Those of you who frequent this site probably remember one of my first forays into reviewing here was Vigilante 8, which earned a ringing endorsement from me for its funky cool ’70s setting and actually being a very good car combat title (and featuring a flying saucer as a playable character helped a lot, too). I loved it then, I still enjoy it now, so you can imagine how excited young me was at the prospect of a sequel, especially when it featured upgrades for cars and a bevy of new characters. And so, today we tackle the second iteration of the V8 franchise, Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense (now THAT’S a title for a sequel!)
The story picks up, indirectly, where V8 left off: After the Vigilantes defeated Sid Burn and the Coyotes, the cyborg Coyote assassin Houston managed to remove the armband that gave OMAR control of her, restoring her humanity. And, sure enough, dumbass Vigilante Slick Clyde finds the armband in a gas station bathroom and decides it’s a good idea to put it on. Clyde receives Houston’s cyborg powers and eventually takes over OMAR himself. Eventually, in the near future (by our standards), Stanford University figures out the secret to time travel, and Clyde sees this as the opportunity for revenge he’s been itching for (besides the itching he probably got from putting on an armband he found, again, in a GAS STATION BATHROOM IN THE ’70s.) Clyde rounds up a new cast of Coyotes, and heads for 1977 to pick off Convoy and change history. Basically, this is all just an excuse for more cyborgs and crazy shit to happen, and it does.
The Quest mode is once again the heart of the gameplay, and it still features objectives that have to be completed while dodging enemy fire and blowing away the opposition, but sadly, instead of just making objectives more involved than destroying or protecting landmarks, they kept those and just added more stuff. You will frequently be asked to collect certain objects in levels, oftentimes either hidden in the landscape or in enemy possession, which will lead you, at times, to shoot at the very landmarks you’re attempting to protect in the hopes a toolbox or a suitcase will pop out. You will also be asked on one level to set Olympic records at ski jumping and the luge course…while you’re being shot at. This…is not fun. However, they still end with the same showdown against an enemy with unlimited special attacks and the epilogue showing the fate of each character, and yes, you still have to beat the game with everyone to unlock everyone else.
Not all the new wrinkles are bad, obviously. When you finish an enemy off, you have the opportunity to pick up an icon that will add points to one of your car’s attributes, like acceleration or armor. Pick up enough of them, and your car will begin to cosmetically change as well to reflect its improved abilities, starting with small things like a spoiler or a grill guard, until it begins to look like a total deathmobile (Molo’s prison bus, for example, eventually looks like a cross between a locomotive and the big-ass truck from The Road Warrior, and yes, his special attack still farts exhaust). Other pickups also exist in the levels to replace your tires with hoverpods (not terribly useful), propellers (for driving over water) or skis and treads (ESSENTIAL in a couple of levels).
Also, there’s a third class of characters in the sequel: the Drifters, who usually have their own motives for joining the fight instead of being part of the battle between the Coyotes and the Vigilantes. It’s window-dressing, to be sure, but it did give the designers an excuse to go crazy with vehicles and characters (like the mysterious Garbage Man, whose special attack allows you to pick up an enemy with your loaders and slam it against the ground, or, if you activate it while ramming a smaller car head-on, you will actually pick the other car up and run it through the trash compactor. It is truly something to behold).
Controls and weaponry are pretty much unchanged from the first, so if you could play the original V8, you should have no problems here, and it’s still simple enough for rookies to pick up and get into. There’s a few recurring characters from the first, but only Boogie, Sheila, and Molo drive anything similar to their rides from the first. John Torque’s majestic pimpmobile and speakerbox-earthquake finisher are gone, sadly (but understandably), replaced by a muscle car and a large cannon that randomly hits for monster damage. Boogie still has a Gremlin, but it is now the most garishly painted thing you’ve ever seen, and somehow even uglier than the “beer shits” orange-brown color from the original. But, it still has The Greatest Special Move in the History of Gaming, so it’s still worth putting up with.
Graphics and sound are also largely the same as the first, good, bad, or indifferent. There’s a new soundtrack, and each song is basically specific to a character, but they’re all still appropriate for the time period, and the title track is rather good, so you probably won’t be looking for the “Music Off” switch, and a lot of times, it’ll be drowned out by the sounds of either cars or scenery being blown to hell anyway. There’s still a firing limit in place to prevent the game from being broken by having to render a million billion projectiles at once, and everything looks a little sharper than the original, but nothing breathtaking. Multiplayer exists in the same style as before, but the upgrade system could allow for some interesting handicaps/unbalanced team potential…or you could just be a tremendous dick and pick the fully upgraded car that you only played with and sank dozens of hours into.
Ultimately, 2nd Offense checks off most of the boxes I have in a sequel: Did the designers keep what worked from the original? Yes. Did they add enough new features to not just make it a rehashed cash grab? I think so. If there’s a story, did the designers make at least an attempt at continuity instead of starting from scratch and keeping the successful name? Yes (this point is probably way more important to me than the average gamer). It sounds cliched and lame to review a sequel with “if you liked the first edition, you’ll love the second!” but it applies pretty well here. If you weren’t burned out on ’70s car battles after V8, you’ll find plenty to dig in the sequel, and that’s really all you can ask for.
Pretty much everything good from the first game made the sequel, but still fresh enough to not feel like the gaming version of leftover meatloaf.
You can get bogged down in the meaningless objectives, upgrades take a long time to build up, much like the first, you’ll have to grind through it a lot to unlock everything, I refuse to believe Slick Clyde is smart enough to rule the world if he’s dumb enough to wear something found in a men’s room sink.