Bandits: Phoenix Rising
Some games really just take their subject matter too seriously. Take Bandits: Phoenix Rising for example. I mean, we all know that life in a post-apocalyptic wasteland would be pretty grim. Roaming a ruined, featureless wilderness in a scrap metal shitbox, none but bloodthirsty vultures and slow-witted gang members for company, constantly battling for meagre resources in a wearisome and ultimately futile struggle for survival in a world devoid of life and hope. It’s no one’s idea of a picnic, is it?
But just because you’re setting a game in a shitty post-apocalyptic world, it doesn’t mean you have to simulate the experience right down to the suffering and futility, the relentless, life-sapping tedium. Unfortunately, Bandits manages to do just that.
The worst thing is, this really should have been a fun game. It’s from Swedish developer GRIN (makers of the ridiculously fast future racer Ballistics), a company that prides itself on making games that are fast, easy to play and above all, fun. What’s more, the concept is a sound one. You’re part of a notorious gang of driving, looting, shooting desperados called the Wolfpack, on a mission to raise hell and outsmart rival gangs such as the Crusaders and the Flaming Pumpkins. (Yes it’s a ridiculous name, but they’re merciless killers and really quite unkind, OK?) Along the way you have to engage in missions such as convoy raids, escort runs, canyon races and all-out gang clashes, all the while piloting your junked-up combat car, the Badger. There's also an upgrade system where you can earn new weapons and parts for your car. In short, all the ingredients for a fun arcade blast-about -or so you’d think.
Cruel And Twisted Metal
Somehow, Bandits manages to be one of the dullest experiences I’ve had since being stuck in a lift for four hours with a group of IT professionals and a cardboard sandwich. It’s not the worst game ever, it’s just that, like a true post-apocalyptic hinterland, there's really very little going on. The environments are uniformly drab, the combat repetitive and painstaking. The upgrade system is so poorly balanced you will have stopped caring long before you get to the more desirable weapons such as the sniper gun and missile launcher. And while some semblance of a plot does eventually emerge -something to do with raiding a city stronghold for a stash of gold and a mysterious doomsday weapon called the Phoenix - it’s really not a patch on Beyond Thunderdome. Not only that but there’s one or two annoying bugs in the mix as well. In its favour, the game is very well presented and technically proficient, taking advantage of all the latest graphics card tricks such as hardware T&L, pixelshading and chrome-mapping, whatever that is. But of course only those with top-end systems will be able to appreciate such wizardry.
The multiplayer deathmatches are also vaguely distracting, and you have the delightful option of uploading the truly awful dance/metal soundtrack to your MP3 player, but otherwise, there's very little to be salvaged from this brown stain of a game. We’d only recommend it if you’re looking for a chore, though you might want to try cleaning behind the fridge first.
Download Bandits: Phoenix Rising
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
As a rule, Aussie films are crap. I can say that, because I’m from Australia, and I’ve been forced to sit through more Aussie films than you. They’re always about delightfully quirky small-town characters or drag queens with hearts of gold and they only appeal to an international audience because the accents are funny (and you know they exaggerate those for your benefit too, mate). The only possible exception that springs to mind is Mad Max.
Not only a classic of its era, Mad Max and its sequel (the one without Tina Turner) have also spawned a whole genre of post-apocalyptic imitators, from Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and Cherry 2000 through almost every film directed by Kevin Costner.
Nowhere is this tradition more alive than in the realm of videogames, where we have thrilled to the roar of scrap-metal road hogs since before the beginning of time. Twisted Metal, Vigilante 8, Smuggler's Run... the list is long and dignified, but for some reason almost exclusively console-driven.
