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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: November 26, 2002
Have you ever fantasized about driving a heavily armed vehicle into battle and shooting everything in sight? I have, and precious few personal computer releases have allowed me to play out this fantasy. Movies like Road Warriors, and games like Mobile Forces and Wild Metal Country, came close but never did the trick. Now Swedish developer GRIN, creator of the lightning fast racer Ballistics, has released a title that, at long last, directly addresses my dream. Their new offering, Bandits: Phoenix Rising, is a third-person shooter on wheels where you ride around in a cannon-enhanced combat car, and it offers the kind of briskly-paced arcade action that gets my juices flowing.
The storyline is interesting, but not particularly novel. Fennec and Rewdalf, leaders of the Wolfpack gang, want to fulfill their materialistic ambitions by obtaining the gold sequestered behind the walls of Jericho City. Along the way, they pass through desolate areas where the inhabitants struggle to gain access to much-needed resources through scavenging and exchange. Gangs of bandits drive around in custom battle cars greedily competing with each other for any treasures in the area. As you make your way through the missions, the plot becomes more textured and engrossing; however, the greatness of Bandits lies in its action rather than its storyline.
One unusual dimension of Bandits is the attention paid to the principal characters. The humorous dialogue between the two main protagonists is a kick to listen to. Rewdalf is a Scottish midget who possesses excellent marksmanship and a penchant for nonstop gab. He’s also known for shooting first and thinking later. Fennec is more low-key and laid-back, with a reputation for brains and cunning, and an excellent driving record from his wide travels over the years with his gang. While each provides a perfect counterpoint to the other, Fennec is responsible for the Jericho battle plan. The interplay between these two provides a depth not common in action shooters.
There are over 20 missions in total, and multiple endings to the game. You’ll rarely be alone in combat, as both numerous enemies, which buzz around you in their vehicles like angry bees, and allies usually surround you. Mission goals include attacking trading posts, blatant pilfering, dueling enemy vehicles, escorting a truck convoy through enemy territory, overcoming clusters of aggressive foes and racing enemy gangs. Regardless of the immediate task at hand, you’ll usually have to demolish all of your foes. Despite the similarity in overall style, the missions show considerable diversity.
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