BANDITS: Phoenix Rising Review

Bandits: Phoenix Rising can best be described as The Road Warrior lite.  Like the film, the game is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is home to bands of gangs who battle it out using cars loaded with weapons.   However, there's very little in the way of characters and the plot's pretty thin, so basically Bandits is all about the combat. 

What's better than a souped-up dune buggy? A souped-up dune buggy with missile launchers!

Although you spend nearly the entire game at the controls of a well-armed buggy, Bandits is not a driving sim.  It is a shooter on wheels that even uses the same control scheme as first-person shooter games.  The vehicles are steered primarily with the mouse - rotate the view and your car will "go where you look" when you accelerate with the [w] key.  You can switch to steering with the [a] and [d] keys on the fly at which point the mouse will control the gun turret installed on your car.  It may take you a few moments to get used to this scheme, but once you do you'll find that it works quite well.  It also gives you more freedom to maneuver in combat while eliminating duels that degenerate into duels that feature endless circling while trying to line up a shot.

Control in the game is very responsive, and is helped in part by its very liberal physics engine.  Turns at high speeds are as easy to pull off as those at low speeds and the way the cars go bouncing across the landscape sometimes brings to mind a high-speed ride on the moon.  Falls off of ledges or cliffs do not damage your vehicle, and it has a cat-like ability to end up back on its feet, er tires, after the fall.  The game is more about blowing up other cars than it is about delivering a realistic driving experience.  Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on how much realism you demand from your games or if you have a bias against arcade-like games.

Bandits is played as a series of missions.  At the beginning of each mission you can choose a car chassis and its weapons loadout, although toward the beginning of the campaign your selections will be pretty limited.  You'll also be given a text briefing outlining your mission objectives.  You won't always be able to determine the best vehicle for the job from the briefing, so there's some trial and error involved in the process.  Missions include convoy attacks and escorts, races, raids, and your basic car duels.  The mission difficulty quickly ramps up in the game and mid-mission saves are not allowed, so you'll be forced to replay most of the missions many times before being able to move to the next.  While the combat always plays out a little differently, all mission events are scripted and the number and initial location of enemies is fixed.  This creates some frustration as you'll need to replay everything that you've accomplished up to the point that you were killed when replaying a mission.