight of this package as it matches the game perfectly. The only downfall to this comes from the slow gameplay that is a result of the poor framerates. There is also some decent voice acting as well, but the script is poor so the talents did the best they could with the material presented.

One of the biggest additions to the Gamecube version of Wreckless is the two player mode that was absent in the Xbox version. In four separate locations of Hong Kong, players compete in a variety of gameplay modes involving a hectic high speed chase through the city. In an unusual attempt at originality, the developers put both cars on the same screen rather then separating them via a split screen mode. Since the focus is mainly on the chase car, it's difficult at times as the lead car since there will be times when you'll speed ahead and attempt to change directions leading you into another car on the street or some other obstacle that will slow you down considerably.

Bottom Line
Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions for the Gamecube is a very lazy port with very few additions made to this nearly a year old Xbox game. With very few additions and an incredibly poor graphical engine with heavy slowdown and very little luster, players may want to pass this one up both as a purchase and as a rental.

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