Bandits: Phoenix Rising (PC) review
"Imagine a futuristic world where the government has fallen, one just like any other video game world. Further imagine that the only way to get precious supplies is through fighting, much like a multitude of other video game worlds. Finally, imagine that the fighting takes place as you drive around various sprawling environments in stripped-down dune buggies -- now that's something a little different all together. This is the way of life for the heroes in Bandits: Phoenix Rising. In a worl..."
Imagine a futuristic world where the government has fallen, one just like any other video game world. Further imagine that the only way to get precious supplies is through fighting, much like a multitude of other video game worlds. Finally, imagine that the fighting takes place as you drive around various sprawling environments in stripped-down dune buggies -- now that's something a little different all together. This is the way of life for the heroes in Bandits: Phoenix Rising. In a world gone mad, the characters Fennec and Rewdalf live and fight rival gangs in order to survive. The future is dry and desolate, and the few survivors are in a constant war for resources. Fennec and Rewdalf, member of a notorious gang called the ''Wolfpack'' solve their conflicts in their tricked-out battle-cars through an area generically called ''The Badlands.''
While the basic premise of the title may make it sound sort of like a Twisted Metal-style car combat game, the game is a little less than that, with a little bit more of a game like Quake mixed in. It's your job as Fennex and Rewdalf to drive them around to different areas to complete about two dozen missions, but also at the same time to destroy a variety of members from rival gangs. This is actually in essence a fairly simple thing to do, though it may sound a bit complicated. You drive your battle-car just as you would steer around a character in Quake, and turn with your mouse, which also acts as an aiming device. Basically, you line up your shot and shoot. Fortunately, it's never really all that tricky to line up your shot, even when moving fast. This type of problem can plague games of this genre, but somehow, the developers manage to make it fairly easy to aim your weaponry. Some may complain that Bandits is a challenging game, but personally, I made it through unscathed. Sure, I did die a few times, and there were points where I was frustrated, but most of my frustration was alleviated by making changes to my car (more on that later).
What Bandits lacks in plot, it makes up for in gameplay. It's been a while since I've actually had this much fun playing a game -- or have sat down for hours on end playing one. One of the things I really liked most about Bandits was the level of customization in the vehicles. Naturally, as you progress you gain access to better weapons in order to survive. However, Bandits is not one that simply automatically upgrades your vehicles, no, you can get down and dirty and fiddle all you want with weapons and chassis. What this allows you do to is find combinations (though no one will get you through the whole game) to make the levels easier to get through (or if you're up for a challenge, harder). There's no bigger feeling of accomplishment than going through one of the later missions of the game with the original car stripped down to one gun and completing it. I can't say that I've had this much fun just fiddling around with options in ages, and it's laid out so nicely that you don't even really need to know anything at all to do so.
Then of course, there comes the actual missions, which are interesting in design and execution. The very first mission of the game has you working to steal a distiller to make rum out of cacti. However, like in real-life, the people you took it from actually come back for revenge...continually, because they want their stuff back. Is it wrong to appreciate such a simple thing, or do I appreciate it because so many games simply seem to forget the events that happened earlier in the game? Outside of such a simple little thing as that, I liked the variety of missions -- ambushes, races, thefts and even missions outside of your cars await you in Bandits. This breaks up a game which could have grown incredibly dull very fast. Weaponry also comes into play, and is very fun to tinker around with. Your main weapon is basically just a simple turret; however, soon you have access to shotguns and rockets which add a lot of bang to the game (so to speak).
Unfortunately, there are a few problems with Bandits. The first (and the worst in my opinion), are the multiplayer modes. Mind you, I don't mind multiplayer at all; in fact, I'm quite fond of multiplayer. However, I've tried half a dozen times, and there's not a single person playing the damned game online. There's no doubt in my mind that this has to do with the fact that not many people have heard of the title, but then again, I would have rather they not included it at all and instead focused on some more missions, or better graphics.
At first glance, the graphics in Bandits look fantastic. The environments are vast, and even with a number of the options maxed out, the framerate held up without a stutter. Over the course of a few missions though, small problems crop up. First, the environments aren't very detailed, and are pretty bland at times. I enjoyed that there were a lot of different areas to explore however, with armor power-ups waiting (think of armor as your health in an FPS) to be had. The battle-cars look all right, but crashes with other cars expose some horrible clipping issues, which at one point had me go through an entire car (fortunately, this was a race mission, and when I went through him, I took the lead). The audio is also fairly problematic, as the game is chock-full of repetitive, bland voice-overs. Fortunately, this is offset by some fantastic rock and techno music that can be listened to outside of the game, since it's in MP3 form.
In the end, Bandits is a fun and rewarding game that sadly no one plays online, because no one bought the game. It was a surprisingly fun title considering the cost, and I think its one shooters and racing fans are sure to enjoy.
Community review by asherdeus (October 21, 2003)
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