Wreckless reminds me of lesser Saturday Night Live spin-off movies like Meet Pat and Stuart Saves His Family. Often, what makes for a humorous gag in small doses lacks the depth to sustain itself for a full-length feature. Wreckless is like the driving sequences from Grand Theft Auto III, disembodied and turned into a gimmicky full-length game. While that is admittedly over simplifying things a bit, Wreckless is proof that some concepts have their limits.

Im not familiar with the Yakuza the way Jeremy is, but as he pointed out its a negligible detail. The Yakuza are used merely as a colorful backdrop rather than an influential plot device. Not that such shallowness is completely bad; Wreckless doesnt really even try to tell much of a story. Its clear from the start that any references to characters or plot are merely filler for the action, which is most reminiscent of outlandish driving games like Twisted Metal and Crazy Taxi. Its not boring, and in fact the gameplay maintains a frantic pace rather effectively. But play this one for long, and the limits of making a complete game out of the concept of driving around and smashing stuff starts to wear on the excitement.

In particular, a few structural flaws really hurt the game. Certain missions will be identical in practicei.e., smashing into carsbut attempt to mask this redundancy with objective-oriented gimmicks. In one early mission, you are required to simply smash into cars to destroy them. In another, you are supposed to gather "plates"by smashing into cars, of course. The game also lacks a decent navigation system. Often, I ended up ramming into a building because the cursor that marks my target would show through the building and I would accelerate, expecting a straight road to my target. The wildly fluctuating difficulty of the game makes frequent restarts a must and kills the tension of the game. Coupled with a time limit on many of the missions, Wreckless could quickly fluctuate between enjoyable romp and real test of patience.

There are a handful of redeeming qualities, however. Japan serves as an exciting backdrop to the action, and there can be a real sense of urgency and chaos, especially with the traffic set on "heavy." Some of the aforementioned platform elements play out effectively, such as a mission in which youre required to repeatedly leap off of natural ramps to smash into explosives on the back of an oversized dump truck. Wreckless is also easy on the eyes. The entire game has a bit of a low-resolution, blurry look to it, but there are some really eye-catching particle and lighting effects. The visual panache is all the more effective when traffic is really congested, leaving even more random objects to demolish. There is certainly some interesting stuff, but much like the skits on Saturday Night Live, the fundamental concept is too simplistic to be anything more than a divertive gag.

Wreckless makes for a decent ride while it lasts, but even though the developers have done an admittedly thorough job of exploiting the concept, it just doesnt have enough substance to warrant extended play. Leave the car smashing to driving games or free-roaming games like Grand Theft Auto III. The formula is enjoyable in small doses, but its hardly worthy of a full-length game. Rating: 5

Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.

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