Post by KostaAndreadis @ 02:43pm 19/02/15 | Comments
Throwback Thursday is a weekly column on AusGamers where the nostalgic Kosta Andreadis opens up the proverbial gaming industry attic, has a poke around, finds dusty copies of games from a different time – and plays them!
Watch Kosta play Blast Corps in the embedded video above
The Game: Blast Corps
The Year: 1997
The Developer/Publisher: Rare/Nintendo
The System: Nintendo 64
Sometimes the simplest ideas are often the best. When presented with the amazing 3D power (at the time) of the Nintendo 64, a small team of new recruits at UK development studio Rare started playing around with the idea of a game where players used different vehicles to destroy buildings. Even at this point in the history of gaming this wasn’t exactly the most complex or original of ideas. But doing this sort of game in 3D environments, with 3D objects and vehicles, was certainly a bold choice. With a vehicle line-up including everything from rocket powered motorcycles, to bulldozers, giant robots, and even giant dump trucks, the end result was 1997’s Blast Corps, the studio’s first of many noteworthy games for the Nintendo 64.
Although the core concept of destroying buildings served as the basis for Blast Corps, the game would ultimately be framed around missions featuring an unstoppable runaway nuclear truck. And outside of a menacing coat of red paint the details as to how and why aren’t exactly explained, or that important. Because they don’t really need to be. Context-wise, everything in Blast Corps serves just that, the game. Here the runaway truck is nothing more than a moving timer, forcing players to quickly destroy certain buildings and clear obstacles in its path. Now, failing to do so will cause an immediate explosion and trigger nuclear fallout of apocalyptic proportions, but that’s just Blast Corps’ ‘Game Over, Please Try Again’ screen.
Based on this simple concept and premise, Blast Corps may sound more comparable to a modern modestly priced digital title than say the full-priced retail release it was in 1997. But even so, the amount of content in Blast Corps is both impressive, and more than worthy of its original price tag. The act of clearing a path for the runaway bomb-truck-thing really only serves as the tension-filled opening moments for the additional time spent exploring each stage, destroying every building, finding every collectible, unlocking new vehicles, and opening up new bonus missions. For such a simple game the content is staggering, as not only does it entice players to replay and re-try missions to get better times, earn medals, and find every little secret, but the reward system is built almost exclusively around this.
Today, collecting multiples of multiples and completing side-tasks that serve no real purpose or provide any real reward outside of an arbitrary stat are becoming all too common. Which is a shame because when handled correctly, these sort of treasure hunts and bonuses can be fantastic additions to a game. Blast Corps knows this, and more importantly, knows how to reward players. After spending hours collecting everything and getting gold medals in every event, race, and mission, Blast Corps then presents players with a new set of missions taking place in locations like the Earth’s Moon and Mars. Not only that, but once you’re done up there it ups the ante even further with a mirror mode in addition to a new set of challenges designed to filter out the exceptional players from those that break controllers in bouts of despair and frustration.
YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO IMPRESS ME
So how does it stack up today? Pretty good for the most part. It’s important to note that at the time of Blast Corps' release, having realistic physics in a 3D game just wasn’t possible. As the majority of Blast Corps is spent replaying stages to unlock new vehicles, find secrets, destroy all objects, and generally have fun within each stage’s sandbox setting, the lack of any realistic physics are only glaring in hindsight. And their omission only highlights some of the specific and weirdly punishing controls of certain vehicles. Specifically the dump truck, ie Backlash. Oh Backlash, why must you be the way that you be?
Okay, so the general idea when controlling Backlash is to slide-out and drift like one of those cars from Ridge Racer, and then sideswipe into buildings to make them collapse. Sounds easy enough but the only problem is that Backlash is extremely hard to control with any sort of precision, behaves erratically at the best of times and is prone to stop dead and remain motionless right next to a building you’re trying to bring down. Strangely, Backlash is used as the vehicle of choice for a number of the harder stages, which only makes sense in terms of game difficulty. Controlling this vehicle was even a particular sticking point for some critics and players at the time of Blast Corps’ release, and things haven’t gotten any better over time.
So in lieu of giant jet-packed robots like J-Bomb that can fly around and destroy buildings by simply stepping on them, the majority of Blast Corps is spent with vehicles of the two or four wheel variety. But even so, the variation between all the different types of vehicles is commendable, and later stages even allow for different approaches and strategies. It’s still a fantastic game to play but due to the sandbox nature of the stages one can’t help but feel that a modern version of this exact idea, with improved controls for certain vehicles that shall remain nameless, and actual physics could actually serve as a measurable improvement.
As it stands Blast Corps is still worth playing, and although it shows its age across both visuals and presentation, its premise, setting, and style of play – if released today - would most certainly be hailed as a work of focussed brilliance.
Best Forgotten / A Trip Down Memory Lane / Timeless
Kosta Andreadis remembers a time when in order to get the best out of a console game you had to blow gently into it and whisper sweet nothings like "please work, I’m up to World 8-3, for fudgcicles sake". Situated in Melbourne, Kosta is a freelancer who enjoys playing RPGs, strategy, adventure, and action games. Apart from investing well over 200 hours into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim he’s also an electronic musician with an album releasing very soon.