Starsky & Hutch
Like Sergeant Murtaugh, who only had five more years left before he could claim his easy desk job, you don’t always like being forced to change your attitude. Our favourite tough cop from Lethal Weapon had the insanity of Riggs to contend with, we, on the other hand, have the equal lunacy of buddying Driver with Time Crisis. Can this really work?
Well, sure it can, and it does. As with all good buddy partnerships, such as that of the lead heroes, the key comes in understanding the strengths of both concerned; in this case the pace and thrill of haring through bustling city streets and the pleasure that comes from popping a cap in the arse of a villain. This, in effect, is Starsky & Hutch. Each mission is styled around an episode of the classic TV show, with Starsky (the one in the cardigan) and Hutch (the drug addled lady’s man) chasing crooks and robbers across Bay City.
Using the steering wheel and G-Con2 together you get a really good sense of speed and gunplay. Every level has been designed to force you to use both styles of play to their maximum potential in order to hook in the viewers — in this game, viewers equal points, lose them and it’s Game Over. Hence, every level is packed with secrets and hidden areas, as well as bonus ‘viewers’ being earned from holding skids, jumping bridges and smashing fences, windows and, well, everything in sight. Oh, except being the hero, you cannot shoot or harm innocents and fellow cops, which makes for some tense high-speed pursuits on the later levels as you struggle to blow the crim to hell and steer clear of crashing the local mall. You see? The partnership thing is working. Who needs that early desk job? Well, maybe you do, if you don’t have a pal or a G-Con2, or a Logitech steering wheel for that matter, as all are needed to get the most out of Starsky & Hutch. In two-player this game is a real revelation: one drives and one shoots; one aims to keep you on the tail of the fleeing hood, whilst the other aims for the power-ups.
In single-player things are slightly less thrilling. Using the Dual Shock2 you can play as you would Driver or The Getaway, with steering being handled by the analogue stick and an auto-aim feature taking care of the shooting. It works, but it just doesn’t have that connection you get from shrieking at a mate for taking the wrong turn just as you had the escaping goon in your sights.
To be fair, the developer, Mind’s Eye, has attempted to compensate by adding in secret areas and fun bonuses to unlock. Collecting keys hidden in hard-to-reach areas of the city unlocks new cars, and attaining the high scores on each Season (read: group of missions) unlocks one of three mini-games: a point-to-point race, a shooting challenge and a stunt area complete with a loop-da-loop track. The game in general is very much destined to be a fan’s favourite. The visual style is in keeping with the show. Stilted cartoon strips, illustrating the story as it unfolds, will put a smile on the face of anyone who grew up on the likes of Captain America and The Incredible Hulk.
Elsewhere, the city is well designed and features a variety of areas to tear up, including a roller disco, beachside parade and that Seventies chestnut, the scrapyard.
The classic Ford Gran Torino looks good, though it must be said, not spectacular. As with many of the cars in the game, detail has been diminished in favour of speed –when you hit a power-up as you cross a busy street, the only game that betters this ride is Burnout 2.
But essentially, this is all secondary. The single-player game isn’t why you’d buy Starsky & Hutch, you’d pick up a copy if: a) you loved the show and hate the new millennium, or b) you own a G-Con2, steering wheel and have a friend who comes under the ‘a’ category. This is a game about a partnership between play styles, and one that wouldn’t seem to work on paper, but like all good buddy relationships, and Starsky & Hutch themselves, it comes through in the end.