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Q2 2003



- Fun blast-a-thon

- Independent control of car and turret is very handy



- Some people will hate the independent car and turret control

- Passable sound and visuals, but nothing overly gripping

- Poor voice acting

- Story didn't need to be there



Review: Wreckless (Xbox)

Review: Echelon (PC)

Review: Twisted Metal Black Online (Playstation 2)



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Bandits: Phoenix Rising

Score: 7.3 / 10


Itís time to turn off your brain and blow up just about anything that moves, folks.  Bandits: Pheonix Rising is a fun, cut to the chase sort of vehicular blast-a-thon.  It doesnít try to be anything fancy, just a very functional foray into frenetic high-flying firefights.  It doesnít by any means go above and beyond what gamers have come to expect from an action game, but nor does it disappoint.  Itís the ham sandwich of shooter games.  It wonít knock you on your ass with an explosion of flavor, nor will it bore you to tears with plainness, but mmmmmm  when the ham combines with the mustard, boy is it tasty.  


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Taking a page straight out of Mad Max, Bandits plunges players into a world where society is a thing of the past and now the lands are ruled by pockets of motorized gangs fighting for turf on the vast deserts.  Following the adventures of two such road warriors, the team of Fennec and Rewdalf, players ride along during their exploits.  The story really doesnít feel necessary though, giving the sense that it was implemented just for the sake of it.  The interaction between the two is so plain that it would have been better not to have them in the game at all.  But here they are poor voice acting and all needlessly slowing the pace of the game.

But happily the action itself during the levels is quite fun.  Ranging from straight combat, to escort missions, to races, thereís plenty of diversity in the various missions of the game to keep things from getting stale.  What really pushes the player though is controlling their vehicle and its onboard turret in the heat of battle.  If you never got a handle on circle strafing in FPS titles, this game is going to be a nightmare for you.  Thereís the option to have the turret at a relatively fixed position, consequently causing steering to be handled by the playerís mouse, but this limits combat to vehicular jousting as you charge enemies guns blazing, fly past them, turn around and repeat the process.  Itís a sloppy way to play the game, and will ultimately result in a thorough beating at the hands of the computer in latter missions.  The key to success is to control the turret independently of the car, so you drive with the keyboard and control the turret entirely with the mouse.  This takes a ton of coordination and practice to nail down, as you learn to circle enemies while keeping the turret trained on them (not to mention avoiding enemy fire).  If 




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this sounds like a daunting task to you, donít expect to get much pleasure out of the game, as itís essential to doing well in it.  For the rest of you that like what you hear about this control scheme, expect a very satisfying play experience once you master this technique and are able to lay waste to enemies without missing a beat.  Luckily, though, the enemies are pretty bright so it wonít be a cakewalk even after getting a handle on the controls.  Theyíll still make you earn your victories, so donít expect them to be handed to you.



The level layout while blasting the tar out of bad guys is surprisingly well done.  Thereís a nice mix of open areas and narrow, winding canyons to duck into during battle.  Itís not just a huge arena where players must simple be quick and nimble, dodging one blast after the next.  Dodging into a winding corridor when vastly outnumbered is a huge help when tactics come into play and a welcome feature in the title.  But despite the nice layout of the levels, the aesthetic appeal is lacking.  The presentation of the levels is the expected cavalcade of desert environments, but the vehicles, lighting effects, and general detail of the visuals in Bandits is far from jaw dropping.  It gets the job done and the smooth framerate is certainly welcome, but there is a serious lack of wow-factor at what is being displayed on the screen.  

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The sound experience doesnít hold up too well by comparison either.  The sound effects are serviceable, but the voice acting, as mentioned before, is a disappointment.  The real hit and miss aspect of Banditís aural experience comes from the music.  Largely guitar driven, the tunes are either fun little ditties or sound like they should be reserved for a beer commercial.  The good songs go a long way for enhancing the whole experience of the game, but the lackluster tracks are a real downer.

Outside of the 22 mission single player mode thereís the expected deathmatch and online play to be had.  Very utilitarian being there if you want it, but nothing to get overly excited about.

Bandits: Phoenix Risingís strongest feature is the entertaining combat with itís high-speed run and gun mentality, making it easier to overlook its weak visuals and sound.  If youíre looking for some fast paced wreckless blasting and donít mind tackling a fairly hefty learning curve, this game can make for a fun little romp.

- Mr. Nash

(June 1, 2003)


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