reviews\ Oct 11, 2004 at 8:00 pm

The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee - PS2 - Review

Admittedly, I had never seen or known anyone who has seen an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard--a show that debuted in the early 80s.  My only knowledge of the show is the mention of Daisy Dukes, which are really tight blue jeans that are cut into really skimpy shorts, in a talk show but never knew exactly who Daisy Duke was.  So before I took to writing a review of The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee, I rented the complete first season of The Dukes of Hazzard on DVD and suddenly found myself completely enthralled by the two cousins that defied the law in every episode.  I also found a new love . . . a revved-up Dodge Charger called the General Lee.  So how true to the show is The Dukes of Hazzard?  Sit down a spell, cousin, and let’s talk about a game that could have been a knee-slapping good time.


The Dukes of Hazzard has you playing as Bo and Luke Duke, two cousins living in Hazzard County along with their grizzled Uncle Jesse and sassy cousin Daisy.  Of course, the little sleepy county has its share of troublemakers and the biggest of them all happens to be the very corrupt Boss Hogg and his dastardly (yet bumbling) cohort Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.  It seems that the local orphanage run by Sally Jo is in danger of being closed down due to a lack of funds so it’s up to the entire Duke clan as well as mechanic buddy Cooter to help raise money by taking on other racers in the Hazzard County Derby.  Of course, it isn’t going to be easy winning the prize money with Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco scheming to win the Derby money themselves.  Yep, it’s another normal day in Hazzard Country.


The first level puts you behind the wheel of a black Dodge Charger that is in dire need of several parts to make it a vehicle fit for the Duke boys to drive around.  It eventually becomes the General Lee although you really won’t feel the difference at all . . . but more on that later.  As the game unfolds, the boys race across a big chunk of Hazzard County and you can explore it to your heart’s content (although there’s nothing much to see here).  You’ll race against the clock in various levels or attempting to beat the locals out there.  In one of the early levels, you’ll even have to race mechanic friend Cooter (who drives a battered tow truck).  You’ll even run errands for Boss Hogg and run from Sheriff Rosco and his more friendlily Deputy, Enos Strate.



While the majority of the levels feel basically the same, Return of the General Lee tosses in other playable characters that drive their own vehicles.  You’ll be playing as Uncle Jesse who is might fond of his tough pick-up truck and even Daisy Duke who’s the proud owner of the Roadrunner.  You’ll even play as Cooter, but of the bunch the Uncle Jesse’s transport mission is the most fun . . . and hilarious.  And speaking of hilarious, foiling Sheriff Rosco in his squad car and Boss Hogg in his extravagant white limo is one of the game’s biggest highlights.  Both happen to be the most likeable bad guys around.


Sadly, likeable bad guys and playing as other characters takes a back seat to the terrible controls that makes driving each vehicle seem like driving some kind of clunky box.  Much like the driving levels in Mafia, the cars handle stiffly and are horrible when it comes to making sharp turns.  The General Lee is often pushing the speed limit in order to make some cool jumps but when it comes to landing you’ll often find yourself wedged between a picket fence or some other environmental obstacle.  And if you so happen to flip over (and it happens a lot), you’ll have to wait a few seconds before The General Lee twitches and flips back on its wheels.   Even with its basic control scheme, the clumsy vehicles make the majority of the levels (as well as the two-player multiplayer mode) a pretty infuriating mess.


Unfortunately, The Dukes of Hazzard isn’t even a good-looking game.  Hazzard County looks exactly like it does in the show but thanks to its flat textures and lack of detail, the place looks dull.  Even its dusty roads and backwoods just seem boring.  Still one thing the games does get right is the character’s appearances--every character resembles each of the actors.  Still, the vehicles, especially the General Lee, don’t look half as cool in this game.



What does work, though, is the game’s sound.  The soundtrack is pure Dukes Southern country instrumentals (e.g. lots of banjo and harmonica riffs) and it’s actually pretty cool even for those who aren’t even into country tunes.  The show’s opening theme song even plays during the menu selection screen--it’s enough to put a smile on a fan’s face.  Still, what makes the sound a treat to hear is the voice acting, which is performed by many of the actors from the show like Tom Wopat, John Schneider (who is known now as Clark Kent’s dad on the television show Smallville) and even Catherine Bach reprising her role as Daisy Duke.  You’ll even find the show’s narrator who chimes in every now and then just like the show.  Overall it’s great stuff, only I wish the soundtrack had a broader variety of tunes.


The Dukes of Hazzard could have been an instant classic and why wouldn’t it be?  It has great characters, cool cars and plenty of chases, races and destructive demolition derbies.  It’s also true to the show, but it failed in the most important aspect of all--gameplay.  The Return of the General Lee misses the mark completely so skip this one if you’re a fan or have a fondness for driving games with a country twist. 


#Review Scoring Details for The Dukes of Hazzard: The Return of the General Lee


Gameplay: 4.5
Many of the levels are actually fun and it’s cool to be racing as Daisy Duke but all of this doesn’t matter because the vehicles handle more like boats than muscle cars.  The controls get in the way during races and also keep you from making those famous Duke stunts like jumping off ramps.


Graphics: 5.8
Hazzard County never looked so . . . lifeless.  While there’s a lot to see as far as environments are concerned, backgrounds could have used more detail.  The characters, on the other hand, look just like the actors during the cut scenes.  


Sound: 7.0
You can’t beat the Southern country-fried down-home music that plays throughout the game, even though the soundtrack is limited to just a few tunes.  Even the General Lee’s cool Dixie horn and Bo Duke’s trademark “Yee haw!” can be heard with the press of a button.


Difficulty: Medium
The timed levels will have you really pushing the General Lee to its top speeds and there will be times when you’ll have to replay the level all over again because of mistakes and accidents.  Believe me when I say that the biggest challenge comes from struggling with the game’s controls.


Concept: 5.5
The great playable characters and the super sweet ride that is the General Lee isn’t able to save the game, but its very true-to-the-show presentation is great to see in a game (it certainly beats Starsky & Hutch).  The levels, though, are uninspiring until you get to the later ones. 


Multiplayer: 5.5
I wish I could say that the multiplayer mode is a lot better than the single player mode but it’s not.  It is a welcome addition since there are three different multiplayer modes, but now you and a friend have to deal with the awful controls.  You and a friend can take each another on in a race and even a chase your friend as the local law.  There’s even a demolition derby!


Overall: 5.0
It’s true to the show that inspired it in almost every possible way but Return of the General Lee just falls flat thanks to awful controls and several glaring glitches scattered throughout.  This is highly unfortunate really since the characters are likeable and there are a few fun levels later in the game, but with controls like this you’ll feel more frustrated than entertained.





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