With both Nintendo and Sony turning up the wick in regards to downloadable game content, Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade has been busily pumping out original content in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Novadrome is the third original title in as many weeks.
The best way to describe Novadrome is Twisted Metal minus any bit of personality or style. This is a fairly straight-forward vehicular combat game that doesn't get too caught up in story or character, instead focusing mainly on the four-wheeled carnage within.
Unfortunately, the action isn't all that special. Despite loads of game modes (that have to be unlocked in the single player game before you can use them in multiplayer mode), the game never really feels that different. While there are challenges in which you have to go through the most gates or complete the most laps, nearly every goal can be attained simply by destroying as many cars as possible.
And the combat isn't strong enough to carry the whole game. The levels are generally way too big - and drab - for the action, meaning you'll spend more time looking for someone to shoot at rather than fighting. And the floaty physics mean the slightest bump or undulation in the track will send you flipping end over end, having to rely on the game's "recover" button to stay righted. It's really annoying.
Plus, the weapons just aren't satisfying in the least, not to mention there aren't enough of them. You're limited to six different weapons, most of which are really hard to find during an actual game. So really, you'll spend most of you time with the standard laser blaster.
Visually, Novadrome comes up a bit short, too. Everything looks super-generic in this game, from the sprawling, boring arenas to the nondescript vehicles. Admittedly, they look great when flying apart, thanks to a decent damage model, but otherwise the visuals are akin to something you'd expect of a college art project.
Despite all of this bellyaching, it has to be said that Novadrome isn't necessarily a "bad" game. There's just nothing particularly great about it. The only incentive to sink any major amount of time into it is that most of the achievements on offer require the best cars in the game to attain. But it's highly unlikely most people will be able to stay interested for even that long. Definitely download the free demo before you drop 800 points on this one.