360 XBLA Review - Scrap Metal

11th April 2010 - One of the Block Party 4, Scrap Metal is a top-down racer built for fun. It mainly excels in the multiplayer side of things and can give you and your mates a ton of fun for hours on end. But how long can fun last for a game like this? Does it have enough content to keep the action enjoyable for long? Scrap Metal aims to be a part favourite and one for the collection, but can it deliver? Read on to find out.

We have all most likely played one or two games very similar to this in our gaming lifetimes, and to put it simply; this is just like them. Scrap Metal is a top-down racer where brutal rivalry and non-stop barrages of bullets rule all. You find yourself in control of a series of increasingly powerful cars built to the brim with firepower. Take on other drivers in fast-paced races and destruction derby matches and shoot, claw and smash your way to the top. That’s the pretence of the games single player ‘story’, but apart from getting a hang of things and learning the ropes, you probably wont be spending much time there.

Speaking of learning the ropes, Scrap Metal delivers its content in a very flavourless fashion. The first few missions will fly right past you, then the next will have you stuck in a ditch with a headache and become quite frustrating. The entire camping is like this, and continuously jumps back and forth from being rightfully challenging, to completely simple and back again to being maliciously infuriating. The games learning curve is all over the place and this is more of a reason why the games single player plain and simply fails. Another attributing factor to Scrap Metals learning curve issue is the very awkward controls. Which ever of the two control schemes you choose, the up-top camera angle really drives a nail through the playability. Tight turns and slight jumps turn into uncontrollable power slides and pitfalls.

But the game isn’t built for single player. Everything about it screams multiplayer, and if you heed its call, you wont be disappointed. While best enjoyed with a few mates and some drinks at home, it also has online capabilities. Take the fight online, and you will soon see that in a somewhat poor decision, you can only race another 3 players, filling the screen with bad AI-controlled bots. Its these bots which actually bring down the potentially great multiplayer, but look past them and there is still fun to be had. Racing around the tight and stylish tracks and arenas you will be blasting your friends away for hours. It’s a real shame the developers didn’t allow for more than 4 player at once, because that could have made this really worth its asking price, but even with just 4, you will still get more than your fair share of fun out of it.

Scrap Metals gameplay may not be up the challenge, but it sure looks the part. For an arcade game, the graphics are pretty outstanding. The levels look and feel as they should, bringing a sense of the ‘Junk Yard Mayhem’ the games theme was going for. This is done by dark and dirty textures and a great array of intellectual environment design.

The cars can be customized enough to have you feeling they’re your own, and due to the plethora of colour schemes and paintjobs at your disposal, turn the game into a bling-happy fight-fest, adding its own value to the already over-the-top action.

To say Scrap Metals soundtrack wasn’t fitting would be an understatement. The game has itself a hard rock/heavy metal soundtrack which really suit’s the style and play style, adding that little bit of extra enjoyment to the endless multiplayer romps. But apart from the fitting soundtrack, the only way to describe the games sound effects is unsatisfactory. Its all just simple and unstimulating stuff, whose bangs and clashes don’t manage to have you on the edge of your seat.

For the very reasonable price we pay for practically every arcade game on the XBLA, we cant ask for much without sounding like greedy lowlifes. So when a game delivers a fun experience and something a little different from the rest, we’re sure to be happy, right? Well in this case, wrong. Scrap Metal takes a higher asking price than it should have, and burns a 1200 Microsoft Point hole right in our wallets. While the game isn’t entirely a waste, an asking price like that for a under worked single player game and some multiplayer enjoyment is still a little too steep. That’s usually the price reserved for really high end games a la Castle Crashers. With far greater titles available for that price and under (such as the rest of this years Block Party titles), make sure your knee deep in points before you jump at this one.

Over-the-top and out-of-control, Scrap Metals mental car racing action is solid to the bone, but the way its delivered and how it plays ruin the experience. For a game that was full of potential and one genre fanatics were looking forward to, Scrap Metal didn’t deliver on what it should have, instead breaking the games single player mode and resting firmly on the shoulders of the multiplayer carnage. With some mates, its still a mighty enjoyable experience, but for its asking price there are still better. Decent, but nothing special.

AAG SCORE: 6.2/10

+ Multiplayer is fast, furious and fun
+ Suitable soundtrack that turns up the heat of the battle
+ For an XBLA game, it looks pretty neat

- Single player is a waste of time
- Bad learning curve and frustrating controls
- Too expensive for what we’re getting out of it

Reviewed & Written By John Elliott