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Crashday

Stunts, the 1990 customisable racer by Distinctive Software (later to become EA Canada), has already had one spiritual successor. By striking a similar balance of arcade simplicity and cutting-edge looks, TrackMania captured that genre's online community of racers and designers.

Crashday, by German studios Moon Byte and Replay, is gunning for a slice of that audience, and now that its PS2 and Xbox versions have seemingly crashed out of development, it's especially important that it gets it.

Unfortunately, most of what we've seen (and, admittedly, much remains locked away in various states of completion) suffers from a lack of real oomph that afflicts many a PC action title. Basically, the destruction in Crashday (which is, let's face it, why we're buying the game in the first place) is just too precise to suggest any real pandemonium. It also lacks a feeling of cohesion, which its competitors have managed to hit bang on the nail. A visual filter or two would do much to bind its environments, actors and effects into a more convincing whole.

The look isn't entirely unsuitable, however, as the game is as much a crash laboratory as a competition - where purposefully barren tracks suggest configurability rather than fixed design. But it's something that TrackMania managed to avoid, and there's no reason why Crashday couldn't have either.

The game's current build isn't fantastic - its AI is rudimentary at best and its tracks are sparse. There certainly isn't a shortage of modes - armed races are the most conventional while more extreme examples include Pass The Bomb (an explosive game of tag) and variations of Capture The Flag - but what each of these offers is surprisingly mundane.

The Stunt Show mode and accompanying track editor hold greater promise, but are also impeded by an overall lack of substance. It's an unenviable position to find yourself in: juggled between dates and formats by a publisher that arguably has too many driving smash 'em ups in its catalogue already.

It's not difficult to imagine that Crashday will be swept aside by bigger driving games, such as Driver: Parallel Lines, or that the release of such titles will push it into a less interesting format. In fact, that might make it a more bankable prospect. For now, however, we're hard pushed to imagine just who will be excited about its imminent arrival.

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