Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars Preview
I can't figure why people watch sports. There's just nothing there for me. Now maybe if we mixed sports, say like mixing bowling with synchronized swimming—or added explosions to sports—that'd be worth watching. I met this week with Psyonix, a group of Raleigh, NC game developers and I think they're onto something. They're about to release Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, the hybrid sports game of my dreams. You know what they say about great minds...
Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Cars (from here on referred to as SARPBC) is an arena-based, online vehicle sports game, wherein players compete in a soccer-ish game but with cars. And rockets. And an exploding ball. Think World Cup with a pinch of Death Race 2000.
Like in soccer, the point of the game is to avoid being killed by angry, stampeding fans. I'm kidding! The point of the game is to score as many goals as possible. The difference is, you don't kick the ball across the field; you herd it toward the goal in a dune buggy, monster truck or sports car. Oh, and by the way, when you knock the ball into the goal, it explodes. (I suggest arm wrestling to see who plays goalie.) Two vehicle types will be available at game start and five more unlock as you go. Feel free to pick your favorite since no car is any more supersonic, acrobatic or rocket-powered than any other.
So yeah, the game's a kind of demented version of the most popular sport on earth but what makes it SARPBC? Well, the “supersonic” and the “rocket powered” comes from zooming over the bright yellow boost pads littered all over the playing field. Wheeling over these pads fills an onscreen boost gauge, which when full, lets you go supersonic via rocket boosters. That means when you push the O button, your cute little jalopy becomes a hurtling projectile of death, annihilating everything in its path. If two players were to go supersonic and aim for each other, well...you can only imagine.
If the thought of being hit by an automotive missile makes you squeamish, don't worry; vehicles don't take damage. When you're hit, you immediately turn into a ball of flame. It's no biggie though, since upon death you immediately respawn on the field and seconds later, you're back in action.
OK, that's the supersonic and rocket-powered. Where's the “acrobatic”? SARPBC is being built with the Unreal 3 Engine and the game's physics take full advantage of it. In addition to being able to whiz around the playing field at crazy speeds, all the cars can jump, double-jump, powerslide, roll, spin, and dodge. Dodging in particular causes some insanity because every dodge makes you go faster. Do it enough times and you'll go supersonic and bounce off the arena walls like a ball in an overloaded pachinko machine.
Take advantage of the physics-based fun in several game modes—Tutorial, Single Player and Multi-player—all designed to pull you as quickly as possible into the madness. Tutorial mode teaches you all the fancy pants moves you'll need to win but if after playing it, you still think your skills need some spit and polish, Single-player Tournament or Mini Game mode give you even more opportunity to improve. Tournament mode consists of a series of three-minute matches against the game, played in unlockable arenas against AI that gets progressively craftier. Mini Game mode offers quirky matches with different takes on the core gameplay, emphasizing the use of individual skills.
Depending on the goals scored in both Tournament and Mini Game mode, you're given a star rating from one to five, which determines your ranking. Other stats are tracked as well, like shots taken, and the number of times you touch the ball. Both stats and stars grant you trophies, some more desirable than others (who wouldn't rather have MVP over “Slowpoke”?).
Single Player mode is great for learning, but really it's just an appetizer, whetting your appetite for the Multi-player main course. Up to 4-players in splitscreen and up to 8-players online mix it up in riotous five-minute matches. Create your own teams or use the rank-based matchmaking system to be set up with players of a similar level. Like Single Player, Multi-player tracks team stats and ranking, as well as supporting buddy lists and league play.
Tracking stats is one way to demonstrate your team's dominance but isn't it more fun to show than tell? Every goal scored in SARPBC is followed by an instant replay which can be saved and edited. In-game tools let you zoom the camera in and out as well as focusing the camera on the ball or on individual players. You can add a little Fast and Furious by adjusting the video timeline, adding key points to it, or changing the play speed from slow-mo to blur-fast. Record up to ten minutes of arena highlights, review your video at the touch of a button and upload it to YouTube right from the Playstation Network. If you prefer a higher resolution version of your masterpiece, save it to your PS3 hard drive.
Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Cars is shaping up nicely to fill the ever-challenging “arena-based-competitive-hybrid-sports-game-with-exploding-balls” niche. The game is very close to completion and it's looking good. Wannabe stunt drivers—look for it this Fall on the Playstation Network.