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Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars

Once a millennia mankind is faced with the most pertinent of questions, to which the answer could bring a thousand years of peace or incite a war that would rage on through the decades.

“What would it be like to play soccer using radio controlled cars?”

Well worry not fearful masses, developer Psyonix Studios has delivered the means to an end, and in such I deliver to you the answer: Exactly how you would expect. Engaging, and at times amusing, but frustrating beyond belief.

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Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (SARPBC for the remainder of this article, I am not typing that long-winded title any more than necessary) is the first original release from the North Carolina “war room” team, made available Oct. 9 on the PlayStation Network. Proudly touting the “Powered by Unreal Technology” logo at startup, SARPBC throws players in soccer-style arenas in what can only be described as an ultra-realistic take on the inanity of driving a Radioshack-style RC car into a giant metal ball until somebody accidentally nets a goal.

Development historyWhile Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars is developer Psyonix Studios first original release, the team has previous experience writing code and game-types for Gears of War, Unreal Tournament 2004, Unreal Tournament 3, as well as porting Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia to the Playstation 3.A goofy, arcade-style mess of a product, SARPBC attempts to mesh Unreal-esque “physics-based manoeuvrability” with the sort of conceptual thinking that gave us bargain-bin titles like Freestyle Razor Scooter on the PlayStation One. Consisting of mini-games, tournament matches and online play, SARPBC tries really hard to deliver its promises of “breathtaking saves, awe-inspiring shots on goal and gruesome demolishes,” but falters in the face of serious design and control issues.

The premise is just as stated above: use your decal-coated clown car in a team or one-on-one game of soccer. Players are set on one of three available fields, armed with the ability to hop, double jump, roll and boost in hopes of knocking an oversized ball into the opposing teams goal. Add the ability to shunt and destroy enemy cars coupled with a floaty take on the law of gravity and SARPBC falls comfortably in the category of under-developed, overpriced downloads.

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“SARPBC falls comfortably in the category of under-developed, overpriced downloads.”On the positive Battle-Cars is a visually clean game, and while not terribly creative in style it is definitely one of the most solid-looking PSN downloads. The arenas are limited but easily discernible, the cars themselves vary in appearance and some of the smaller effects, such as boosting to “supersonic” speeds and explosions, are well executed. There is a definite cartoony feel to the levels and cars, whether intentional or not, and it’s hard to tell if the development team aimed at creating an action title which seemingly borrows from the Micro Machines book of design.

The in-game music doesn’t do much to deter from the goofy game concept and sounds as forgettable as any title song or stage theme I’ve ever purposely driven from memory. The clashes and crunches of tiny metal cars slamming one another does the job, and the remainder of the sound effects are as run of the mill as they come.

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To be completely fair, and somewhat contradictory to earlier paragraphs, SARPBC isn’t entirely unenjoyable. Sure the visuals and sound are mundane yet workable, and the core gameplay is sort of an odd anagram to be sure, but early matches in the tournament mode can be genuinely entertaining. Quick moments of glee as six tiny rocket-powered cars make a mad rush towards a bouncing ball in the center of a sand-covered arena occasionally slip through the one element that truly brings SARPBC down: bad controls.

Instead of writing a set code for controlling the Battle-Cars, it seems that Psyonix Studios instead attached a dozen motion-capture nodes to actual RC cars and then proceeded to drive them into soccer balls. I almost want to categorize Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars as a simulation game because it perfectly exemplifies the experience of trying to manoeuvre a hunk of battery-powered plastic into another moving object: obnoxiously difficult and a true test of patience.

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“While matches occasionally start off on the right foot, intense lag and control bugs plague an otherwise fun romp with other players.”Online play is a whole other slew of trouble-shoots. While matches occasionally start off on the right foot, intense lag and control bugs plague an otherwise fun romp with other players. The few online games that didn’t error-out resulted in some of SARPBC’s best moments, mainly due to the fact that my opponents were about as proficient as I was. Unfortunately these are short-lived as network issues bog down gameplay and often times override any control the player has over their vehicle, replacing the rocket-powered battle-cars with stuttering, seizure-induced roadblocks.

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars is one of those “what if” games. What if the controls weren’t a mess? What if the multiplayer mode wasn’t riddled with bugs? At its core SARPBC is workable and can be fun at times, but fails to exceed the bare-bones requisites of overall design. There are definitely better ways to spend $14.99 in the PlayStation Store.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2008.

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