Destruction Derby – Almost There

By the mid-1990s video games were coming into their own. Nearly every genre was covered by this point, subdivided in countless sub-sections. This was especially true with racing games. Real racing simulations, cars with weapons attacking one another, arcade spectaculars and nearly every form of racing in-between – it had (mostly) all been covered.  

But I felt there was one style of racing yet to be included – a real demolition derby game. Yes, there were plenty of car combat games with weapons, but I was looking for an honest to goodness metal crunching virtual rendition of the county fair smash ‘em up. In 1995, it looked like my wish had been granted with the introduction of Destruction Derby.

Various Demolition Racing

At first glance, it appeared to be the sim-racers version of a demolition derby. No over the top vehicles here, powerups or weapons. Just some grassroots motorsport mayhem in big American coupes.

The game featured four racing styles; Destruction Derby, Wreckin’ Racing, Stock Car Racing and Time Trial. The Destruction Derby was a traditional demolition derby where cars all gathered in a big open area and smashed each other. It was possible to play to be the last car standing or to build the most points. Big points were awarded for flipping an opponent, causing a 360 spin or taking an opponent out completely.

Wreckin’ Racing involved a traditional racecourse where players tried to build the most points by causing the most damage to opponents and finishing the race as high up the points as possible. Placing first didn’t mean winning the race if someone earned more total points for their finishing position combined with damage caused.

Stock Car Racing was a regular race where all that mattered was how high up a player finished. Of course, it was still possible to inflict damage on opponents as well as receive damage, so there was more strategy to just finishing in first.

Pick Your Poison

Each of the three main racing disciplines had the ability to participate in a Practice, Championship or Multiplayer race. The two biggest drawbacks were that it wasn’t possible to mix and match the disciplines in a Championship and there was no split screen multiplayer. To play against friends, additional PlayStation consoles and televisions were required to be connected by network cable. Up to four people could play which was cool, but who had four picture tube TVs laying around in one room?

There were various tracks to choose from, each with their own theme like the city, ocean, desert, etc. Three levels of cars were available representing rookie, amateur and pro levels of competition. The Amateur and Pro cars were an absolute handful and preferred to spin out rather than stay in a straight line.

Fast Pace Gameplay

As much potential as the game showed, it didn’t live up to my own built-up hype. People did love it, but too me it still seemed too fast paced and arcade-like for my preference. It was hard to properly line someone up for that perfect hit as Destruction Derbies was just a chaotic free-for-all of driving at high speeds obliterating any surrounding cars.

There was no point in using proper demolition derby technics of protecting the engine and wheels or targeting an opponent’s. Driving in reverse to protect the engine didn’t matter much. Each car had six points of impact that would degrade as they were hit. They all affected the car somewhat equally without certain areas having a larger impact on the car’s health.

The races were not overly smooth and would get choppy at times, especially if a massive multi-car smash-up was occurring. And the voice over got to be a bit annoying always shouting random catch phrase. I can’t recall, but I believe there was a way to turn that nonsense off.

Destruction Derby was a great premise with decent gameplay. In the end, it didn’t fill the void I had for an authentic demolition derby game. But fear not, there would be two great games on the distant horizon that would satisfying my craving. I will cover those two in the very near future.   

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