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Smuggler's Run 2: Hostile Territory
Review By:  Jared Black
Developer:   Angel Studios
Publisher:   Rockstar
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Driving/Action
ESRB:   Teen
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:   12-13-01

When the PS2 launched last year, many critics panned the launch lineup as a bunch of me-too titles that were either poorly executed or had been done better on inferior systems. However, a few launch titles did stand out as being truly "next-gen" and one of those was the original Smuggler’s Run. With its expansive environments and simple yet challenging gameplay, it provided a unique experience not available on competing systems. Naturally, a title that successful is going to receive a sequel, and that sequel is here in the form of Smuggler’s Run 2: Hostile Territory. While it doesn’t break any new ground, it improves upon last year’s version and delivers a solid, if mindless, gaming experience.

Like the original, you assume the role of a smuggler. The core of the gameplay experience is the "Smuggler’s Missions", in which you’ll have to successfully complete 36 different missions set across three different territories. Basically, in each mission you’re thrust into a very expansive area with a set of objectives to complete. These objectives are varied from mission to mission with some of them being simple "pick up and deliver the loot" missions and others having you take out a variety of targets. Tying each mission together is a very simple story delivered via FMV cutscenes and text/audio on the mission objective screen, that basically boils down to "we’re getting paid to deliver the goods, so do it". Naturally, a game like this doesn’t need a real story to drive things forward, but it’s good to see that an effort was made. 

In addition to meeting the different objectives you’re given, you must also make sure to avoid the cops who relentlessly pursue you. If your vehicle takes too much damage (either from the terrain or the cops ramming into you), it’ll cause you to stall out for a few seconds. During this time you’re open to arrest by the police. If they can’t get to you before you get the car started again, then you’ll be able to drive off with them back in hot pursuit. There are other ways for them to capture you as well, such as blocking off all means of escape (for example, you run into a building and they surround you) or two of them smashing your car at once (bringing you to a dead stop).

Other gameplay modes include Turf Wars, Checkpoint Races and Joyridin’. Turf Wars is comprised of several mini-games, including "Crooks & Smugglers" (one package can be delivered at a time, fill your quota before the other team does), "Loot Grab" (lots of packages are available, deliver as much as you can), and Bomb Tag (which works like any other Bomb Tag mode). Checkpoint Races includes a total of 15 different races spanning each of the three areas presented in the main missions. There are five different races in each area, and each area can only be unlocked once you’ve made it to that point in the mission mode. Finally, Joyridin’ lets you ride around and become familiar with the terrain.

There are a total of eight different vehicles to use in the game, and each of them has their own distinct look and feel. Picking the proper vehicle for each mission will prove critical to success, as some vehicles simply can’t handle the terrain a mission takes place over that well. Additionally, one improvement that was made over last year’s version was the inclusion of a countermeasure in each vehicle. Ranging from oil slicks to simple speed boosts (with cool blur effect), mastering these is imperative if you want to successfully fend off AI opponents. And as tough as they are (more on that later), you’ll need all the help you can get.

The key to mastering any mission lies in learning the environment. This is one of the few mission-based games where the free ride mode (Joyridin’) is actually put to good use. If you don’t know the terrain before you enter into a mission, you’ll most likely fail that mission several times before you get to know the layout. For example, not knowing that a particular hill is insurmountable will cause you to get stuck on that hill when you try to reach the next objective, thus wasting precious seconds and opening yourself up to capture by the police.

Speaking of the environments, each of them is wonderfully detailed. Throughout each location, you’ll encounter a wide variety of objects like buildings, fences, lakes, people, and even livestock. Each environment is laid out in a very smart manner, as these and other obstacles will come into play as you attempt to complete each mission. For example, on several occasions civilian vehicles are placed near drop-off points for your loot. Thus as you’re barreling towards the drop-off point trying to deliver the goods as fast as possible, you also have to make sure you take it at an angle that will allow you to avoid the civilian vehicle. Additionally, the player can actually lead the cops to their doom by luring them into an obstacle. There are smart touches like this throughout the three areas that will demand concentration and a bit of luck to avoid or use to your advantage.

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