What is it with Rockstar Games? These guys have some weird obsession with being a criminal of some sort. First you have GRAND THEFT AUTO III; in that game you could beat the crap out of anyone, car-jack anyone and pretty much do whatever other illegal activities you wanted. Next year the company will release STATE OF EMERGENCY, its game where you are the cause of riots. And in SMUGGLER'S RUN 2 you are, as you might expect, a smuggler.
The gameplay is pretty simple at its heart. You drive a vehicle over all sorts of terrain in order to grab cargo, smuggle it to the customers, and drop it off. This is all accomplished with colored smoke locators and radar. So you essentially drive from point A to point B to point C to point D and so on. Sounds like it might get a little repetitive, right?
Fortunately there are a lot of little things to make gameplay more interesting. First of all there are plenty of enemy vehicles that work together to stop you. This makes for what can be a very hectic driving experience. You have some countermeasures at your disposal, including bombs and speed bursts, but they come in limited quality. You also will face some missions where you'll have to play team battle against not only a rival gang, but the police too! Top it off with what can be a brutal time limit and you have a fairly difficult game.
The game tells its story with some really cheesy FMV sequences, but it fits the mood of the game (in a strange way). They then chain all the missions together with a storyline that is fairly weak. But hey, we aren't interested in storyline. The game eventually takes you to lush Vietnam where you get to drive through mountains and other cool locations.
The game also gives you multiple vehicles to select from. Each has its own stats, ability to climb steep terrain, countermeasures, etc. Sometimes your vehicle choice can play a pivotal role in how well you do in a particular mission.
I guess the biggest problem is that SMUGGLER'S RUN 2 is point-to-point racing. The game makes up for it with frantic racing and avoiding the cops and military. The difficulty level also makes it worthwhile as you do feel like you've accomplished something after finally completing a mission on your 20th attempt.
The graphics are pretty good in some ways, and not so great in others. You do have some massive terrain to cover and the Playstation 2 handles it beautifully. The problem is that the details in both the landscape and the vehicles took a hit for it. Still, the framerate moves right along, so I can't really complain too much.
The sound side has all of the sound effects from the original. The chick navigator is gone in favor of your gruff boss (sigh). Otherwise, a cool techno soundtrack has been added. I think it fits and works well.
SMUGGLER'S RUN 2: HOSTILE TERRITORY isn't the easiest game you'll play this year. But it is a fun one. Some might think it gets a tad on the repetitive side, so rent it first.
Platform: Playstation 2
ESBR Rating: Mature
Developer: Angel Studios
Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Fun Factor: B+
Reviewer's Wild Card: A-