Every once in a while, a game in a common genre comes along and does something different, with either a new look or a gimmicky new play mechanic. Mayhem does just that, by taking an arcade racer, in the destruction derby realm, and giving it a unique look. Not only that, but it comes with a couple of pairs of cardboard retro 3D glasses; you know, the ones with the red and blue lenses that everyone still associates with 3D movies.
The gamplay is nothing new when it comes to destruction derby style mechanics. You race around a track or arena, and follow the objectives of the individual modes, while causing as much damage to the other vehicles as possible, as much as you can stand for your own enjoyment. The controls are also the standard fare, with the typical gas, brakes, view, and boost options. For the most part, everything works well and the game runs and progresses just as you have come to expect from modern racers. The AI challenges you and will chase you down in the sudden death scenarios, where it is just you and one other vehicle remaining. While the AI vehicles are usually easily defeated, they will still take the required amount of damage, and will not hesitate to ensure their own victory.
The visuals in the game really shine, especially for those fans of the gritty graphic novel style, that only a handful of titles have incorporated. There are few colors displayed, and are mostly used by damage indicators, words on the screen, or object markers. Everything else has a black and white, gritty feel to it. Combine this with the optional 3D effects that are compatible with any television or monitor out there, and the experience gets just that much richer. You can fully adjust the depth of the 3D effect in the settings menu, even down to playing completely without 3D, should you not feel like playing with the provided glasses on.
The soundtrack gets your heart pumpin’ nicely with the menus and in-game action, while the audio effects are just the standard engine noises and impact clips that most current-gen games have already mastered. When picking up items, the collection sound is very subtle, and doesn’t distract from the gameplay, proving the developers actually gave the notion some thought. When utilizing the boost feature while playing, the sounds used actually represent something you might hear from real cars, instead of the ridiculous rockets heard from other titles with similar features.
The single player career mode takes you through several levels, unlocking the next one as you earn enough stars for placing high enough in the various events. Each level includes the four game modes, but get progressively harder as you get to the higher levels. Once a level is unlocked, you have your choice of Demolition Derby, Banger Racing, Domination, or Eliminator races. You also have the option of selecting your choice of unlocked cars for each of the races, in one of six different vehicle classes. This will keep racing fans interested for a little while, but once you go through all of the levels there is little incentive to go through a career mode again, unless you feel the need to unlock everything and place 1st in every single event. There is a split-screen multiplayer option for those wanting some couch competition, as well as online multiplayer support for up to 8 players. The only downside to the online multiplayer is the lack of community playing the game, and the fact that it only offers two of the four game modes, leaving Domination and Eliminator fans with no online play.
One technical flaw with the Xbox 360 version, is the fact that if you install the game to your hard drive, for whatever reason, all of the achievements become disabled and you start to wonder if you are doing things correctly to unlock the seemingly standard set of achievements. Everything else seems to function correctly, and you can even successfully create save games without error. Uninstalling the game and running the title directly from the disc quickly corrects the issue, and the only annoyance at this point is the noisy spinning of the disc drive on the console. Of course, if you had played through most of the game already by now, the only way to unlock your missed achievements is to do another playthrough.
Overall, the game still proves to be fun, especially for fans of destruction derby style games that are looking for a new twist to get them interested in the genre again. The relatively small file size (less then 1GB), when installing the game, hints that the title could have been an XBLA or PSN release, but there would have been no quick and easy way to get gamers the free 3D glasses that are included right on the box. Thankfully, the game is budget priced and is polished enough to give racing fans something a little different and enough enjoyment when away from other mainstream racing titles.
*Zoo Games provided SlimGamer.com with a review copy.