reviews\ Aug 21, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Totaled! - XB - Review

Recently, the game Totaled! for Xbox has created quite a stir ... not due to coarse language, violence, and sexual innuendos mind you ... but in overall reviews and "good / bad" feelings. Now, I've looked at various reviews, seen the messages that you loyal gamers have gone out and posted to various websites, and have come up with my own conclusion. While this game isn't perfect, and a lot of reviewers out there didn't seem to care for it, I personally found it to be a fun, arcade style smash - em - up title which deserves at least a try from anyone who enjoys NASCAR, Figure 8, or Demolition Derbies (You know, the "hicks and slack - jaw yokels" that watch these things, as those of us who enjoy vehicular chaos have been labeled by a reviewer on one of the other sites).


Totaled! enters the gaming world as a driving title more focused on destruction than racing. With no set plot, no pit stops, no season trophies, and no sponsors, it puts the player behind the wheel of one of 10 different vehicles set to mostly do what we have all wanted to do at one time or another ... smash other cars. If you've ever been cut off by someone or got stuck behind the 15 MPH driver in the 45MPH zone, you can probably agree with me on that statement. The controls were built to be simple enough to revolve around that aspect as well, since you have standard gas, e-brake, and brake buttons, and one for a nitro boost. The controls are responsive and tight, and you won't have a lot of problems swinging a vehicle around to barrel down on an opposing CPU or player controlled opponent. While racing around a track, the tight controls seem to over steer periodically depending on speed ... but nothing which will cause aggravation or detract from the overall experience.


Starting off, the car and track selection is limited in the arcade mode, but winning events in the Career mode will unlock new arenas and cars to demolish. There are three basic cars types to play with, ranging from the heavy Hot Rods, the mid weight Muscle cars, and the lightweight Performance cars. Each type has it's own varying speed and toughness ability, which will play a part in the bowl or on the track. Performance cars can't take a whole lot of punishment when slammed at high speeds, but the Hot Rods can't accelerate fast enough to catch them on a straight shot either. So, it helps to pick the car style that fits the event you are partaking in, and for the most part you can feel the difference in each style while you play.


Most of Totaled's arenas and events revolve around using your nice looking automobile as a 60 MPH battering ram. This game has multiple "demolition derby" play modes available, like Last Man Standing where you have to be the last car still running on the track, or Hunter (My personal favorite) which is sort of a vehicular game of tag where points are earned only by smashing into the vehicle which is designated as "it". This all takes place in a various selection of arenas ranging from a simple indoor or outdoor demolition derby bowl to such things as a football field, a parking garage, or an oil rig platform out in the middle of the ocean. Even though the main purpose to Totaled! is destruction, there are also some other more racing style modes to partake in also like ... well ... a straight race. Not exciting enough? Try Eliminator, where the last car across the finish line at the end of a lap gets blown up. There are also stunt tracks to jump though hoops or over buses and skill modes like "hit the crates but not the bowling pins while beating the timer" as well, so there's a little something for whatever mood you may be in at the time.


Graphically, the cars look really good. Starting out, each one has a nice waxy shine to it and a really nifty paint job with a neat body style. The shine and paint stick around, but that sleek body look of course doesn't last too long since the name of the game here is demolition. At the first solid hit, that nice looking automobile you're driving doesn't look too hot anymore after the front crumples, the hood flies off, and the front fender starts sparking from dragging the ground. Trunks, doors, lights, windows ... they are all fair game and won't be around by the end of the event. The damage modeling is really good and realistically done, and replays show the metal bending, glass smashing fun in full detail including a Matrix - style camera pan for REALLY violent hits. The backgrounds, for the most part, were done pretty well also ... but some don't seem to have gotten as much attention. Arenas range from decent lighting, crowds, and shadowing to some flat, bland kind of areas, and overall there is a feeling that all of them could have taken advantage of the XBox's power a little better.


