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HUMMER Badlands
Review By: Jared Black
Developer: Eutechnyx
Publisher: Global Star Software
Genre: Racing
ESRB: Everyone
# Of Players: 1-2
Online Play: No
Accessories: In-game Dolby Digital, HDTV 480p, Wheel
Buy Now: Buy HUMMER Badlands at Amazon.com!


I'm a firm believer that the retail price of a game should play a role in its overall review score. While a low MSRP can't of course save a terrible game (if it stinks there's no reason to pay for it at any price), it can at least make a mediocre title worth considering. Such is the case with Hummer Badlands.

While today's game consoles are littered with racing titles, Hummer Badlands is somewhat unique because (as the name implies) it focuses only on the Hummer brand. A total of 19 different Hummer models are included here, and surprisingly most models actually handle quite differently. Each can be customized with up to three of the available options (which include things like engine, body parts, transmission, exhaust, etc.), and while the choice of customization options is limited compared to most racing titles, it's still nice to see it in a budget title. Since races take place both on and off-road (including some very slippery ice), it's important to choose the correct model and proper adjustments. As for how they handle, steering (controlled with the left analog stick) feels a little loose for a vehicle of this size, almost making them feel like the small cars in Ridge Racer. Still, you'll quickly adjust to it and it doesn't negatively impact gameplay. What does negatively impact gameplay is the fact that several inches of water are enough to send one of these gas-guzzling beasts to a grinding halt, leading to some boring creek crossings when you should be barreling through them instead.

Championship is the primary mode of the game, which takes you through five circuits with five courses each. Don't be fooled into thinking that means there are 25 courses (this is a budget title after all); actually all five races in each circuit are found in the same area and overlap. For example, the five different races in the "Arizona" circuit all occur right around the Hoover Dam. So when you run that circuit, in each race you'll go over the Dam and through many of the same areas repeatedly. Thus, the actual variety in courses is a little disappointing.

HUMMER Badlands

Since speed isn't necessarily the strength of a Hummer, developer Eutechnyx also included several other types of gameplay modes. In Granny Gear, you must tackle obstacles such as uneven terrain, river crossings, climbing over logs, and more in a limited amount of time. I actually found this to be the least interesting mode in the game, since it automatically adjusts your gearing as you approach an obstacle. It's here that the game's budget roots begin to show, because regardless of how fast you're going the game will pause to adjust your gears, and then start you back at 0. It's frustrating that I can't simply control this myself, and determine how I best want to tackle each obstacle. As a result of this handholding, Granny Gear really boils down to keeping the truck straight and making sure you don't miss the right path to take. Not very challenging.

In Pike's Peak, you must take one of several different paths to the top of a summit within a limited amount of time. As the difficulty increases so do the length and/or toughness of the paths, forcing you to drive through undergrowth, different terrain types, etc. Pike's Peak requires a bit of skill, since having to face several different types of terrain in one run means you likely can't pick a Hummer that's ideal for handling the entire course. I had the most success when I picked one equipped with snow tires, since the slippery surface near the top of the mountain is the hardest to navigate. Finally, there's Beat the Clock. This is an arcade-style timed run through the Championship mode's courses, where you're awarded extra time for crossing a checkpoint.

For a game that promotes taking shortcuts as a selling point, one of the most frustrating things about it is that the game will penalize you for taking the wrong ones. In both Beat the Clock and Championship mode, you're allowed to take some shortcuts but not others. As I mentioned before each of the five tracks in each circuit follow different paths in the same general area, so in these modes there are routes used in one race that can potentially be big shortcuts in another. However, the game will only allow you to take some of these shortcuts, with no warning as to which are and aren't off-limits until after you've taken them. Although there are signs pointing the general direction to go in, it's never really clear how far you should follow a sign's direction before you can start veering off course. Given the strict time limits in Beat the Clock, the "Wrong Way" message usually comes way too late to make a difference. If you guess and take an invalid shortcut; your race is essentially over because you don't have time to recover.

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Posted: 2006-05-13 10:00:03 PST