The racing game has come a long way since the mid-nineties, with current titles such as Gran Turismo 5 and Forza 4 boasting almost photorealistic graphics, near perfect handling physics and extensive online play. Before the likes of Burnout, and over a decade since classics such as Spy Hunter, came the absolute jewel that is Destruction Derby.
Released in the early days of the original Sony Playstation’s reign, Destruction Derby introduced players to a different way of racing, a more destructive and anarchic competition that had not previously been utilised in the brave new land of 3D. The title also saw releases on the less popular Sega Saturn and MS-DOS. It later saw a remake on the Nintendo 64, which is generally considered to be a superior edition, although it did have the predictably dull title of Destruction Derby 64. The games developers; Reflections, had previously released games such as Shadow of the Beast and (the brilliantly named) Awesome, yet this was their first venture into the racing game genre.
Players had to strike a balance between their position within the race and their race points, which were displayed on the onscreen HUD. Race points could be scored by crashing into other cars, high points could win the race even if the players finishing position left much to be desired. Car damage management was crucial to staying in the game, with cars failing if they were too run down. The car damage was shown on screen on the trusty HUD with colours of red, yellow and green indicating the level of damage on different sections of the car.
Derby was by no means the first car combat game, but it was the first popular 3D incarnation of the genre. The title was very popular and was one of the first games to reach the coveted platinum status on the Playstation. Later many other car combat games tried to emulate the success of Destruction Derby, with varying levels of success. The 1999 release Demolition Racer was similar in both name and gameplay and is perhaps worthy of a retrospective of its own, but not today. FallOut (not to be confused with Interplay and Bethesda’s award winning Fallout series) was a 2004 title that had moderate success on the Playstation 2, although enough to spawn several sequels.
The games sequel, the unimaginatively named Destruction Derby 2, arrived a year later adding enough (including colourful cover art) to the formula to justify a purchase. Developers Reflections later went on to create the hugely popular Driver series, two years after Derby 2. Driver has enjoyed years of success, with its latest embodiment; Driver: San Francisco, allowing players to take control of other motorists, steering them into crashes that aid the games coma dwelling protagonist. In a similar vain, Reflections are also responsible to the one-off stunt-racer Stuntman, which takes obvious influence from Destruction Derby. In Stuntman the player must perform differing manoeuvres on a movie set, all for the enjoyment to the cameras.
Destruction Derby is available for download on both the PSP and Playstation 3, if you want to get your fix of retro car combat. But be warned as with most Playstation games, it can be quite a strain on the eye. Compared to the smooth HD graphics of the current generation, the Playstation’s early emergence into 3D was quite a jagged, low polygon-ed affair.