But fear not, as this oversight is about to be rectified with the impending arrival of Bandits: Phoenix Rising, a Mad Max-style driving game made just for PC, and making use of all the latest advances in graphics chip technology. It’s the latest game from our friends at GRIN, the high-tech Swedish developer that likes its name in all-caps and its games even bigger. Their previous effort, Ballistics, brought us the concept of racing inside a drainpipe, which proved to be surprisingly good fun despite the fact that it was essentially just a twist on the WipEout formula. Bandits too follows a well-established precedent. Gangs of unkempt petrolheads roam a battle-scarred wasteland. scrapping for resources and reputations in a brutal war on wheels. The fighting takes place in a variety of combat-ready rust buckets, cobbled together from spare parts and bristling with vicious hardware. Shotguns, grenades, nitro boosters - if it goes bang chances are you’ll find it in this post-apocalyptic hinterland.
You enter this familiar scene as the leaders of the notorious Wolf pack gang, Fennec and Rewdalf - driver and gunman respectively of the aforementioned death machines. They’re on a mission to outgun their foes and steal a fabled treasure from a city stronghold, and just to retain that Mad Max vibe. Rewdalf also has a ridiculous accent (though in this case it’s Scottish rather than Aussie). Along the way. you’ll face an impressive variety of missions ranging from pursuit, duels, train robberies and all-out gang wars. There’s also a robust set of multiplayer options, including a promising Teams mode with support for online clans and the promise of a persistent league. Rather than aiming for any startling innovation, Bandits simply hopes to be an entertaining four-wheeled shoot ’em up, and having played the preview build, we reckon it could just do the trick.
We’ve also strong-armed the developers into giving you a playable demo of the game on this month’s cover discs, so check it out if you haven’t already. It’s only a small taster of what's to come, and shows nothing of the snow - and grassbased levels, but it should whet your appetite for a bit of good old-fashioned, post-apocalyptic destruction.
I've been over vehicular-combat games for a while now. Sure, Twisted Metal was fun for the first 30 minutes and Vigilante 8 provided limited thrills, but I got bored with them as quick as it took to load them up. Maybe I just have a poor attention span, but the aforementioned titles failed to completely captivate me like most action games do. Not all is lost though, because Bandits: Phoenix Rising may very well have kindled an interest in the genre for me.
Bandits takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, largely similar to that of the cult classic Mad Max. Driving around in dune buggies armed with a variety of weapons and destroying anything that crosses your path is the call for order. Games like these are notorious for redundant gameplay and unfortunately, Bandits isn't the exception to the rule. Mission objectives are varied, but when it comes down to it, there's only one thing you really do: blow stuff up. By no means is this bad, because sometimes, mindless action can be just as fun as intelligent action, which is a saving grace for Bandits since it's exceptionally mindless when concerned with battle tactics. Fights usually boil down to circling or jousting each other until something blows up'not exactly what you can call refined action. But what Bandits lacks in depth, it makes up with style and substance. The dialogue is humorous and witty, and the story, while a bit unoriginal, keeps things interesting. On top of that, the game is plenty long and hard, posing a definite challenge even on the easiest difficulty level. Online, however, the multiplayer mode is barely adequate since there are only two deathmatch modes available. It's fun, but it could've been a whole lot better.
Technically, Bandits has all the right stuff. Hosting ample framerates and detailed vehicles, most everything looks great. Unfortunately, things can look boring despite all of its exceptional qualities. We're dealing with wastelands here so don't come expecting sprawling cities, but rather desolate and repetitive landscapes. Granted, the barren landscapes do look nice with detailed textures, but the lack of variety can grow tiresome as time wears. Some of the later missions break the mold, however, with detailed objects littered throughout.
'2.5+ hours of original music,'? is a lofty claim that graces the back of the Bandits: Phoenix Rising box. It lives up to the claim, but when the original music is monotonous metal and techno, it all sounds the same to me. Nothing outstanding, but nothing too obtrusive either. The voice acting is superb since there's a humorous overtone to it all that makes it interesting to listen to. Sound effects are standard fare with all the bells and whistles' well, booms and bangs actually.
Taken at face value, Bandits: Phoenix Rising has a lot to offer if you're not looking for anything particularly sophisticated. There's nothing new or innovative here to help revitalize this stale genre, but if you like your action fast and furious (and a bit mindless), then look no further.