Licensed video games aren’t great at the best of times, but when that license is a record label the alarm bells really start ringing. Earache Extreme Metal Racing might not obviously be a licensed video game, but Earache is in fact a record label for the more extreme end of the rock music genre. However, without a movie or TV show to work with, this licensed video game has nothing but the music itself. You can guess how well it’s turned out.
Playing Earache is painful; more painful than listening to the likes of Mortiis, Decapitated and the other ‘bands’ featured in the game. The ‘Extreme’ part of the racing comes in the form of weapons mounted to each band’s vehicle, which can be used to batter opponents as you race around nasty courses. These courses have to be nasty as Mortiis and the rest of them wouldn’t be seen dead racing around Brands Hatch or Silverstone, and the racing just wouldn’t be extreme enough if the courses weren’t based in Hell or in graveyards – that’s seriously extreme.
Game modes initially seem quite plentiful but it doesn’t take long to realise that most of these aren’t going to provide more than a few minutes worth of play. Other than the Challenge mode, which sees you racing through each of the tracks in the game, the rest simply give you one task to do, such as destroying zombies or taking out your opponents in an arena. The fact that the racing model would have been embarrassing at the launch of the original PlayStation doesn’t help matters.
You race in combat vehicles, but they rebound off each other in a way that defies their supposed weight – I’m not being harsh when I say it feels like a budget 32-Bit racer. Weapons vary in effectiveness, from the completely useless to the mildly useful, and zombies are randomly scattered around each track – they provide you with points if you run them down, but a certain type cause your vehicle to explode into the air. Speed boost pads also lie on the road surface, which thankfully give your vehicle a much needed injection of speed.
The basic racing and clunky physics engine would be enough to condemn Earache to the scrap heap, but the development team seemingly wanted to make the game completely devoid of likeable features. There was clearly an intention to make Earache a rough looking game but it’s ended up being ugly in completely the wrong way. Track designs are bland, textures are horrific and the frame rate chugs so much you’ll probably start to think your console has a fault. It doesn’t, the game engine is just one of the worst you’re likely to see on the PlayStation 2.
If there’s one area that Earache excels, it’s in its soundtrack and collection of bonus features – assuming you’re a fan of Earache Records that is. Something in the region of 50 music tracks are included on the DVD, and numerous bonus videos and music videos can be unlocked. Given the game’s budget price tag there’s no doubting that fans will find plenty to make this a worthwhile purchase, but that fan base is an extremely niche market.
At this stage in the PlayStation 2’s life we’re seeing games that do more with the hardware than we ever thought possible. Earache does the same but in reverse. Every aspect of the game has been implemented in the worst way possible, with gameplay that is basic, embarrassing visuals and a premise that is so awful it should be sent to spend its days in the morbid environments the tracks are set in. Earache, headache, temporary blindness… you’ll have them all if you spend any length of time with this horrific racer.