So, ultimately Totaled! has some really good points and reasons to look into getting it. Good car selection, good car graphics and damage, lots of arenas, decent control, and multiple game styles are a big plus in just about anyone's book ... well, 99% of gamers out there anyway. There are some issues which of course tend to push it back towards the red again to be found in here as well. The first one we've already discussed ... bland and sometimes boring backgrounds. The second, which can ultimately be an "I like it or don't like it" issue for many is the painfully slow load times. Regardless of whether you are just starting a game, restarting a track, switching arenas, or wanting to watch a replay ... be prepared to sit through a good 30 - 45 seconds of a screen showing the word "TOTALED!" and the dreaded word that most gamers don't like to see underneath it ... "LOADING". Since some events run short time periods, like 45 seconds, sitting through a load screen to re-do the event which takes just as long can get tedious and eventually cause disinterest.


Another potential killer to this title is the car handling itself. Yes it has good and tight control, but acceleration and speed can be a real chore with some vehicles. Performance models accelerate and hit top speed faster, and aren't too bad, but some others (More in the Hot Rod category) can take 2 - 3 seconds to really get going at a somewhat decent speed. This tends to raise an eyebrow from me since the car's tires will screech and smoke while waiting for the "GO" signal, but then slow to a crawl when the event begins. Fortunately for the CPU vehicles, this slow acceleration issue doesn't seem to affect them at all, and you will see your opponents go from a dead stop to zipping away at a decent pace while you putter along, trying to build up momentum to get up and running. Each car has 9 nitros to use which can get you back up to speed quickly, but those should be used to get high point hits rather than just to get going again, which is what they tend to get used for sometimes. Lastly, the sound leaves something to be desired, since each car kind of gives a slowly accelerating growl of the car engine and ramming vehicles all make that screeching metal, crunching glass sound regarless of where the hit took place. The background music is a various assortment of punk / alternative tracks which seem REALLY out of place for this kind of game, but fortunately the Xbox hard drive can be used to implement your own vehicular mayhem music.  


So overall, Totaled! may or may not appeal to you, regardless of where you stand in the world of racing. Personally, I enjoy racing, figure 8 races, and games which revolve around them. I loved the Demolition Racer and Destruction Derby series on PSX and Dreamcast, and this game may be worth your while if you did also. This game can definitely prove to be a fun afternoon romp through flying glass and car parts for an individual or group of friends, and can be a good time killer on a rainy afternoon. Even if you are a racing or demolition fan, I would still run down to your local video store and try this one out first ... even before spending the low, low price of $29.99. I personally enjoyed Totaled! on the Xbox, and would recommend that you demolition derby and figure 8 fans out there at least give it a shot before just passing it off due to some bad press.


Gameplay: 6.7
Totaled! has a lot of strong points to be found. Good car selection, lots of tracks, lots of game modes, and decent control make for an entertaining game. Unfortunately, slow acceleration and speeds with some cars, as well as really slow load times, can override the good points for a lot of people and eventually cause it to be put up for a different, more fast paced racer. 


Graphics: 7.2
The cars and damage to them look really good, despite the fact that it's not up to the same standards as Wreckless or Rallysport ... and is definitely not pushing the limits of the XBox. Most backgrounds look pretty decent, but some also tend to look a little flat or sparsely populated.


Sound: 6.2
The cars in the game all tend to make a similar growling, accelerating noise and top speed sound. The screeching tires, shattering glass, and smashing metal sound good, but also happen regardless of where the cars are hit. The soundtrack is composed of actual punk / alternative bands, but dosen't fit into the whole demolition derby theme. After loading in my selection of Slipknot, (hed)PE, and Rob Zombie ... I found that it made the experience better.


Difficulty: Medium
Easy to pick up and get into, but events which happen after the first few are cleared can get a little challenging. The arcade mode has adjustable difficulty, but none during the career mode.


Concept: 8.8
Yes it's demolition derby ... and yes, it's been done before. This one has enough varying gameplay modes and arenas to set it apart as it's own entry into the world of four wheeled metal carnage.


Multiplayer: 7.5
Up to four players can compete to see who's the king of the chaos mountain. There is also an option to separate into teams as more of a coop style. Multiplayer tends to be more fun, but also contains the same issues found in the single player game.


Overall: 6.9
As much as I like this game, again despite it's shortcomings, I know that this isn't going to be for everyone. I would recommend that you racing and demolition fans out there owe it to yourself to at least rent it and give it a try. If you are more of a straight "racing only" person, you may not like what you find here ... but you never know. Even at $29.99, rent before buying. 

Above Average

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