The cops are hot on my tail as I recklessly zoom over the bridge and into the heart of the city. The skyscrapers come into view as scads of innocent drivers desperately attempt to avoid my path of destruction and fail. As I smash into anything I can at high speeds and the authorities up their efforts, I feel an odd sense of peace and calm. Time slows to a near-standstill as I fly through an upcoming roadblock, and everything around me explodes in a fiery blaze of glory. I am a madman, and I've come to reap utter destruction.
Developer Hutch's sequel to 2012's Smash Cops, Smash Bandits, flips the tables and places you in the driver's seat as a criminal who's hell-bent on mayhem and fame. Your one goal is to crash, crush, and drive through anything you can. Doing so brings increasing attention from the press, which in turn earns you cash to spend on anything from better cars, helpful upgrades, and over-the-top special skills. You'll start in a plain-Jane compact that certainly gets the job done, but the more you smash, the sweeter your vehicle becomes and the more options for upgrades open up.
In addition to passive upgradeable abilities like more speed or better handling, you'll be able to unlock cool moves like ramming nearby cops off the road, causing them to explode. Eventually your vehicle will be a maxed-out sportster that will destroy just about anything on the screen. It is, in a word, satisfying. You'll even be able to hop into a speedboat and cut a swath of destruction on the water. This is a nice addition that not only creates variety, but showcases the beautifully rendered 3D world. Smash Bandits is a beautiful game, particularly when it comes to realistic explosions or the sheer number of on-screen assets it can handle.
You'll be bringing the ruckus alongside any number of licensed tracks (KISS's “Detroit Rock City” being the crowning jewel of the soundtrack), which accent the action brilliantly. These songs are mutable from the pause menu, though why you would want to cruise and destroy without them would be baffling. Similarly, sound effects can be muted, and even though Smash Bandits can't boast the greatest sound design in the biz, you'll want to hear every squealing tire, every crunched bumper, and every earth-shaking explosion. The play-by-play narration in the form of a helicopter reporter is probably the coolest part of the game sound-wise. The voice actress nails the familiar cadence of the television news-person, and it's fairly thrilling to not only smash everything in sight, but to be cast in the role of high-speed chase protagonist.
Smash Bandits comes with full Game Center support. There are tons of achievements to unlock, online leaderboards to track your progress versus that of your friends, and full Facebook integration. This title stands on its own two feet without these additions, but it is always fun to complete various challenges, and it adds an objective-based layer to the chaos.
Perhaps most impressive of all is that Hutch has managed to create a virtual control scheme for Smash Bandits that actually works. Your vehicle accelerates by pressing down behind the car and turns by dragging your finger to the left or right. It's actually a small and simple aspect, but these controls are so wonderfully responsive and easily accessible that even gaming rookies can jump right in and get smashing. It is, in fact, not an overstatement to call the control mechanics a triumph. Far too often, the virtual joystick and/or buttons hinder what may have been perfectly playable games otherwise, and this ease of play translates into dozens of addictive hours.
The one thing that keeps Smash Bandits from a perfect score is the goofy, barely-there story. It's doubtful that anyone would have complained had it not existed, and the Dukes of Hazard-y Sheriff McBride/pointless co-pilot add literally nothing to the overall experience. Think of it like that first Hulk movie: we came for the smashing, not for the story. It's a minimal complaint in an otherwise brilliant game.
With lots to do, plenty of unlockables, and tons of explosive destruction, Smash Bandits represents the fundamental reasons why gamers love games. It's an incredibly solid driver with spot-on physics, flawless controls, and the exhilaration that comes with outrageous destruction. Yes, there are micro-transactions, but the unadulterated fun that comes with the havoc makes it easy to side-step them altogether. By rolling up the best aspects of multiple genres, Hutch has created a can't-miss title that needs to be on your device as soon as humanly possible.
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