Since 2008, we’ve had quite a few console games being developed in India. These have been developed by various studios and are spread across different platforms, but they've all had one thing in common – they were bad. While some were worse than others, they were all a far cry from what we’ve come to expect from international games. Another thing they’ve had in common is that they were all distinctly Indian in theme, whether it was the Indian mythology of Hanuman: Boy Warrior, the Tinkle license-bearing Cart Kings, or most recently, the Bollywood tie-in Ra.One. So it’s a welcome change to see an Indian game that isn’t going after solely the ‘desi’ audience.

Smash n Survive (SnS) is a vehicle combat game, much like Twisted Metal, and is developed by Hyderabad-based Version2Games. Having played some the other Indian console games released over the past few years, I went into SnS with a lot of caution and rock bottom expectations. But from the outset, you can tell that this is a far superior game than others we’ve seen from Indian studios. The attention to detail and the production values are at a level many notches below international standards, however, the first impression is still pretty good.

I'm getting a bit dizzy to be honest

I'm getting a bit dizzy to be honest

The presentation is very industrial, using greys and blacks with metal and stone textures. The sparse heavy metal soundtrack furthers the gritty feel the game is so obviously going for, but I wish there was more variety to the music. You can only listen to the same loop so many times before it starts driving you up the wall. That’s a minor annoyance though. The main menu is simple and functional, but well done. Visuals are far better than the other Indian PS3 games out there, but still far behind international standards. Textures seem low res and the environments don’t pack as much details as you would expect. Moreover, frame rates tend to be very inconsistent during split-screen multiplayer.

The meat of the SnS experience is its single player campaign, which is essentially just a series of events linked together via a ham-fisted storyline that is conveyed to you via lines of text between events. There are a total of 19 missions, which comprise checkpoint races, destruction derbies, deathmatches, plant/diffuse bombs, and ‘find your mate’. The game boasts of close to 30 vehicles, each segregated on the basis of strength, speed and acceleration. However, these attributes aren’t always accurate and don’t always behave as expected during events. Most vehicles also come loaded with weapons that you can use to take out opponenets. These include a sonic boom that pushes nearby vehicles out of the way, flame throwers, chainsaws, and fork lifts. However, thanks to the iffy hit detection, these weapons aren’t very effective, and most of the time, you’ll just find yourself relying on your driving skills to get the job done. There’s vehicle customization too, but this is only for cosmetic effect.

Can someone hit the lights?

Can someone hit the lights?

Vehicle handling is quite inconsistent too, and even within the same event, you’ll find your vehicle suddenly losing grip or sliding around in certain parts of the map. Cars with exceptionally high acceleration ratings will sometimes be slow out of the blocks. These aren’t persistent issues, but the fact that they creep up every now and then is quite disconcerting. Environments are quite varied, with a mix of large sand-box like spaces and smaller arenas. Opponent AI too is quite competent, but again the hit-detection issues hamper the experience in events like the destruction derbies, where you’re never sure how much damage a collision really has on you and your opponent.

Overall, the campaign is quite barebones, but there’s a decent amount of content in there, with lots of variety in event types and frequent rewards in the form of new vehicles. It’s enough to make you see the campaign all the way through. The game also includes a two-player split-screen multiplayer mode that features only a few of the event types found in the campaign. The checkpoint races are quite annoying as the GPS pointer seems to go haywire, and the plant/diffuse the bomb is pretty much useless. Destruction derbies can be fun, but the experience is sullied by frame rate isses, and a couple of times, the game froze on me during multiplayer, forcing a hard reset.

Your new ride

Your new ride

Smash n Survive is a commendable first effort by Version2Games. It offers a surprisingly large amount of content for a downloadable game, and there’s enough variety here to keep you interested through the campaign. It falls short in the presentation department and some technical inadequacies hold it back, but at the core it's a fairly competent vehicle brawler. It may not give Twisted Metal a run for its money, but it’s certainly proof that Indian developers can definitely create games for a global audience rather than restricting themselves to “desi” themes.

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