Video Game Rentals Delivered

Calling All Cars! (PSN)

David Yun (PSN Gamertag - Vawce) David Yun (PSN Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-04-21 12:20:34

Calling All Cars! - Rank B

Developer: Incognito Entertainment
Publisher: SCEA
Date: 5/10/07

Calling All Cars! is the pet project of David Jaffe, the driving personality behind the mega-game God of War and the director of the beloved Twisted Metal series. It might seem incongruous to move from these big budget monsters to a simple downloadable title, but the stripped down mechanics focusing on multiplayer mayhem are largely successful. I'd like to see more big name developers adjusting their project cycle to work on the occasional budget title, even if just to prove that they're capable of entertaining us without high production values.

Calling All Cars! is easy to grasp. The four players stalk about as police cars, competing to capture and bring in escaped convicts. Once you hit and apprehend a criminal, he must be delivered to one of several detainment facilities. If you drop him off at the easy to enter police station entrance, that yields just one point. Taking the ramp to jump through the upper level of the station scores two. Mobile delivery points like the paddy wagon or helicopter can yield even more. Meanwhile, the other three players are attempting to steal the prisoner from you by smashing into you or attacking you with weapons.

It plays like free-for-all vehicular basketball. Get the ball and hang onto it long enough to set up a viable scoring attempt. Even the multiple scoring venues emulate the risk/reward balance of shooting three-pointers. Removing the existence of teams and fouls results in utter chaos, with frequent smack-talking changes in fortune. Alliances form and shatter as the politics of constraining the leading player shift from target to target. The three weapons (which serve as short, mid, and long range offense...wait, no, defense?) plus good old-fashioned ramming ensure that possession of the prisoner rapidly and ridiculously exchanges hands. The resulting chaos makes for alternating moments of gloating exultation and crushing despair, the ideal formula for trash-talking multiplayer couch gaming.

Therein lies Calling All Cars!'s chief drawback. Playing solo is virtually worthless, as there is no satisfaction in crowing over an emotionless computer. It only shines with four human combatants. Network play is smooth and supports the voice chat necessary for the all important anti-camaraderie, but doesn't quite compare with the joy of hooting and hollering with your buddies in the same living room. Even then, you're forced to contend with the annoyances of split-screen action.

Calling All Cars! is a pure game, one that delivers simple competitive anarchy. There isn't much to it, but it sets up scenarios that allow players to engineer their own drama and entertainment. Its shallowness isn't likely to spur multi-hour marathons of play, but it's excellent in short spurts. I suspect it's ideal for situations like a group of buddies looking for a half-time show alternative, or looking to kill some time before going out to a movie. Calling All Cars! can be a LOT of fun, and the only reason I didn't rate it higher is the limited logistical window necessary to hit its sweet spot.

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