You've Blown Your Radiator!

Does Mayhem 3D do a bang-up job reviving a dead genre?
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: April 5, 2011
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Destruction derbies have always been pretty low budget affairs. It's the nature of the game when you are taking a car straight out of the junkyard, stripping as much out of it as possible, giving it a downright homebrew paint job, and then taking it to some dusty fairground and smashing into likeminded folks. So it comes as no surprise that video games based on this "sport" have long been low budget entities themselves. That doesn't mean that they aren't enjoyable in their own right. Back on the PlayStation 1, Psygnosis had pair of hits with the Destruction Derby series, which I threw away countless hours on, but I would never claim them to be pinnacles of polished game design. The last generation saw the seminal Test Drive: Eve of Destruction that, despite being part of a venerable mainstream driving series, still looked like something that might have been whipped up by some recent graduates of FullSail "University" in their garage after graduation. Yes, demolition derbies are the NASCAR of the lower class, but I'm not afraid to admit that I have a ridiculous passion for them, going so far as to enter a few myself.

Given the fact that I still boot up the old fatty Xbox to play a bit of Eve of Destruction and that I still rail against the exclusion of Destruction Derby 2 from the PS1 Classics on PSN, you'd think I would have been pretty fired up for Mayhem 3D from little-known developer Left Field Productions. Alas, I hadn't even heard of the game at all before it showed up on our doorstep, but one glance at the summary told me that this was a game I needed to play, and needed to play now. So over the next four hours I put it through its paces and saw all there was to see (except for the online aspect).

The very first thing you will invariably notice with Mayhem 3D is the art style. For some inscrutable reason, Left Field chose to go with a VERY Sin City-esque black and white noir motif. There are splashes of red and yellow here and there, but for the most part the vehicles, the track and the backgrounds are stark back and white. It seems to be a very odd design decision, and I can't say I have ever associated demolition derbies with Dashiell Hammett before this. The action is even framed by an old-school looking photo border making the game feel like it is being played in a postcard. There is also the unexpected decision to make the game support anaglyph 3D, and 2 of those throwaway paper red and blue glasses are included in the package. You can set the amount of 3D from 0 to 10, and really you need to set it at 10 to see much effect, and even then you'll likely get a headache or just tired of the whole thing after one play session.

Odd aesthetic decisions aside, these games are all about the visceral crashes and variety of tracks and modes. Mayhem 3D is something of a mixed bag in that regard. Anyone familiar with the aforementioned Destruction Derby series will swear that this game could have been called Destruction Derby 3. It shares an awful lot with its PS1 brethren, featuring the same selection of modes (Demolition Derby, Banger Racing (what would have been called Wreckin' Racin' in the old series), and Domination, which is the mode where you shove cars out of the ring in a nod to Virtua Fighter or Tekken). The damage model is also lifted right from that series, with multiple zones of damage around the car, and an instant game over when your front end gets too damaged. One new addition is Boost and Ramming Speed. Everytime you smack a car with some force, bits of the car will fly off and if you drive over those bits, they fill up your boost meter that works just like you'd expect boost to work. Fill the meter to the top by collecting enough bits, and you can activate Ramming Speed, which is just a super boost that allows you to plow through other cars like a hot knife through butter.

You can set up your own races in the Exhibition mode, or you can step into the heart of the game with the Career Mode. There is absolutely no story to speak of in the career mode, but the action is broken up into ten "comic books", each with 3-6 events to challenge before unlocking the next book. There are ostensibly around 10 different types of events, but all of them are essentially one of the three basic modes with perhaps a slight tweak. Each event had a set of goals, and you can be awarded 1 to 3 stars in each event depending on time, cars wrecked, or what have you. Getting 3 stars in each event is a trivial affair, and in less than 3 hours I had achieved all 138 stars across all 10 comics, with only a smattering of events requiring me to retry them to get all the stars. That might sound like a damning fact, but the truth is that games in this genre have traditionally had similarly short career modes. There is of course multiplayer, both split screen and online, with the only options being a straight up demo derby or banging racing. I'd love to tell you how great the online is, but I never found a single person to play with at any time of the day. If you are looking to get some online action, I'd suggest hunting far and wide for a forum on the internet where you might be able to find another person with the game and set up a time with them. You simply won't ever get into a random game.
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