April 25, 2007 - While high-definition graphics, true 7.1 surround sound support and full-featured online functionality are all obvious benefits of this latest console generation, one of the most exciting new venues that these systems has allowed is downloadable games. Be it via Xbox Live Arcade, the Wii's Virtual Console or the PlayStation Network, all three systems give gamers the ability to download small games with an arcade focus.
As of yet, Sony hasn't had any major hits on its system that could stand toe-to-toe with the best of what we've seen on Xbox Live Arcade. flOw is totally unique, but it's also very short and certainly isn't for everyone. Games like Mortal Kombat II, Lemmings and such are fun, but we've seen them before. And don't get us started on Super Rub-a-Dub. So when it comes to original content, Sony hasn't yet had a title that could hold up against Live Arcade's best.
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Catching him is easier than snagging a lazy fly ball, but keeping him is a different story.
Until now, that is. Calling All Cars is Sony's first truly original, must-have title on the PlayStation Network, and it bests just about everything there is to be found on Microsoft's online arcade center. The game is just about as fun as any downloadable game could hope to be and while it isn't perfect, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better party game anytime soon on any system.
If you haven't been keeping up with the game, Calling All Cars is extremely simple by design. Playing as rogue copper of some sort against up to three other opponents, the single goal of the game is to capture a criminal and escort him to jail. Each level (aside from the last) has a number of different ways to lock up said criminals, and the more difficult the task, the more points you'll score. While you might earn a single point by driving him through a garage-esque drop off point, you also might earn two points for launching off a ramp and driving through a second-story spot or even three points by navigating a winding incline to the jail's roof.
It sounds simple, but when faced with knowledgeable opponents (or the tougher AI levels), it can be really tricky. Jail sections will open and close, ramps will raise and lower and one jail will even freeze over on occasion, forcing you to hunt down a moving paddy wagon and transfer the criminal while on the move. Roaming helicopters that sometimes hover about will net you more points than the jails, but keeping steady under the chopper while other cars try and steal the criminal can be a tough, tough task.
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The hammer sends a criminal flying.
And to make matters trickier, Calling All Cars' three weapons make sure that those without criminals are often armed and ready to knock him loose again. Again, though the setup is relatively simple, actually delivering the baddies is anything but easy.
Calling All Cars was clearly designed as a multiplayer game, and this is where it truly shines. With all the player options you could ask for (four player split-screen, four player online support, two player split-screen while online and text and voice support), you're able to recreate a party atmosphere even while you're at home alone. As is often the case, it's still most fun when you have four players in the same room, but if you've got three or four folks online using headsets, it's a trash-talking marathon.