Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions
Drowning in recently murky water with the Azuriks and Nightcaster, Xbox needed something fresh to save it from the post-holiday software lull. Wreckless may be the chosen one. It's kind of like Grand Theft Auto III if your character was Krazy Glued to his car seat. Like GTA3, Wreckless has the uncanny ability to change its personality mid-game. One mission you're just trying to bash into as many mob cars as you can; the next you're street racing with the local juveniles. Later you'll have to negotiate narrow indoor ramps to rescue a trapped comrade. The variety is excellent, and while I'd only touch this game again to mess with the quirkier unlockable vehicles, it was challenging enough to last me a few days. Wreckless makes up for its slash-and-burn gameplay in the visual department, though. Through what I have to assume is some kind of mystical voodoo magic, the game cleanly details every frame of a 100-mph car chase without batting an eye. You also have a choice of 16 visual filters that range from black-and-white to mock-cel-shaded. Style is obviously high on Wreckless' priority list, and that attitude carries into the gameplay, so those who are expecting a tight racer, be warned. It feels like every vehicle's tires are jacked with helium--a stray wedge of Swiss cheese in the street would easily send you rolling over. Maybe it's not a fault, maybe it's just part of the style, but I could live without it.
It's weird--I like to go fast, blow crap up, and drive on the sidewalk, but for some reason doing so in this game isn't quite the same. Seriously, Wreckless will dazzle you at first. The scenery is like nothing I've seen before; it's photorealistic at times (especially when using the black-and-white filters). And the sheer amount of chaos and destruction you can cause makes Crazy Taxi look mild. That stuff is amazing. What isn't: the sloppy-handling vehicles and limited number of missions. Half are comprised of nothing more than ramming enemy cars into submission. More of everything (I'm greedy) would be nice, but it's still a good time.
Being a fan of the Runabout games on the PSi and Dreamcast helped prepare me for the similar traffic-causing chaos of Wreckless. While the goofy characters are nothing more than plot-fodder to further the mission-based adventures, I ate it up like candy. Whizzing past crowded streets and plazas, crashing into double-decker buses, running down Yakuza escorts, and plowing through streetside cafes is my idea of a swell time. Though some levels are straightforward search-and-destroy missions, others have you doing Crazy Taxi-esque jumps and stunts. The visual filters make for a psychedelic treat, but at its core this is just good, mindless fun.
Download Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions
As far as racing games go, I'm a pretty traditional sort of fellow. Give me something with lots of speed, or great handling, in a setting that's either realistic or sci-fi, and you've got a happy camper here. I prefer a good variety of cars, ranging from off-roaders to sports machines, and generally, the gameplay has to be quick and loose, lest it bore me with controls that just take too long to get used to.
To that end, Wreckless didn't appear to meet any of my criteria at first. A spectacularly beautiful game, the biggest promise I'd been given from the trailers was the idea of driving a tank down the streets of Tokyo.
That's right, a tank. Still, the designers of Wreckless apparently didn't consult me before creating this title, as normally, I'd didn't have any of the features that thrilled me. Dauntless, I plowed into it, looking for my way to truly enjoy this title. With no trace of multiplayer, I was getting ready to dive in, alone, to enjoy or suffer an interesting little game.
Fortunately, I wasn't let down. Wreckless has two single player mission modes, a time trial, and...that's it. The single player modes let you play as two female police officers, the Flying Dragons, special operatives that tackle truly outrageous crimes, or a pair of spies working for the government. Both storylines pit you against the crime boss Tiger Takagi, a powerful man in the Japanese Yakuza. Set in Hong Kong, you're the only force protecting the innocent public...actually, given how much of the city you destroy, it's a wonder they don't present you with a special commendation for truly outrageous collateral damage. You've got to complete a series of objectives on each mission to continue to the next, driving a collection of what can only be considered some of the strangest vehicles ever.
Take on Time Trial, and you'll be beating your time for higher points. Using any of the vehicles you've unlocked from the single player game, you can compete against yourself to try and beat your best score. Aside from those modes, there isn't anything else to marvel about Wreckless. It's an arcade style car game, without a multiplayer feature, and while that might seem limiting, it does pay off, at least as a good rental.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
It's a racing game controlled with the Xbox controller, so you don't need to worry much about controlling it. Accelerate and brake is handled with the triggers, while the left analog stick controls the driving and to right your viewpoint. Don't worry, it auto-centers behind the car while you drive, and with the nice addition of a parking brake, you'll have plenty to think about while you're speeding along. In particular, if anything, you must take careful note to learn how to break. This game handles movement somewhat...funkily, and being able to stop on a dime has made the difference between success and failure in more than one of my games.
The single player storyline is quick, and relatively painless. To start off with, each mission is timed, so you'll need to learn to finish quickly. You breeze through each mission with a selection of vehicles, the choice of which can and will determine how well you do on a given assignment. Choose the supercar for a mission more suited for the buggy, and you'll regret it. Fortunately, each mission can be repeated as many times as you'd like, and you only need complete objectives to move onto the next batch of missions. As you go on, you'll get new cars, and with new cars comes new mayhem. Survive to the right mission, and you'll even get access to a tank. Trust me, you'll love it. Especially with all the stuff you can destroy.
Your enemies are varied and numerous, usually taking the forms of either Yakuza cars, or tanks. They can be flipped, bashed, crashed, and otherwise dented, and eventually explode, knocking them out of the action and usually giving you a few extra seconds on the clock. Your car can have the snot knocked out of it, but you won't actually explode, so kudos to the developers for making yet another amazing indestructible police vehicle. Add to this the fact that you can easily flip your car a few dozen times, and you'll find that, while the cars do drive somewhat realistically, you definitely aren't confined by any paltry thing as physics.
The last feature that I must mention is the filter. After each mission, you can view a replay of your performance. It'll take you through a neat little movie of your game, only it'll apply these filters to it, and change around camera angles, making it look like you're watching some neat tricked out movie. Once you beat the game all the way round with the highest difficulty, you can use those filters while you play, and they're an amazing boon to the game graphically. I don't know if I've ever seen anything cooler than watching a battle tank blaze away in downtown with a chase camera that keeps changing positions, occasionally switching to black & white, embosses, and even night vision.
As stylized as they are, the graphics in Wreckless are gorgeous. Taking place in a gigantic digital version of Hong Kong, it's a well detailed and absolutely beautiful title. Explosions are intense, nothing looks jaggy, and the screen occasionally blurs your surroundings when you really amp up the speed. Add the filters in the replays, and it looks great.
There wasn't much for me to listen to with all the action on the screen, so all I can say is that the voice acting was good, and what little music they had seemed appropriate. I wouldn't call it the game's strong point though, as nowadays, it takes something special in the sound effects department (what with engine noise and the like) to get me excited.
An excellent arcade title, I'd recommend Wreckless to any of my friends. It's got good gameplay, great graphics, and is just this side of difficult, leaving you with a good challenge on your hands. My almost singular complaint is that, like all arcade games, it goes by real quick. A newbie should be able to beat the entire game, start to finish, with everything unlocked, on the hardest difficult, in about 10 hours. Someone like myself could probably do it in an hour or two.