As a teenager the Sony Playstation was my favorite console and I simply couldn’t get enough of what it had to offer. While perusing a rental store I found a game that caught my eye by the name of Auto Destruct. On the back of the box I read: “Your family was murdered by a nihilistic cult. Driven by revenge, you join a mysterious underground order to even the score. Your mission: fire up your killer ride, load up on devastating weapons and drive the cultists out of town.” If that’s not a teenager’s video game paradise I don’t know what would be.
Auto Destruct was developed by a company called Neurostone and published by Electronic Arts in January 1998. At that time Auto Destruct was among the first games with a 3D environment that you could freely roam, and the very first one I had ever tried. The player takes the roll of a former professional driver named Booth who, as previously mentioned, is taking revenge against a cult who killed his wife and daughter in a terrorist attack. The group you are now working with to seek that revenge will setup tasks for you and your car to carry out. Missions will include tasks such as seek and destroy, pickup and deliver, follow and collect, against the clock, and escort. Whats more is that each mission may have multiple tasks to fulfill within the same mission. While you may start out following a van dropping jewelry, you might end the mission by collecting the town’s mayor, after having to protect him from suicidal cult members, and drive him to safety.
Before each missions the player is given a short briefing on what their mission is. With both visual instructions as well as real voice acting, the player is then allowed to carry out said mission, while vocal instructions will continue to aid the player periodically. When you get behind the wheel you’ll notice on the left of the HUD there is a map for the player to locate where their objective is, and on the right is a confusing cluster of circles that show the player their car’s health, their opponent’s health, their fuel level and current speed. Nothing is marked, so the game’s manual is pretty vital in understanding this cluster at first.
The player can obtain many different weapons as well as a few different power ups to help them with missions. The car’s health and fuel can be replenished by pulling into gas stations, while weapons can be refilled or gained by driving over them after finding them inside warehouses found around the city. To collect anything, simply run it over and voila, it’s now in your possession, this includes cash drops from a police helicopter that helps the player throughout the game.
Strangely enough Auto Destruct offers both a password system and allows the player to save to memory cards. With my given disgust with most password systems, even when that was the only method to save your progress, I actually think this isn’t such a bad idea. Maybe someone didn’t have a memory card, like I didn’t when I first bought my PS1, well a password system allows the player to enjoy the game and still be able to save their progress. It feels a bit odd, but I truly think that’s a good idea.
I remember Auto Destruct being quite a fun experience all those years ago, and replaying through it now it’s simply ok. Some missions can be frustrating because of slightly wonky handling of the car, but I find that’s to be expected with a lot of PS1 games. The environments looks pretty good for PS1 era but there is some popup, if that type of thing bothers you. The city’s terrain is mostly flat with a few small hills, hilly grass areas and the occasional river. Your cars traction on the roads seem fine, if not a tad be slippery but if you take the time to play the game for a bit you’ll get used to it. However driving on grassy areas is really slippery, so avoid doing so unless instructed to do so on a mission, which does happen. And what would a 3D environment be without traffic and pedestrians? It would be exactly like Auto Destruct, as traffic and pedestrians are almost non-existent. There will be rare occasions where a car or a person will get in your way, but by and large the city seems abandoned.
Auto Destruct isn’t a well regarded game by any means, but I still enjoyed it. It’s a bit cheesy, it a bit hokey but it still supplied me with a good time. Reviews for the game usually pan the game as being less than they expected it to be, or not very good at all, but Auto Destruct is what it is. As was often the case, back in the PS1 era, when trying something that is fairly new you may not get it right the first time, and those who copy your work will surely surpass you, but you have to give it a try. Neurostone sure did gave Auto Destruct a try, and I for one am glad they did, masterpiece or not.