Test Drive: Eve of Destrucion

This was it. The game I had waited the better part of two decades for. It may have taken until 2004, but I finally got my wish for a true demolition derby game. And more than that, it was a game filled with many of the gimmick style races that entertain short track thrill shows.

Released as part of the Test Drive franchise, Eve of Destruction included many stalwarts of the derby world. Smash ‘em up races, traditional demolition derbies, school bus races, trailer races, suicide races and more. To broaden the game’s appeal, some fantasy races like wrangling, gauntlet, survival, detention and push off were included. Of course, multiplayer events were also available such as deathmatch, capture the flag, and car soccer.

A+ Career Mode

The game’s highlight for me was the layout of the career mode. To start, players had to choose a ridiculous nickname from a list of options, because the track-side announcer couldn’t just scream ‘Joe’ when the player made a big hit. I was always partial to Knucklehead and Wrong Way Willy.

Life began in a Chevette look-alike, as all the cars in game were based on real world cars, but with made up names and specifications; similar to Grand Theft Auto. These included many demolition derby and short track favourites like the Ford Maverik, Chevrolet Camaro, AMC Javelin, Dodge Cornet, Datsun 510, and a Cadillac Hearse.

The engine sounds were a mix between a vacuum and a two-stroke outboard motor but did the job to represent the various cars accurately. The driving was smooth and intuitive. The game was not a bad racer from a handling dynamics standpoint, considering driving feel wasn’t the most important aspect to this game.

Sweeny’s and TJ’s

I absolutely loved the realistic touch that cars could only be repaired to a certain degree after a race. Just like the real world, if a car sustained too much damage in a race, it would permanently lower the cars performance until it was unusable. A derby car might be ok to use in 2 or 3 derbies, but eventually, it can’t be straightened out and put back together again. It was important to constantly buy new cars and sell the old ones off as scrap.

This meant a drive down to the Sweeny’s Salvage Yard and pick up a new junker and sell off the used-up scrap that was just raced. Aside from Sweeny’s, it was possible to drive to the garage, home, the tracks and TJs Diner in a mini open world map (or a player could just opt to jump from place to place). TJ’s was the place where it was possible to make side bets against other competitors in an attempt to earn extra cash if the player beat their competitor during a race.

Authentic Demolition Derby

When it came to racing, the demolition derby events were my favourite. Finally, here was a game where real demolition derby techniques were needed. Unless the player had an overpowering car, protecting the engine and tires was critical. The best strategy was to drive in reverse and use the back end of the car to damage opponents.

The derbies also included a nice touch of having a small red flag above each car’s windshield indicating if the car was still running or not. If a car was wrecked, the red flag disappeared. It helped the player avoid lining up a big hit on a car that was already out of commission.

I did enjoy many of the other racing disciplines including the trailer races, but I was not a fan of the more arcade-like races such as the gauntlet. As the career mode went on and these got harder, and it started to take some of the excitement and luster off the game for me. It was more of a grind than racing enjoyment. The game also included cheats that were unlocked during career progress which I didn’t care for either, like firing missiles from cars.

Cult Following

Test Drive Eve of Destruction was not a sales success. I don’t know how many copies of the game were produced, but not many people bought the game, nor remember it. There is a group of us that absolutely love it though. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at what copies of the game go for today. It is the PlayStation2 game I wish to reacquire the most.

Maybe one day I’ll breakdown and pony up the money to get reunited with this game.

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