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When I think of vehicular combat, I think of weaponized vehicles. I think of ballistic projectiles. I think of vehicles exploding and crashing into each other. I think of Twisted Metal. From what I read, after Twisted Metal 2, SingleTrac was eventually bought by GT Interactive and because Sony retained the rights to Twisted Metal, SingleTrac created a successor. Developed by SingleTrac and published by GT Interactive, Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012 was released for the PlayStation in September, 1998. It’s a vehicular combat game that lets you drive around open environments and attack your opponents with a variety of weapons.
Set in a post-apocalyptic United States, leisure travel has become illegal and those that try to get away from it all end up fighting for their lives. A group of automercenaries capitalize on the situation by taking tourists to the only vacation spots left and make a ton of cash in the process. Most of the characters are wacky and have their own backstories. Unlike Twisted Metal, there are no unique endings for each character but beating the Vacation/story mode will reward you with a password to unlock something.
Rogue Trip can be played solo or with up to four players and even supports the PlayStation link cable. The game comes with multiple difficulty modes and a nice variety of vehicles to drive. There are also secret automercenaries that can be unlocked via passwords. Some of them are bosses but you can also pilot a helicopter and flying saucer. Each vehicle has different stats in top speed, handling, armor, and mass and a unique special weapon that will regenerate after use. Vehicles have mounted machine guns and you can acquire weapon pickups in the levels. There’s different types of ballistic weapons, you can also burn opponents with the scorch weapon, guide a prowler missile, lob remote bombs, and summon a shower of meteors. Furthermore, you can upgrade weapons to make them more powerful.
You can accelerate and brake and activate a turbo boost which does drain through energy which recharges over time. Energy can also be spent to perform jumps and combo moves like sucking cash from your opponents, activating a shield, driving on two wheels, dropping mines, stunning opponents, and rear attacks. This should all sound familiar to Twisted Metal veterans but one difference you’ll notice right off the bat is that the vehicles in Rogue Trip don’t slide around as much. Performing combo moves requires you to hold down triangle while pressing dpad buttons in a specific order. As a Twisted Metal veteran, I had to get used to holding down triangle but once I did I liked it because it prevented me from performing a combo move by mistake which I would do a lot in Twisted Metal 2.
Single player includes three game modes – Vacation, Getaway, and Challenge. Vacation is like the story mode. You choose a vehicle and must complete each destination by eliminating all of your opponents. If you run out of lives, it’s game over. You drive around open environments collecting weapons to use against your opponents. You can also earn cash. Cash pickups can be found throughout the levels and you can pick up tourists and take them to various spots for photo ops for cash rewards. Cash can be spent to upgrade weapons at upgrade stands and to replenish health at repair stands. Unfortunately, weapon upgrades are not permanent. Rogue Trip can be a challenging game and there are a limited amount of photo ops in each level so you’ll want to be mindful of how much cash you have and try to accumulate as much as you can. The cash pickups don’t give you nearly as much money as tourists do but they do regenerate like weapon pickups. The cash is a neat concept and adds an extra layer of strategy to the gameplay.
Rogue Trip does allow you to save your Vacation progress and you can play through it cooperatively with a friend. Earning enough cash will reward you with an extra life and you will get the chance to earn extra cash in bonus levels. You’ll also have to go up against several bosses. A tourist spawns in each level. They will get into any vehicle near them resulting in a “kill the carrier” style of gameplay. You can fire the Ejector weapon to eject the tourist from an opponent vehicle. The Getaway mode retains the Vacation gameplay but you choose what level to battle in. The Challenge mode is just vehicular combat. There are no tourists which can make this mode quite difficult because you still need cash to repair your vehicle and have to rely on cash pickups and sucking cash out of opponents.
Since Rogue Trip was developed by many of the same people that worked on the first two Twisted Metal games, I expected AI opponents to only target you and never go for health. I was partially correct. AI opponents do seem to only target you but will attack each other if close enough. However, they do go for tourists, they will take them to photo ops, and they will drive to repair stands. On the Low Grade difficulty which is the easiest, you can easily breeze through levels but you can only get so far. You can only see the ending on the High Octane difficulty or higher. The game puts up a good fight on High Octane which I equate to Normal. AI opponents are relentless and bosses can destroy you quickly if you’re not careful. Opponents will frequently try to stun you and activate shields. Energy does recharge quickly so if I was low on health, I always had plenty of energy to activate a shield and would do so repeatedly until I could get to a repair stand. AI opponents will often follow you around and if you don’t try to avoid taking damage, you can easily lose a lot of your health and end up spending all your money at repair stands. You’ll need to be aggressive, know where the weapon pick ups and stands are, utilize combo moves, and upgrading weapons can be helpful.
The levels or destinations are excellent. They’re like wide open arenas with plenty of shit to destroy. You can blow through certain barriers and destroy various landmarks and objects. Shooting certain things can even reward you with cash. You can freely drive around each level and you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny to discover all of the pickups. You’ll get to blast your way around a destroyed New York, get beamed up to the Moon from Area 51, and battle it out on runways at XLAX. The levels are diverse and well designed.
Rogue Trip is certainly not the best looking PlayStation game but it doesn’t look bad. The presentation is colorful and cartoon-y and vehicles and environments are fairly well detailed. Vehicle models will show visible damage, explosions leave behind black smoke, and each level is visually diverse. You’ll see aircraft and UFO’s flying around in the skies, motorcycles in the Neon Nightmare level, and waves crashing onto the beach in the So Cal level. There’s a lot of neat little things that add some life to the environments. The soundtrack consists of some jamming tunes from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and you’ll hear a lot of machine gun fire and loud explosions during gameplay. On the technical side, we did not encounter any major issues. The frame rate does dip when things get hectic which can happen often and it’s noticeably lower when playing in split screen.
I was pleasantly surprised by Rogue Trip. I initially thought it was going to be just another Twisted Metal game with a new coat of paint. And in many ways it is. It’s the cash element that makes Rogue Trip stand out. Other than that, it feels very much like a Twisted Metal game. That said, I still prefer Twisted Metal. Rogue Trip isn’t really innovative but I admit it does do some things better. For one thing, the vehicles control much better and the environments are more interesting thanks to all the little details. In fact, I loved most of the levels in this game. Rogue Trip showcases a post-apocalyptic United States with a cartoon-y presentation and wacky characters making it feel unique within it’s own genre. I do think the game deserves more recognition because I think it’s one of the best vehicular combat games out there. As I was playing this, I came to the realization that there is no real modern successor to this style of vehicular combat. I’m talking just arena styled vehicular combat with ballistic weapons. No racing. I’m actually surprised. I’ve been looking and waiting for games like Twisted Metal, Rogue Trip, and Vigilante 8 to come along for years and it appears that we still have to go back several console generations to play games like this.
I would absolutely recommend Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012 to fans of the genre. It’s a blast. If you like Twisted Metal, you’ll like Rogue Trip. The goal isn’t to cross a finish line before your opponents to win. You need to destroy your opponents to survive. It’s a battle for survival and cash. It’s vehicular combat at its finest. Definitely check out Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012.