Vigilante 8

a game by Activision, and Luxoflux Corp.

Platform: Nintendo 64Nintendo 64

Genre: Racing

See also:Vigilante Games

Do you remember the Seventies? Big haircuts, bigger trousers, Party Sevens, chunky medallions and hugely impractical shoes. Oh, and if Vigilante 8 is to be believed, gangs of heavily-armed motorists running riot in the western United States. Well, sounds a lot more fun than the real thing!

Converted from the PlayStation game, which itself was based on the PC title Interstate '76, Vigilante 8 is set in an alternate 1970s where groups of Mad Max-style automotive terrorists are blasting around the place, blowing stuff up and being generally troublesome.

The Coyotes (for 'tis they) are attempting to seize control of America's depleting oil supplies, and a group of vigilantes (named, thrillingly, the Vigilantes) hired by the citizenry is trying to stop them. That's what passes for a plot.

Not that it matters. Once you get into the game, things are very simple - if it's got wheels, blow it up! Each vehicle in Vigilante 8's world comes complete with its very own factory-fitted machine gun and enough ammunition to fight a small war. This might sound ideal for those fed up of being caught in jams on the M25, but in the harsh world of 1970's America it's not nearly deadly enough. Luckily, your car can also support up to three bolt-on weapons systems as well, and as luck would have it these are scattered liberally throughout the landscape for you to find. In addition to these, each car has its own distinctive super weapon -- these only have a limited number of shots, but anything hit by them will be heading to the nearest scrapyard quicker than you can say "Starsky".

A Bad Mother -- (Shut Your Mouth)

Vigilante 8 supports up to four players. The one-player game has three modes: Quest, Arcade and Survival. Arcade is a straightforward 'kill' em all' rampage on a single level, while Survival pits you against waves of increasing numbers of enemies. The aim is just to see how long you can last before being blown to pieces!

We're In The Movies

Well, not exactly. Unless an old magic lantern show is your version of a trip to the Odeon. Each character has their own 'movie', which plays -- well, flips through stills -- when they complete their own quest missions. Here's how Chassey Blue's life turns out...

The Quest mode is the real meat of the game. In this, each character visits four different stages to fulfil their own agendas -- whether it's making it big in Hollywood or being taken away by extraterrestrials -- by destroying particular enemies and defending certain buildings from attack (or, if you're playing as one of the Coyotes, by blasting them to atoms). Completing each character's mission is the key to unlocking the hidden characters within the game, shown by a little league table affair in the Options menu. Completing a mission also unlocks a 'movie', although it's really just a bunch of still pictures with some text scrolling underneath. No FMV for you, Nintendo boy.

One nice feature is the way that the missions can also be completed in the two-player co-operative game, which obviously makes things a lot easier. Dealing with multiple enemies can be tricky, especially when they're all ganging up on you, so having a mate to draw their fire and pop up for sneak attacks not only adds to the fun of the game, but makes those secrets much more accessible.

We Got A Convoy

The four-player game is tremendous fun -- it's almost Goldeneye on wheels. All the terrain and obstacles in the one-player game are present, so smart players can use level features like flame jets or tidal waves to their advantage.

Incredibly, Vigilante 8 manages to keep the speed up even with four people blasting away at each other. There is occasional slowdown when things get really hectic, but for the most part multiplayer games are as fast as the one-player game, at the slight expense of frame rate.

Even without an Expansion Pak, Vigilante 8 has looks on its side. The scenery is well-detailed (plus almost all of it can be destroyed) and varied, and annoyances like fogging are kept to a minimum by the clever way the landscapes are drawn -- distant scenery is filled in as a coloured silhouette, so its shape obscures the sky backdrops without slowing things down. As you get closer, the textures gradually fade in. It doesn't completely eliminate pop-up, but it's a damn sight better than having everything vanish into a Turok-style haze.

Although there's a sort of PlayStation-like feel to the visuals, which isn't surprising given the game's roots, it doesn't really matter -- everything's moving so fast you don't have time to gripe. Besides, if you're playing with an Expansion Pak it's miles ahead of Sony's box anyway. There is a slight speed drop with the Expansion Pak, especially in four-player games, so if deathmatches are your thing you might be better off keeping it in lores.

As far as audio goes, it's more or less what you'd expect -- roaring V8 engines, wincing crashes, rumbling explosions and nondescript guitar 'rawk'. There's also some speech to add a little redneck I flavour, though snappy Tarantinoesque dialogue isn't on the menu. Turn the sound on your TV up and neighbours will think you're doing some engine tuning in your living room.

Smokey And The Bandit

Every game has its annoying quirks, and Vigilante 8 is no exception. The way the screen split in two-player games always defaults to the less-than-helpful vertical split is a pain, as this is just about the least useful way imaginable of playing a game that depends on you being able to see the landscape. Visually, some of the polygon shapes -- both for vehicles and scenery -- change as you get closer, with a very obvious pop from one model to another as extra detail is added in. It doesn't affect the gameplay at all, but it is rather disconcerting. There's also some dodgy clipping, as quite often you can drive straight through obstacles and other cars. It's as though only the front bumper of your car has any collision detection on it. What is this, Ridge Racer?

But who cares? Vigilante 8 is roaring good fun to play, and that's the most important thing. The presence of secret characters and tracks means there's some longevity in there (though admittedly, the two-player co-operative mode means you'll probably find them all fairly quickly). The multiplayer game is also excellent, and the upcoming Cmageddon will be hard-pressed to better it. If you want driving mayhem with a funky Seventies groove, Vigilante S delivers a high-octane treat. Yee-hah!

Vigilantes Coyotes

Chassey Blue

An FBI agent who left the Bureau to join the Vigilantes, Chassey also has her sights set on Hollywood.

  1. Car: '67 Rattler
  2. Special Weapon: Gridlock

Sheila

Convoy's young niece, Sheila is a wild child whose reason for joining the Vigilantes is fun, fun, fun!

  1. Car: '74 Strider
  2. Special Weapon: Tantrum Gun

Slik Clyde

Big collars, bigger hair -- Clyde thinks he's cool, and plans to depose Convoy as Vigilante boss.

  1. Car: '70 Clydesdale
  2. Special Weapon: White Lightning

Jonh Torque

Convoy's right-hand man, Torque is the master of badass tunes with an afro that just won't quit.

  1. Car: '69 Jefferson
  2. Special Weapon: Bass Quake

Dave

Peace, man! Hippie Dave is a UFO nut who joined the Vigilantes to see if the truth is out there.

  1. Car: '70 Van
  2. Special Weapon: Invade

Convoy

The leader of the Vigilantes, this big-'tached cowboy trucker is as hard as they come.

  1. Car: '72 Moth Truck
  2. Special Weapon: Explosive Tyres

Loki

A former military pilot who once worked at the Site-4 secret base, Loki is obsessed with flying a UFO.

  1. Car: '73 Glenn 4x4
  2. Special Weapon: Scatter Missiles

Boogie

Medallion alert! Big-trousered Boogie likes nothing more than strutting his funky stuff at the disco.

  1. Car: '76 Leprechaun
  2. Special Weapon: Disco Inferno

Houston

The leather-clad cyborg chick's programming gives her no choice but to fight with the Coyotes.

  1. Car: '75 Palamino
  2. Special Weapon: Super Fantastic Death Ray 3-AX

Beezwax

A redneck farmer driven mad by government radioactive waste, Beezwax is out for revenge!

  1. Car: '70 Stag Pickup
  2. Special Weapon: Gamma Swarm

Molo

A New York kid, porky dork Molo stole his school bus and headed west to join the Coyotes.

  1. Car: '66 School Bus
  2. Special Weapon: Oil Slick

Sid Burn

The Coyotes' leader, Burn intends to destroy the US oil supply and claim $100 million as payment.

  1. Car: '69 Manta
  2. Special Weapon: Double Cannon

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Vigilante 8 Downloads

Nintendo 64 Vigilante 8 download

Nearly a year ago, Activision decided to jump into the highly competitive PSX car combat market. It seemed that everyone was trying to challenge Twisted Metal for the car combat crown. Fast forward to today and you will find that while the PSX is loaded with these games, the N64 is starved for them. In fact, they have nothing that even comes close to the auto carnage offered on the PSX, until now. Activision now has the opportunity to lead the pack and set the bar for car combat on the N64, and let me just say they did a pretty darn good job.

After playing the game for about 30 seconds, it became very obvious to me that this game was a direct port of the PSX version in terms of the back-story, characters and majority of the combat arenas. With that in mind, please read my review of the PSX version of Vigilante 8, then come back and I will give you the lowdown on the changes that have been made between the versions.

Gameplay

Not everything is the same between this version and the PSX version. Before I go into the differences, I do want to mention one thing that is the same. This game is a blast to blow stuff up in. That was one of the major draws to the PSX version and it still holds true for this version. If you enjoy blowing up everything, from trees to buildings to other players, you will be in heaven. Just like the PSX counterpart, if you see it, most likely it can be blown up. Bottom line is that is what this game is all about.

Ok, now on to the differences. First off, I complained about control in the PSX version. I had some control difficulties with the PSX version, but these issues have pretty much been resolved in this version. The problem I was having with the PSX version had to do with the forward and reverse controls being poorly located, causing me to go in reverse when I was trying to turn, and other similar issues. Well, the control scheme is laid out differently on the N64 version, requiring you to hold a button down and the stick in a direction before you will head that direction. What this means is that you really have to try to go forward or backwards now. Fixing this problem made me smile.

Another thing that is different is that they have added a couple of bonus arenas to shoot for. The game starts with eight arenas that are very similar to the PSX arenas, but there are a couple of N64 exclusive arenas, including a bright cartoony-looking arena. This will give veteran players something new to shoot for if they have already played through the PSX version.

The last improvement in terms of gameplay comes on the multiplayer front. They have added a four-player split-screen option that allows you to blast away at your three closest friends. I think it is now official. Nintendo 64 is the console of choice if you are looking for four-player action. I personally don't like playing games that are split down that small, but a lot of people really enjoy it. I will say that if there is any game on the N64 that I enjoy playing in split-screen mode, this is it. There is just something more satisfying about blowing up your buddies. The game also has a two-player cooperative mode, which is more up my alley. I really enjoy games that let you play in tandem and I wish more games would add this feature in. A big pat on the back to Activision for getting this in the game.

I do think it needs to be mentioned that the missions are basically the same as the PSX game, so if you have played through it, your only motivation to play through this game is to unlock a couple of new arenas. I think the missions are way too short and can be too easy at times. Don't get me wrong. They are fun, but they just seem to end a bit too soon.

Graphics

The other area where the game has been upgraded is in the graphics department. Everything is crisp and clear and the game even plays in a high resolution mode if you have the Expansion Pak. The game does suffer from a little slowdown when there is a lot of action on the screen and the explosions can look a little grainy, but other than that the game looks great. I think the vehicles were more detailed and cleaner-looking as well as the arenas. The game has a surprisingly low amount of fogging that we have all come to expect from the N64, which is always a plus in my book.

Bottom Line

Overall, this game is not leaps and bounds above the PSX version, but if you do not own a PSX this game is worth picking up. As of this writing, you will not find anything else like it on the N64. If you enjoy blowing stuff up, you should be good and satisfied after a few rounds. Also, if multiplayer is your thing, car combat games really cater to multiplayer action so you should be blowing up your buddies for hours on end. The single player is a bit short and anticlimactic, but still worth playing for a while.

reggie posted a review
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