||Vigilante 8: Second Offense
Right about now, the funk soul brother - Review By Subskin
"So I bought this 1974 El Camino, bolted a 16 mm chain-gun to the passenger door and dropped a homing missile launcher in the back. Killed the acceleration, but I'd like to see some jerk in a Camaro try to pass me."
Multi-player car-combat finally makes its way to the Dreamcast in the form of Vigilante 8: Second Offense. V8:2 is also the latest DC game ported from the Playstation. Playstation games brought to the Dreamcast often fail because the companies do not improve them to take advantage of the Dreamcast's power. So we get mediocre 32-bit games such as Fighting Force 2, Shadowman, and WWF Attitude running on a 128-bit system capable of so much more.
Activision, on the other hand, simultaneously developed Second Offense for the 32-bit Playstation, the 64-bit Nintendo 64, and the 128-bit Dreamcast. Dividing up their resources for that diverse group of platforms, were they able to create a game that can compare to the Dreamcast's other titles?
The story thus far: evil Lord Clyde of OMAR is determined to crush America in 2017. He amasses a huge army and basically controls every country except the U.S. When Clyde realizes that losing to the Vigilante gang in the 1970's ruined his chances of destroying America, he invents a time machine. Clyde travels back to the 70's with a few of his henchman to eliminate the Vigilante's leader. A few good guys from the future follow along, and suddenly you've got eighteen cars battling across the U.S. in the 70's.
Power locks, power steering, dual airbags, and... side mounted machine guns? V8's collection of cars aren't exactly factory standard.
You begin the game with nine selectable vehicles. By beating the "quest" mode with each character you can unlock nine more for a total of eighteen. Since there are characters from 70's as well as the future, there are vehicles from both eras. Besides the standard motorcycle and eighteen-wheeler, there are RVs, half-tracks, moon rovers, and limousines. The vehicles are pretty well balanced in terms of abilities and special weapons.
In case you haven't figured it out, Vigilante 8:Second Offense borrows heavily from Twisted Metal and Interstate '72. To distance itself from the pack, V8:2 first offers some unique weapon and item pick-ups. Any vehicle can pick up a "propulsion" icon tailored to the map. Instantly the wheels will convert into skis, water propellers, or hoverpads from 2017. This looks natural with the futuristic cars, but hilarious when a 1970's garbage truck suddenly starts floating around.
The weapon pick-ups are some of the best seen in a car-combat game yet. There are the obvious homing missiles, mines, and flame-throwers. One of the unique weapons added to the mix is an automatic targeting turret. You select an enemy to track with the Y button. The turret rotates atop your vehicle, allowing you to fire at an enemy driving side-by-side with you. All weapons allow you to target an enemy, but only the turret, homing missiles, and mortar auto-aim. The weapons are well balanced so one does not overpower the rest.
Don't you just hate it when you're blindsided by a Moon Rover while driving through a nuclear power plant?
Funk. You want to make a game with good music? Hook up the funk. Instead of using Village People Disco songs (thank God), Activision threw in some low down dirty funk. The beats kick so much that a friend who called while I was playing V8:2 asked if I was listening to the Beastie Boys - a high compliment, indeed.
On top of the music, Activision included some of the best voice acting and dialogue since Ghost in the Shell (the movie, not the game). John Torque takes the Shaft-like character and lays out some perfect quotes like "Always bet on black." Despite being ripped straight from Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57, it works for the character and is spoken perfectly. Afro Thunder, eat your heart out. Throughout the game characters show their unique personality, and they even have individualized endings.
Graphically, Vigilante 8:Second Offense shines. My biggest complaint about games ported to the Dreamcast has been the blocky player models - see Fighting Force 2 for example. Perhaps simply because these are cars and trucks - which are supposed to be blocky - V8:2's player models look awesome. These vehicles are detailed just enough to be graphically impressive without causing frame rate problems. The Dreamcast's high-resolution graphics really outshine both the PSX and the N64 versions.
The graphics are pretty darn nice, check out these nifty special effects.
The level design is equally impressive. There are eight different maps, each massive. Normally I am opposed to radars in multiplayer games; here they're necessary or you might never see each other again. Each map takes place in a different U.S. state. California has the Pacific coast and a lot of water; Utah has mountains and a lot of snow. Every map has its own destructive secrets, such as oilrigs and graveyards. In the quest mode these are used to create secondary mission objectives - for example, in Florida you must find three bombs before NASA can launch a Titan rocket. These objectives wouldn't hold up without the car wars, but they make nice little extras.
Lastly, Vigilante 8:Second Offense meets the key requirement of any game: it's fun. Too many multi-player games require a great deal of experience and practice before you can play them. Car-combat games like V8:2 provide a fun gaming environment that is easy to understand. It's so nice to just point out the accelerate and weapons buttons to a novice - and still watch them have as much fun as if they'd been playing for weeks. With one-to-four player arcade mode, this is a terrific game to frag.
The multi-player mode in Vigilante 8:Second Offense is good, but the camera view is not. When the screen splits into two or four panels, your own vehicle frequently obstructs your view. This is especially true of the large vehicles, like the bus and the garbage truck. You can change to a first-person view to compensate, but that is just too difficult to use. This is a problem in most console car-combat games, so it is not necessarily Activision's fault. Still, I'd like to see some company devise a good system for placing 2-4 screens on the same TV.
Multi-player is fun, if only the camera view were a bit better...
Controlling some of the vehicles is another problem. It's nice that each vehicle has its own "feel," but sometimes they are so loose it gets ridiculous. The motorcycle may be the worst offender, especially if it converts to hoverpad mode.
Also, V8:2 does not use the analog features of the Dreamcast controller. The triggers should be used for gas and brake, and the joystick should control steering. Since V8:2 uses digital steering, you must press the brake button simultaneously to execute a tight turn. Even at 5 mph - which is hard to do when your accelerator pedal just has "on" and "off" controls - it's very difficult to avoid ramming everything in sight.
A final control problem relates to the weapons. Each weapon in Second Offense has three special moves that can be executed by pressing three directions on the steering wheel and then fire machinegun. First of all, this is stupid: who rigs up a weapon to fire a special blast every time you turn left twice, hit the brake, and then fire your other gun??? Second, each weapon's special moves are different, so you must memorize eighteen different button combinations. This detracts from the simple fun of the game, and could have been handled differently. Better way to use special attacks: press both fire buttons simultaneously, and hold them down for more firepower.
Taking out the trash has never been so... deadly!
The interface in Second Offense is bright, quick, and intuitive. This is good. However, to save or load game data from the VMU you have to exit your quest, go to the options screen, select "VMU," then select the file. Then the game offers the option to "Load," or you can press right to select "Save." After that you must re-select your game mode, character, and level. This is so tedious that I beat the game with John Torque without exiting to save. When I returned to the options menu to save, I forgot to press right. Instead, it loaded up my old saved data and I had to start all over again. Dagnabbit.
The Final Word
Vigilante 8:Second Offense is a great addition to any Dreamcast library. The single player mode requires you beat it with seventeen characters before you get all the vehicles, so there's a lot of gameplay time there. After that, just about anybody should be able to pick up a controller and play 1-4 player deathmatch or cooperative mode. While there are some problems with the view in multi-player and the controls aren't as sharp as they should be, Second Offense is a fun monster of a game.
Highs: Great graphics, tons of vehicles, and some of the best audio to date.
Lows: Somewhat sloppy controls, poor multi-player visibility.
Other: 1-4 Players, VMU Compatible (for saving), Jump Pack Compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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