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Vigilante 8 is a vehicular combat game that lets players drive around the western United States and use a variety of weapons to defeat their opponents. Set in the 1970’s, Vigilante 8 is a fun and atmospheric game that should appeal to any fan of the genre and it spawned a sequel that aimed to expand on the gameplay and mechanics. Developed by Luxoflux and published by Activision, Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense was released for PlayStation in November, 1999, Dreamcast that December, and Nintendo 64 in February, 2000. For this review, I played the Dreamcast version.
In 2017, Slick Clyde has become the leader of the oil monopoly known as OMAR. With a desire for more power, he uses time machines stolen from Stanford University to travel back to 1977 where he and his group of Coyotes intend to eliminate the Vigilantes. That’s the gist of plot. 2nd Offense features new and returning characters. Each one has a different ending and belongs to one of three factions; the Coyotes, Vigilantes, and Drifters.
The gameplay in 2nd Offense is very similar to its predecessor. No matter what game mode you decide to play, they all share one common goal; destroy all of your opponents to win. You can accelerate, brake, target opponents, and drive around each level freely. When selecting your vehicle you can change it’s color and each vehicle has a unique special weapon and different stats in acceleration, speed, armor, and target avoidance. All of them are equipped with a mounted machine gun and additional weapons can be found in the levels and you can carry a max of three.
2nd Offense introduces some neat new features and mechanics. You can upgrade vehicles by collecting salvage from destroyed opponents in the Quest and Arcade modes. You can upgrade each stat by collecting the appropriate salvage. Upgrading a vehicle will not only improve its performance but also alter its appearance. It’s a really cool feature but time consuming if you want to max out every vehicle. The second big addition is the Propulsion Mechanisms. Not only can you find weapon pickups and power-ups but also mechanisms that will transform your vehicle for a limited time. The hoverpod allows you to hover, the hydrofloaters let you easily travel on water, and the skis n’ treads are great for snow. The hoverpod is a really cool idea but it’s my least favorite because trying to aim while hovering is a pain in the ass.
All of the power-ups and weapons from the previous game are included in 2nd Offense and new to the arsenal is the Brimstone Burner which is like a flamethrower. The weapon system from Vigilante 8 is retained which means each weapon has multiple moves, most of which are activated by entering a specific series of buttons and the combo moves do consume more ammo. Weapon pickups can be found in specific spots in the levels, you’ll get a random weapon from brown crates, and green crates always give you specials. Hitting an with multiple weapons simultaneously is considered a Whammy and once a vehicle is destroyed you can total it with a Special or Whammy and totaling vehicles rewards you with more salvage. The extra salvage is the incentive to perform these actions as opposed to the last game where Whammies and totaling vehicles meant nothing. They were just cool to do.
There are various game modes for single player and multiplayer but I didn’t get to try the multiplayer. There are several difficulty modes to select from and you can also adjust how much damage vehicles inflict. The Quest mode is like a story mode. Each character has their own quest route which takes you to numerous levels. You’ll need to complete various objectives like protect or destroy things, collect and deliver items, and avoid things. The objectives will make you explore the levels and add some variety to the gameplay. Completing the Quest mode with certain characters will unlock additional characters to play as. In the Arcade mode, you can select the level, your character, and opponents and battle it out for fun and salvage. The Survival mode allows you to choose the level, your character, and opponents and the goal is to survive for as long as you can and destroy as many opponents as possible.
On the default difficulty with the medium damage setting, the AI puts up a decent fight but I can’t say the Quest mode was super difficult. In fact, I found completing the objectives to be more difficult than defeating all of the opponents. You can easily complete first half or so of levels in each route. Since this was the first time I played 2nd Offense, the first few delivery objectives were the most time consuming because I had to find not only the items but also the delivery locations. Once I had the levels memorized and knew where buildings and structures were, future Quests were much easier. You can bring up a list of your objectives at any time and the game is clear about what you need to do. You just have to explore to find where everything is. Opponents can obtain quest items which they will drop once destroyed. They will go for power-ups and not hesitate to attack you. Knowing where the power-ups like repair wrenches and shields are will be helpful, especially in the Arcade and Survival modes. Not only because they’re beneficial but so you can get to them before your opponents do.
The levels in 2nd Offense are big with plenty of things to destroy and areas to explore but small enough that opponents are never too far away. There’s a nice variety of areas in each level and the Propulsion Mechanisms ensure there’s different ways to get around. Instead of being set primarily in the western United States, the game takes you all over the US. You’ll get to battle in Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Alaska, Minnesota, Arizona, Utah, and Louisiana. The levels contain all kinds of buildings and structures that can be destroyed, interactive elements, and you’re free to explore every nook and cranny. You can be pursued by a police car in Arizona, destroy nuclear reactors in Minnesota, and participate in winter sports in Utah. There are hazards to watch out for like an alligator in the swamp in Louisiana and Florida is one of the more dangerous locations. You’ll have to watch out for a shark in the water, electrified fences, wind tunnels, and gunners in towers. In my opinion, one thing the levels are lacking is atmosphere. They’re well designed and I really enjoyed the varied locations but I felt the levels in the first game were more atmospheric which resulted in a more immersive experience.
Visually, the Dreamcast version of 2nd Offense does look pretty good. The environments are visually diverse and detailed, the vehicle modes look good, and I really like the explosions. We couldn’t get the game to output through VGA so I don’t think it officially supports it but I’ve read it’s possible to get it working if you use a Codebreaker disc. You might want to look into that. Alternatively, you can do what I did and play it on a modified Dreamcast. We modified it so it can play games from an SD card. The action in 2nd Offense is accompanied by a jamming soundtrack with some funky and rocking tunes. On the technical side, the frame rate is smooth more often than not but does noticeably dip when things get busy and I did witness a lot of clipping like vehicles driving through walls and structures.
I had fun with 2nd Offense and I think the gameplay is an overall improvement over its predecessor but I don’t think it’s as atmospheric. I think some additional weapons would have been welcome and I prefer most of the levels in the first game but the levels in 2nd Offense grew on me over time. I like how the game takes you all over the US instead of just one region. The upgrade system adds some replay value and can feel like a grind but if you’re really into it and want to max out every vehicle, you should be occupied for a while. Maxed out vehicles are more efficient so the upgrade system gives you something to work towards. The propulsion mechanisms are excellent new additions that make navigating around the levels more interesting. There’s a good variety of vehicles, the environments are diverse, and the the quest objectives encourage exploration. 2nd Offense can be challenging and knowing where everything is and how to get to certain areas can give you an advantage in battle.
I would recommend Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense to fans of the first game and genre. It’s a fun vehicular combat game and a great sequel. It can be played solo or with others and the gameplay is still enjoyable today. Definitely check out Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense.