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Bandits: Phoenix Rising

Developer: GRIN
Publisher: Pan Vision
Genre: Action / Car Combat
Players: 1-20
Similar To: Recoil
Rating: Teen
Published: 05 :01 : 03
Reviewed By: Ryan Newman

Overall: 7.5 = Good


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Minimum Req.: P3 700, Win 98/ME/2000/XP, 128MB RAM, 3D card equal to GeForce 3, 4X CDROM, Win comp. sound card
Reviewed On: P4 2.5Ghz, 256MB, GeForce 4 & 2ti, SB, Win XP Pro


Is it possible to discuss Bandits: Phoenix Rising without mentioning Mad Max? I guess not. Bandits features that post-apocalyptic backdrop that we all know and love. With bands of marauding nomads, eccentric military organizations, and a wacky sidekick, there's just enough action and style to keep Bandits ahead of the pack.

Gameplay: 7/10
For those who enjoyed Recoil and games of that nature, it has been a little rough lately. With the landscape of gaming still filled with first-person shooters and strategy titles, it's hard to get that solid action fix. Not quite as refined as the Interstate series, Bandits does feature fast-paced car combat action that's solid and easy to get into.

Its simplicity won't grab everyone, though. The future is a drab place filled with standard weapons - shotguns, grenades, rockets, machine guns, etc. - and some truly oddly designed vehicles. There's a mounted turret with tons of ammo and enough enemies to cause a mouse button to break. It's difficult to say just how Bandits achieved its success when so many fail in this genre. It has a clean style to it that pervades throughout the game and even the menus themselves. There's the dog looking co-pilot that speaks in a stereotypical Scottish accent and a ton of fringe groups that range from enunciating-loving military types to religious zealots who never seem to shut up.

The missions aren't innovating, but they're still entertaining. There are the standard assault and recon missions, as well as escorting and ambushing supply vehicles, and the odd manning of the gun turret segment. A few fun, if not incredibly frustrating, missions had the player race some friends for goods to add onto their vehicle; fun due to the rough terrain and having to wrestle to keep the vehicle on course, frustrating at how difficult it is to keep track of where the actual course is. The enemies aren't the brightest, but they make up for their lack of intellect by being hard as nails and trigger-happy. Their factional alliances don't really pervade much in how they attack or how their vehicles are adorned, which is a shame since I'd like to have seen their differences more fully realized. I would've also loved to have a sequence like Freelancer where the player could spend time in various outposts and instigate fights or find out more info; alas, there's no time for relaxing when you're a nomadic badass.

There are clear waypoint indications on the mini map and on the screen itself, as well as brief update in status - mainly ammo count - from the co-pilot. Despite a pretty weak turbo boost, the blazing weapons and excellent radar system do a great job in keeping the action fast and constant. However, games of this ilk are bound to get tiresome after a while; after all, there are only so many buggies that can be blown up before the fun wears off. It's that reason that makes Bandits a fantastic game for people who tend to take longer trips. It would be perfect for any traveler, if it weren't for the fact that the missions can get incredibly difficult and can only be saved after a mission's completion. With some levels only taking a few minutes, that wouldn't be a problem, but some will have wave after wave after wave of assaulting enemies and it's never fun to die after 20 minutes of hard fighting. That's about the harshest criticism that I can level towards Bandits. It sets out to be an action game set on wheels and it succeeds, despite a design that makes extensive playing remaining enjoyable and a questionable save feature, it's a great throwback title for people just looking to let the rockets fly and do donuts around the shell of a victim.

Graphics: 7/10
Clean. That's really the best way to describe everything in Bandits. The objects, vehicles, textures, everything is clean. Although they shouldn't really be so spot-free since the game takes place in the desert and all, but they're crisp and easy on the eyes, if a bit drab, so it's forgivable. Vehicle design ranges from generic to odd and their payloads deliver satisfying explosions. Aside from the weak turbo flame, there's nothing really to complain about, but there's also isn't anything noteworthy either. The best way to describe it would be 'good enough'.

Sound: 8/10
While I'm not the biggest fan of metal, there's no denying how well the music fits the game's theme. For those who love to throw up the horns, there's a solid amount of tunes - complete with song and band names - that are ready to accompany gamers on their 'highway to hell' (eh, eh, get it?). At times the music does drown out the effects, and call me odd, but I always liked the sound of buggies revving up to get over a large rock and the crackle of a shotgun blast. I would've liked to hear more differentiation for weapon impact though, a harder thud when rounds hit the ground, various dings when bullets hit metal, etc.

Control: 8/10
Featuring two styles, either should suit any gamer. There's scheme that controls like Halo's Warthog where the vehicle moves in the direction the player indicates with the crosshairs. The other method uses the keyboard to control the vehicle's movements and the mouse to control the gun turret. While the advice given during loading screens suggests alternating between the two to practice some more intricate maneuvers, I never found the second to my liking. By controlling direction with the crosshairs, it felt as if I was playing futuristic joust. I would have liked to have seen a method to select weapons that used the mouse wheel, possibly something along the lines of Half-Life's method of selection.

Overall: 7.5/10
It goes without saying that this game isn't for everyone. It doesn't mix genres or try to push any boundaries. The developers wanted to make a solid action game and they succeeded. Stylish, hard as nails, and, while it lasts, one hell of a ride; Bandits: Phoenix Rising is a great title to entertain those moments of boredom as it's instantly playable and easy to get back into. A solid release and one that fans of the genre should enjoy.

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