Graveyard: Demolition Racer: No Exit

Out back of the Hardcore Gamer office you’ll find our Graveyard, where countless long-dead classics lie. We come here to pay our respects, to reminisce, and to wonder aloud what a passing mad doctor might be able do with all these corpses and some high-definition lightning.

Playing the demo for  DiRT Showdown reminded me of many things. One was how much I detest wacky capitalization, another was how the gameplay brought back memories of games gone by. Destruction Derby may have been the first demolition derby racer I played, but it wasn’t the best, and also that wasn’t the one I was pining for afterwards. That honor goes to Demolition Racer: No Exit for the Dreamcast. In my original review of the game over a decade ago, I praised it a lot (and used the tagline to shamelessly reference the legendary WWF tag team Demoliton’s famous theme which I expect to have blaring when DiRT Showdown hits shelves since a rock song about smashing, pain, and destruction is perfect for it.)

Looking at DR: NE with a decade of hindsight is interesting because the graphics sure aren’t “drop dead gorgeous” now, and yet they also aren’t the kind of old that one things of as bad. You can make out a lot of details on the cars, especially when it comes to smashing them up, which really does help even PS1 games like Vigilante 8 age slightly better. While the environments themselves are kind of muddy, you can still make out what they’re supposed to look like reasonably well and the skies look great. The racing/demolition derby aspect is still exciting, and no matter how many times I try, or how many…near decades now since Destruction Derby is closing in on being 20 years old, I will never actually win a virtual demolition derby. Maybe I’ll luck out and survive it as a mini-game in Saints Row. Maybe.

However, I’m still pretty good at the racing/destruction mode where your goal is to not only get in first, but also do so with enemies trying to smash you to bits. This was the best part of the game when it was new, and remains its best aspect now. It’s a blast to smash up vehicles to the point where they can’t finish, even if that comes at the expense of your own placement. I’d completely forgotten about all the boxes scattered around the stages, but was so grateful to get a health pickup when my car was pitch-black and smoking due to all the damage it had received. Granted, it started off as a black car, but now, it was at the point of being none more black and then boom, a green box saves the day. While T-bones are what you aim for during the demolition derby mode (and in your grocer’s fresh meat aisle), the most exciting attack was landing right on top of a rival ending their race instantly. That’s one of those things, like grabbing a fire flower and blasting away goombas, that will never get old.

What did get old was trying to use the DC’s analog stick to race. That thing is a tad bit on the sensitive side, and that didn’t make steering the slightly slippery cars around any easier. Thankfully, the trigger-based acceleration and braking controls work perfectly because that analog stick sucks now. Seriously, it’s bad even for the little Pong-style mini-game thrown in as a bonus. There’s also a car shooting mode that allows the use of a light gun, which I don’t have, and would require me to lug a…STANDARD DEFINITION TV out to use, so yeah, I just used the controller for that. It was amusing to shoot a car into a flaming mess as it barrels towards you, but the controls definitely fell short of using the DC pad for Virtua Cop 2. There’s also a football mini-game, but I haven’t unlocked it, so I don’t know what it is. Surprisingly, I’ve got about 80% of the game unlocked, including reverse tracks for all the racing courses. Man those were such a big deal back then, now, they’d cost $10 and only be available as DLC.

Despite the controls, I still enjoyed the racing stuff, and the mini-games are neat little diversions. The mostly rock soundtrack fits the smash-em-up vibe of the game, even if the rap/metal music really dates this in the late ’90s, and not in a good way since it’s mostly garage bands trying to sound like Korn. The sound effects are satisfying though and really do convey damage well, even if the explosions are kinda weak. I absolutely loved Demolition Racer: No Exit when it was new, and now, I’m glad I can still have some fun with it. It’s a shame it isn’t available for download on PSN since it was also a PS1 game, but if you were to find it on ebay, or at a thrift store, I’d say it’s definitely worth spending $10-$15 on it and having some fun. It’s a great pickup if you grew up in the ’90s and want a little flashback, or just want to give a younger person a little snapshot of the time. Better to use this than the Backstreet Boys, unless you have a sledghammer handy.