By John Walker on September 15th, 2009 at 8:06 pm.
Kieron mentioned this morning that the GearGrinder demo was out. But just knowing that wasn’t enough for me. I had to play it too. HAD TO. And I can tell you, on a scale from 1 to Completely Hatstand Insane, GearGrinder scores a Batshit Crazy.
It’s a lorry driving game. But no, this is no Euro Truck Simulator, this is TRANSFORMING LORRIES WITH ROCKETS AND GUNS!
So how does the demo feel to drive? Like pushing a raw sausage down a bowling alley. It slides along easily enough, but it’s hardly under sensible control. There’s no sense of weight or length when controlling the jet-powered trucks – they might just as well be RC cars or hot air balloons for all the articulated feel of it. But screw that, because this is a game in which someone plants a bomb in your brain.
There’s no sense to any of it. I believe the publishers (whose name begs for a punchline) Head Up Games are from Germany, and the developers, TARGEM Games, from Russia, and perhaps the story would have made more sense to me if it had been left in either German or Russian. There’s a “training” level which doesn’t tell you any of the controls, which once completed takes you to the first proper levels that introduces how to play the game. Um. You have a slalom game (that makes absolutely bugger all sense – there’s no slaloming at all – instead you’re driving through spinning scores saying “4X” or “6X” add less than a second to your remaining time each). Then it’s a race against some other trucks. And then, of course, your character announces he’s breaking out on his own.
Um, from what? Apparently he’s been rescued from something, and the people who did it made him race I think. But no more! So now you’re told that your truck can transform into a machine of destruction at the touch of a button, letting you shoot at everything on the roads. You can also drive through lots of the destructible scenery, which slows you down and offers little incentive for destruction. Blowing shit up is much more fun, and you’re idiotically powerful. It seems that every single car on the road is your enemy, even if they’re a family saloon driving in the opposite direction. Hit one and it declares, “Enemy Crashed!” Shoot one and there’s the slightly more unsettling, “Enemy Pierced!”
So a bit later I’m sat in my cab and the phone rings. It’s Jorge, the person who rescued me who I now HATE for some reason, and I’m simply furious with him for ringing. He tells me, “We’ve implanted a bomb in your brain. If you disobey the orders, you die.”
In my BRAIN! How?! That must be terrifying! But no, brave old me, I declare, “Ok, I’ll do it, but you are playing with fire here.” And then throw the phone out the window.
Look, I’m not saying I would know what to do if I’d been told by a mysterious stranger that he’s planted explosives in my head, but I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t be to lob my only means of communicating with him out a speeding truck. I think there are possibly better responses. And talking of better responses, there’s our hero’s next statement:
Which isn’t precisely the same as following orders. You then proceed to blow up everything on the road, and carry on racing trucks. Without any instructions to either obey or disobey. WHICH IS CONFUSING.
It’s sort of spectacular. I mean, it’s dreadful. But in a really enormous way. Once through this first chapter it gives you the first level of the next, which lets you have much more freedom switching back and forth between your rocket-fuelled racing and machine gun-powered destruction, and hints at some possible genuine fun to be had. But it had better continue with the maddest story in driving game history, or it would not mean a thing.