Monday, 8 March 2010

Gear Grinder Review

Ah, the back of the box blurb. If you're somehow unwise enough to not read a review prior to your visit to the shops, or an online retailer, it's what can ultimately convince you whether to spend your hard earn cash or not. Naturally the game PR people will do everything they can to make their product sound unbelievably awesome; after all it's their job to make you want something you don't actually need! Sure they can slightly bend the truth here and there, but it's not cool if they just outright lie to you...and this is where Gear Grinder enters the equation. According to Head Up Games:

"Gear Grinder is full of destruction on wheels! Equipped with enormous trucks, the player fights with installed weapons through adrenalin floating missions and leaves behind a trace of devastation"

Now, for starters ‘a trace of devastation' doesn't make much sense, but adrenaline is marked in bold because that particular word is a big fib. (And spelled wrong, but that can be forgiven seeing as Head Up are German) Gear Grinder is supposed to be an action racer, and while there are plenty of guns, crashes and needless explosions, most elements of the mission based gameplay are rather bland. This ultimately makes this a mostly unenjoyable experience.

Gear Grinder is predominantly a driving game, be it racing, time trials or destruction derby style battles, but it also has a very tedious story tacked on to join everything together. You play as a convicted murderer called Jack Hammer, who sounds like he should be a porn star rather than a felon...perhaps the recession means even that industry is making cutbacks? With him being a murderer, and his stupid name, it's not exactly easy to warm to Jack. He's spared the death sentence in order to complete missions with the use of a big truck for a group known as The Agency. They've planted a bomb in his brain to make sure he'll follow orders. Now, we'd all be annoyed if this happened to us but Jack says;

"I'm outraged! And when I'm outraged, everybody around me is going to suffer. If I don't relieve this stress I'm going to explode, bomb or no bomb!"

He's a complete git about it and the mission that follows requires you destroy as many cars on the road as possible. Now, there could be anyone in these cars! Families, old people, upstanding members of communities...and Jack are a complete arse and kills them all. He's not a nice character which makes it difficult to play as him. Sure, Grand Theft Auto IV's Nico Bellic is also a homicidal maniac but he doesn't go killing innocents for the sake of it (Unless you make him, which still means it's you who has problems rather than Nico!) Oh and by the way, you have to destroy other road users. This mission is a time-trial and you get more time for exploding cars. These time-trials, along with the more traditional checkpoint based style, are boring and unfortunately repeated throughout the almost 50 missions that make up Gear Grinder.

Of these it's the racing missions which are the most enjoyable. These come in both the standard format where it's just a straight run to the finish, and the more violent races involving weapons and other quirky features. For example, one particular race see's the driver at the back of the field blown up at certain intervals...and if that's you it'sgame over. This does add the adrenaline mentioned on the back of the box , but it's perhaps the only time. The destruction derby style battles take place in a closed environment and the idea is just to stay alive as long as possible. Your opponents are a bit stupid so the only challenge about this is getting to grips with the awkward keyboard controls. If you want to play Gear Grinder, you should probably use a pad.

Almost every mission has a bronze, silver and gold trophies which if attained provide you with new weapons, upgrades and paintjobs for your truck. Unfortunately, you'll often find yourself replaying many of these boring missions because it's almost impossible to get to the later sections of thegame without the extra equipment they provide. Sure, you've got to give credit to Heads Up for trying to add replayability to Gear Grinder, but having to replay dull, even frustrating, missions just to get the things needed to advance further into thegame is a tedious affair. It doesn't help that the levels, tracks and the graphics in general, are average at best.

So Gear Grinder's racing sections may be somewhat enjoyable but are nothing compared to the likes of GRID, which incidentally is widely available at much lower price than the £26.99 it costs to buy Gear Grinder. A rubbish tacked on story, the fact that Jack Hammer is a total smeghead, and the boring missions mean Gear Grinder isn't really worth your time. (Unless you like trucking and you like to truck!) If you want the adrenaline advertised on the back of the box, you can find that during every blood boiling rush hour on Britain's roads. Hey, at least that gets you emotionally involved and excited, which is something Gear Grinder never does.

4/10

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

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