By Luke Smith 01/19/2007 In David Jaffe and Incognito's Criminal Crackdown Calling All Cars, if you tote a criminal in your vehicle for too long, the game calls foul. The foul? A shot clock violation.
But Calling All Cars is a game about driving, so why would a term relegated to basketball be associated with the game in its current, unfinished state? Somehow, a game about driving criminals to jail has more in common with NBA Jam than it does Twisted Metal.
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The premise is basic, the execution sublime. Drive a number of selectable cars (they are just skinned differently -- all perform the same) around the map, deploy one of three weapons to knock the three other cars out of your way, catch the criminal and drive them back to jail. Rinse, repeat. Some depots have higher point values because they are harder to reach (think a ramp to drive up, or a jump to make). There are also a few wild cards like a helicopter that roves around the map, and a paddy wagon that comes out irregularly -- dumping the prisoner in either of those nets players more points than the one to three they get for the jail locations. After the timed round is up, the player with the most points wins. Basic enough, right?
SCREENS: The helicopter provides a moving target, and as a result, makes for some pretty exciting scenarios. Click the image above to check out all Calling All Cars screens.
That premise, like the Beatles pop songs Jaffe wants his game to be, has a bit of depth to it. Not as saccharine as "She Loves You," Calling All Cars isn't "Eleanor Rigby," either. With three weapons, each usable once before you have to pick up another one from Warcraft-esque yellow question marks on the map, each serves a different purpose and add depth to game's bump and grind combat:
The Hammer: This is a short range weapon that creates a spot-shadow around your vehicle indicating range. When a vehicle or criminal is in that range, squeeze the trigger and the hammer thuds down, knocking their car out of your way and ejecting the criminal from their vehicle.
The Magnet The medium range magnet isn't a typical magnet. While it will pull cars toward you -- it pulses a series of rings in front of it, indicating what it's targeting -- the weapon also seems to vacuum criminals from cars. Numerous times during our play session we were about to score, only to see the magnet muck everything up.
The Missile The third and final weapon has the longest range and some tracking -- a bit like a red shell in Mario Kart. According to Jaffe, each weapon has defensive capabilities that accompany their obvious offensive benefits, though we didn't get too see much of how that works.
BLOG: Want to see more art from Calling All Cars and read Jaffe's thoughts on everything from riding ATVs to working in Utah? Click the image above to head over to his blog, where he chronicles the development on Calling All Cars.
Using an analog stick to whip around the map with the X-button serving as acceleration, Calling All Cars plays a little loose with the friction co-efficient. Given the game's art style, realistic automobile performance isn't something we were expecting, but the cars do tend to slip and slide around the map a little bit -- it's an easy fix and one Jaffe says Incognito is still balancing. A speed burst -- think a nitro boost from Off-Road -- will get your ride across the map quickly, and then you'll only be able to use the X-acceleration while the boost meter refills.
The game will support online multiplayer, though the logistics on how that will work with getting friends into your game hasn't been entirely worked out yet. Incognito, like the rest of us, is waiting to see what's included in the next major PS3 firmware update. The game supports split-screen multiplayer and the build we played stayed solid at 60 fps in 1080p with four players fighting and swearing at each other.
Frantically paced across just four levels, Calling All Cars is a long shot from the games you're used to seeing David Jaffe associated with. Those lengthy, 50 hour game experiences aren't games Jaffe seems to be interested making anymore. Instead, compact taut experiences like Calling All Cars have grabbed his focus.
One has to wonder, if without David Jaffe involved, if Calling All Cars would receive as much attention as it has. Probably not, but -- like when Valve entered the episodic market and brought a lot of attention that way -- Jaffe's status could help open up the market to a group of players that otherwise wouldn't try it. Let's just hope in this case, after starting strong, things don't completely fall apart and get delayed a year.
Thanks to 1UP.com for sharing the news with us!