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“Grand Theft Auto has a lot to answer for these days....”

Written on: 06/02/2006 by TOMLEECEE (121 reviews written)

Good Points
Lots of fun - an aspect overlooked in most games!
Great graphics

Bad Points
Not much replay value
The sound/music is bad
Lots of loading screens
Car handling is a bit annoying

General Comments
Grand Theft Auto has a lot to answer for these days. If it's not being blamed for teaching kids to rob cars and run people over, it's being blamed for glamorising yob culture. However, it's not the first 3D driving game that encourages recklessness and carnage behind the wheel. A good year or so before GTA 3 was released, the Dreamcast played host to Super Runabout: San Francisco Edition. OK, so to compare it to GTA 3 is a little unfair as it's not really the same kind of game, but aesthetically at least it is quite similar. The main difference though, is that SR is intended to be light hearted fun, while GTA 3 leans more toward all out gang warfare.

The premise of the game is split into two. On the one hand you can opt to drive for a delivery firm blasting across San Francisco in a multitude of vehicles, trying to deliver items or collect things before the timer runs out. The other option is to play as the San Francisco Police Dept, doing similar missions, but this time trying to get to bombs before they explode, pushing drug dealers' limos into the sea, and strangely, collecting hot dogs for a Mayoral dinner at the City Hall.

The reason I compared SR to GTA is because all the action takes place in a living breathing recreation of San Francisco. There are pedestrians milling about, street sellers, trams and other traffic bustling about the vibrant cityscape. Of course, to add to the fun, most of the stuff you can see is destructible. Market stall, bins, and other vehicles - smash through them in order to get to your destination in the quickest possible time! You can't actually leave your vehicle as you can in GTA, so if you sustain too much damage or fall into water, the mission is over.

Graphically SR is superb, and only adds to speculation that the Dreamcast was never really used to its full potential - I'd wager that simply on this evidence the system could easily handle a conversion of aforementioned PS2 based crime-caper. It isn't by any means perfect in the looks department, and there is a fair amount of pop-up in places, and some of the pedestrians (who can't be run over) look a bit dodgy, but overall it's quite impressive.

I actually really like this game, simply because it's a nice alternative to something like Crazy Taxi, but I do have some criticisms.

The car handling is a bit annoying at times as brakes are virtually useless, and most of the vehicles have very erratic steering models. Most of the time it feels as though you are driving on ice rather than tarmac, as your car (or motorbike) skids uncontrollably through bins and market stalls. This can be quite fun, but when you need to collect an item it can be very frustrating, as you constantly miss it because you can't control your vehicle properly. Also, because of this occasional lack of control, you end up totalling your car and losing a mission; or skid off a pier into the sea with similar mission ending results. Another niggle with Super Runabout is the number of missions. Each scenario only offers a paltry six missions, so when you've done them that's it. There is a bit of replay value in just driving around and marvelling at the city, but it's not as big or involving as in GTA San Andreas for example. Not a fair comparison I know, but there should have been some mini games included or some racing modes. However, those criticisms aside, Super Runabout is a lot of fun and a good looking game too. The music is pretty abhorrent, and the sound effects are a bit embarrassing, but mute it and put something decent on the stereo and you'll be laughing. Super Runabout is not perfect by a long way, but it is a lot of fun, and that's what counts.

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