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Demolition Racer: No Exit (Dreamcast) artwork

Demolition Racer: No Exit (Dreamcast) review


"Gleeful Malice"


To race is to win, and in the typical sense, this would mean passing numerous cars in a skillful display of speed and maneuverability, reach first place, and hold that position until the race concludes. However, sticking to first place would be the goofiest, nonsensical thing imaginable in Demolition Racer: No Exit. Here, developer Pitbull Syndicate encourages success through brute force, by constantly colliding with other vehicles in the most opportune moments. Whether it be lovingly bumping into rears, clashing sides, or ramming into temporarily incapacitated cars at full speeds, each successful hit garners points, which is ultimately tallied and dictates your final position when the race is finished.

Sounds like a typical "combat" racing game, but what makes this different from the others is its lack of restrictions. On a console known for its bare conversions of Sega arcade titles, No Exit prevails as one of the most arcade-like experiences the system has to offer, and it's hilariously not even an arcade port. Unlike said titles, this game isn't constrained by a quarter muncher mentality, such as having a small list of tracks and the existence of a time limit, neither does it bog down the experience with joyless rules or realistic physics. Cars constantly fly through the air, usually phasing through objects, catch fire, crash through an excess of TNT crates, flip and toss around in the most ridiculous ways possible, and after all that, resume racing like nothing happened. It's an amazing, satisfying sight watching 15 AI cars wrestle one another within a high framerate that rarely dips.

That doesn't mean the game is an inconsequential slobberknocker, as simply surviving each race and landing a respectable position is a challenge in itself. Crashing into stuff is solid fun, but with every impact made, whether it'd be with cars or the track's walls, your damage meter tallies the collisions. You have to strike a fine balance between the right amount of chaos and maintaining a respectable position when the race is on its final lap, because the latter actually acts as a multiplier to your score. Power-ups, points, and health crates are littered around each track to help your chances at winning, not to mention a boost crate that further breaks the laws of physics if you time its activation juuuuust right. Also, collect enough Pitbull medallions, and you're able to upgrade your vehicle, the most rewarding of which being the armor upgrade for obvious reasons.

Having said that, as you fight for domination through each track, especially when making your way through the five tournaments, there's this eventual realization that track layouts are much more cleverly-fiendish than originally perceived. Unlike, say, Mario Kart, crates are hardly ever planted in the middle of a track, and when they are, it's done mockingly, usually hidden on the other side of a huge ramp. Normally, crates are placed in areas that actually make you drive off road, and the devs often morbidly place TNT crates a few inches behind a much needed health or power-up. Oh... and be sure a points crate you're about to crash into has a "Plus"sign, since there are also crates with the "Minus" designation.

The crate placements aren't infuriatingly hard to deal with, as they're more playfully masochistic than irritating, and they keep with the unconventional vibe of the game by using odd tactics to obtain them, such as slowing to a near halt or driving backwards. However, the true nuisance with the crates come with trying to grab them before an AI vehicle knocks into one. There's really no reason why a computer car is allowed to grab a boost crate or a medallion, since they never use them, and worse, the crates don't respawn, meaning everything on a track is a one-hit encounter. This is mostly a problem on tracks with tight, lean designs, and more so when you realize the AI adjusts all the cars on the track based on where you're positioned. Basically, if you're on the left side of the track, everyone shifts to the left, and vice versa.

Other complaints, though minor, are the unneeded inclusion of an arena tournament, since those bowl-shaped courses are so generic and boring, and the fact that the last two tournaments of the game can be pretty hard when it comes to winning. Unless you upgrade armor very early in those tournaments, placing first in every race is going to be an uphill battle. Even so, Demolition Racer: No Exit still manages to be one of the purest, most entertaining experiences on the Dreamcast without relying on an odd gimmick. Though, if for some reason you need an inane concept in all your Dreamcast games, this has a silly unlockable that allows for the use of a light-gun peripheral. Hope you have a CRT monitor!

Shame I couldn't continue playing No Exit immediately after finishing this review, since its disc had the honor of murdering my 17 year old Dreamcast console. At least it died playing a solid game. Can you imagine if this happened with 18 Wheeler?

4/5

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (September 26, 2016)

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EmP posted September 28, 2016:

I played the hell out of this game. The bonus' you get for taking people out mid race were insane, complete with epic names popping up like T-BONE! or DEATH FROM ABOVE!

I liked the bowl deathmatches myself, though.
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pickhut posted September 28, 2016:

Yeah, it's great whenever those "kills" happen. Though, I think I got more a kick out of those happening to me, especially right at the start of a race when I make a hard turn. I think they're the fastest I've ever been taken out in any racing game.

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