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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Bunkasha Co.

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

February 2003

 

 

- Wowza! graphics

- Simple controls

- Cars and missions to unlock

- Two scenarios

- Various mission types

- Huge areas to explore

- Replay feature

 

 

- Some cars are insanely difficult

to unlock

- A few missions are frustrating to the extreme

- Cheating clock

 

 

Review: Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)

 

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Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions

Score: 8.3 / 10

Never has a game so satisfied my desire to create urban mayhem with a monster truck or perform vehicular jumps like James Bond – hell, one’s stolen direct from The Man with the Golden Gun.  Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions (Wreckless) is all about adrenaline and eye-candy, which should automatically tell you if you’ll like this game.  Be warned though, Wreckless can be a model of frustration.

 

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Wreckless is a game you show off to your friends that don't have an XBox.  Graphically, Wreckless is easy to look at. (It's also easy to listen to -- the tunes and sound effects are perfectly suited to the game.)  It manages to blend the realistic world of modern Hong Kong with an Anime style and sensibility.  It has a look all it’s own and the level of detail is incredible.  Various vehicles of all shapes and sizes and loads of pedestrians populate the game world – all going about their business.  Taxis swerve all over the road, double-decker buses stop at traffic lights, and the deadly Yakuza will do anything to get at you.  No matter the speed or how much is on-screen or what's exploding, everything moves smoothly.  And when you’re traveling at a high rate of speed, it actually feels like you’re going fast.  What I like most though, is that when you see skyscrapers in the distance you can drive out to them – even through some of the lobbies.  You might not be able to full appreciate the graphics while playing though – you’re attention is pulled a couple of different ways most of the time.  This is where the Replay feature comes in.

 

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Wreckless has taken the Replay standard and raised it several notches.  Even the most mundane mission can be rendered in an extremely exciting way.  Plus, you’ll be able to appreciate the graphics and the little touches in a way you can’t when crashing into things.  I won’t say it’s movie quality but it comes damn close.  As a bonus, you can save your replays (which can actually help break down a level to see where you’re doing things wrong).

 

More than anything, Wreckless is all about smashing into things at a 

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high rate of speed.  Most missions task you with ramming Yakuza vehicles or destroying dim sum stands, but do manage to offer some variety.  You’re always racing against the clock – the majority of the missions have generous amounts of time, but sometimes the clock will cheat.  One level in particular, racing through a sewer… you hit a certain point and no matter how much time you have the timer drops down to 19 seconds – just enough time to make it to the next checkpoint.  (The only thing you really have to worry about is the timer as you have no health bar.)

 

Wreckless is fairly free roam.  There are two scenarios, strangely enough titled A and B.  The A set puts you in the drivers seat as two female cops try to track down and defeat the head of the Yakuza gang.  Set B has you in control of a couple of errand boys for a rival of the Yakuza.  The Yakuza backstory – a gang running amuck – is enough to set up each mission and (thankfully) doesn’t force you through a linear campaign. (The Yakuza AI is pretty good -- they'll take short cuts, gang up on you, etc. to present a real challenge when they're present.)  Each scenario has four missions available at the outset with more unlocked as you defeat those.  So, if you’re getting frustrated with one you can try your luck (and adrenal glands) at another.  Sometimes finishing a mission boils down to selecting the right car.

 

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There are 7 cars for each scenario and most are damn hard to unlock.  How hard?  How about this: imagine a rod of fictional adamantium, coated in diamond, then baked too long to attain that burned meatloaf toughness, and surgically implanted in Clint Eastwood.  Two cars are initially available then two more as you finish specific missions.  The remainder have to be hunted down in the course of a mission.  And it’s not just a matter of finding the vehicle, you have to find it then successfully complete the mission to add it to your vehicle roster.  Some of the vehicles are extremely well hidden.  Even with the small “?” on your mini-map that shows where an unlockable vehicle is, you’ll have a tough time actually getting to it.  Then you have to worry about completing the mission.

 

And this is where most of the frustration with Wreckless lies.

 

It took me a day and a half to unlock the monster truck in Scenario B.  While this extends playability – because you’ll want to try the locked vehicles, believe me – it shouldn’t be so frustrating. (The solution would be to have more cars available – some earned through the method above and others earned simply by completing specific missions.)  More frustration is derived from some levels that require finicky control.  This is no more apparent than a mission in the B set that has you ripping around on some narrow docks taking pictures.  You’ll play this mission again and again.  There are 20 missions – 10 per side with the last two being bonus missions.  While most of the missions are straightforward the odd one requires a plan of attack – otherwise rely on adrenaline.  (It would have been nice to have a few different objectives per mission with possible branching options depending on how you’re doing.)

 

Control, so important in a racing game, is nice and simple.  Three buttons to remember: accelerate, brake, and reverse.  You don’t have to worry about the extra camera functions – you’ll be traveling so fast most times you won’t even think about them. (The left stick steers and the right stick allows you to look left and right – which can be useful on one or two missions.)  The cars handle “realistically” – rolling the monster truck is easy to do if you’re not paying attention (Can you tell which vehicle was my favorite?) and the APC seemingly doesn’t have to worry about running into oncoming traffic.

 

Once the adrenaline wears off and I was accustomed to the graphics, I found there wasn’t enough to keep me coming back.  Some missions are so difficult (more so if you choose “Hard” and “Heavy Traffic” before each mission) that the chances you’ll go back and play them are exponentially reduced.  Granted, it can be fun just to drop into a mission and go nuts through the city – crashing, flying, and spinning – and ignoring the mission objectives.  Branching and multiple objectives within a mission would have spiced things up and encouraged players to revisit levels.  A two-player LAN option would have been welcomed as well. (Split screen would never work as there is so much going on.)

 

Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions is a fun ride with two or three frustrating bumps along the way – I’m just hoping for some deeper missions in the sequel.

 

- Omni

(February 27, 2002)

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