Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 10/25/00 | Genre: Action
Smuggler's Run, also known as the "other" Midnight Club, is one of many excessively vaunted launch titles for the PlayStation 2. The premise is simple: you've been hired to do dirty work for those that are naughty. No, you're not a male hooker, but rather a professional contraband smuggler on the run from the cops, hence the title.
Unlike Midnight Club, however, Smuggler's Run will guide you on your way via a green arrow at the top of the screen (sound familiar, Sega fans?). This makes navigating the game's three gigantic environments a breeze. No green arrow is available in Joy Ride, a mode allows you to fully explore each environment, but considering the fun that lies within such a mode, it's better to move in your own direction.
At times Smuggler's Run begins to feel like an episode of The World's Greatest Police Chases. It's exciting to have the boys in blue right on your tail, but it's a real drag to jump over a mountain and land perfectly, only to have the cops slam into you, wrecking your ride and arresting you all in one swift move.
This adds to the game's repetition more than it does the difficulty level. Maybe if Smuggler's Run was a little bit more Crazy Taxi and a little less Midnight Club, it would have been the game everyone hoped it would be.
Don't get me wrong, Smuggler's Run is fun to play, but the tedious nature of the missions inevitably leads to disappointment. This is not to say that everyone will walk away disappointed; gamers that jump in the front seat without taking segments one and two of Driver's Training (i.e., never played Crazy Taxi or Driver before) should find Smuggler's Run to be quite an experience.
Even with a Level 2 permit, the "experience" is still there. Hundreds of trees, mountains, cars, run over-able pedestrians and an enormous lake await your eyes with sugary-sweet delight. No saccharine added, Smuggler's Run is the real deal and just the tip of the Emotion Engine iceberg.
Dirt kicks up behind the vehicle's tires; tire tracks skid across the pavement after abruptly stopping; vehicles lose their doors when hit from the side (as well as their tires, the hood and everything else when in a severe accident); all with virtually no pop-up. If you're into eye candy, this is the PS2 game to rent.
Unfortunately, the controls aren't up to par with the graphics. They're smooth and responsive, but less precise than Crazy Taxi. Hopping over mountains or running from the cops should be an exhilarating experience, but instead you spend most of the time worrying about whether or not you're going to move the thumb stick too much to the left or too much to the right, possibly running into a rock or tree and getting arrested. Smuggler's Run doesn't pull off the car chases nearly as well as The Need For Speed II.
The sound is generic. Engines rev, cars honk, pedestrians scream (when you run over them). The music is nothing special either, which is kind of amusing when you consider all the flack Crazy Taxi got for housing a soundtrack featuring The Offspring. Personally I like those songs a lot more than Pretty Fly For a White Guy, but maybe that's just me.
When it comes to the "nitty gritty," I feel as if Smuggler's Run is only fun because it looks so beautiful. I honestly can't say I'd like this game even half as much on PlayStation, unless it were to have been released long before this racing genre spin-off was created. However, since gamers do have a choice, most will [hopefully] make the wise one and not purchase this game without thoroughly playing it first. It's certainly not for everyone.