Smuggler's Run at a glance may seem like an original idea. You work as a part of an underground smuggling ring, and a fairly elaborate one at that. You pick up packages, take them to their locations, and move one to the next job. Oh, and you get paid, let's not forget that (we don't do things for free around here). After the first couple of stages (which was pretty fun getting into), something donned on me. I felt like I've done this kind of thing before. Not in real life (but if I could, CA-CHING!), but in another game. The idea of picking up something and dropping it off. What does this remind you of? CRAZY TAXI! Much like how you would come up to a person and drop them off to their desired location, WITH a time limit; Smuggler's Run is pretty much that same gameplay, except a little less pickups, a lot more law enforcement, and you lose money for some rather wreckless driving (like flipping on a hill). While it's fine to be inspired by an exisitng game design, this seems way too familiar, and I kind of wonder if anyone else who has played this series has picked up on that.
The story, guided through live-action cutscenes (with some fairly good acting) is about you being the new recruit of an underground smuggling company. Planes drop of the supplies, or someone asks you to pick it up, and you take it to it's desired location. But things aren't all that easy, as the national government is on your butt all the time. And unlike some games that have pursuits that are sometimes easy to get out of, these people will hunt you down, and flip your vehicle without thinking about it. As the story further unfolds, suspicious things arise, and if I told you, that would spoil the game, now wouldn't it?
As I mentioned before, the gameplay is kind of similar to Sega's Crazy Taxi. While not as offbeat and comical (or even addictive) as CT, Smuggler's Run does manage to be it's own being, in a way. It's shadier, it's harder, and you will yell at every stupid thing the game does. Let's start with it's best aspects, though. The map (stage) layout is HUGE. While it does get used more than once, the world is varied, and has a variable terrain. The game does have a high sense of speed, as well as a smooth framerate, which really helps. You won't be further slown down by choppy framerate, or low speed. Some missions take place at night and the whole screen is in night vision, which is cool, but a lot tougher to play. Aside from the mission mode, there are other modes as well, such as checkpoint racing, and can also be played with more than 1 player. In fact, I think the GCN version of the series is a lot more multiplayer friendly than the PS2 releases. Now come the gripes. The AI is brutal. While some like to be challenged, I never thought I would be bullied by the computer in a videogame. Opponents slam into you without remorse, and also seem to predict what your next move is (especially head-on). The missions could have been more varied than what was there. Basically you take packages (or bombs in some cases) to people, keep rivals from stealing your goods, or chase after someone to spy on them or to hunt them dowwn and imobilize them. And there's only about 36 or so missions, and some can only take a couple of minutes to complete. But there are the mini games, and the racing mode is a nice addition.
The graphics are pretty average. I admire the huge draw distance and the vegetation it displays, and keeping it at a near-solid 60 fps, but the textures are a tad plain, and the architecture is not that inspiring. Also, the vehicles could have used a little more zazz. Your paint job is plain old brown, and the designs are average. I guess brown makes sense for camoflauge, but I've seen better off road vehicles in games such as 4 Wheel Thunder. Also, what's up with the Vigilante 8-like texture pop-up? If you've ever played V8, you may have noticed that the texture pops up in a weird, tile-like way. It happens here, but the distance is a bit further.
The sound is really not much to complain about, except for one thing. The guy that you work for (I forgot his name) never really shuts up. How is it possible that he can see everything that's going on, like he's a part of a pit crew? And why is everything a lame insult? Shut him up! The music, is good, not great. It's techno, which for a game like this, is a bit weird. But in kind of works, and almost reminds me of the music of V-Rally 2.
A fairly tight design with a highly brutal AI and deja vu gameplay is pretty much the order of the day in SR:WZ. It's basically a cleaned up version of the PS2 stages, with some extra modes and multiplayer elements thrown in. I would have like to have know WHAT I was smuggling, instead of it just being a "package", and I'm not sure how well this story really holds if it's a mix of the two PS2 game's levels. But it's a fairly decent game. Not very long, but comes off entertaining most of the time. It's the best Rockstar game I've played so far, and that kind of says a lot. Worth a rental, buy if it's cheap.
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