Fliss and I have spent some time on this retro-style driving and shooting game. It’s a novel combination of genres and for the most part it does work well.
One of you takes control of the famous red car with the white flash from the 70’s series, while the other takes control of an on-screen target which allows them to shoot at power-ups, vehicles, traffic lights, and other odds and ends as the need arises. Coolest of all is the cop badge – shoot one, or drive through it to trigger a cut scene, usually a large explosion or a truck barreling its way out of control towards you.
The gameplay can be frantic, as you’ll not only be trying to complete the primary and secondary objectives to complete the mission (or “episode”), but you’ll have to perform plenty of gnarly driving antics in order to keep your viewing figures healthy, too. If they drop to zero it doesn’t matter how close you are to catching the baddies, it’s game over.
Although it’s a clever game dynamic, the viewing figures are undoubtedly fudged depending on the mission. Some of the point to point stuff is so lacking in excitement that the streets are littered with viewer boosting icons to shoot in order to keep your counter healthy. However, getting shot or running over pedestrians will also have your audience switching over to Quincy MD.
If you can keep the viewers enthralled then you can set about catching the bad guys. This involves chasing them down on the road and then filling them with enough lead to sink a battleship before their vehicle of choice comes to a hault.
For the first “Series” of missions it’s not particularly hard to finish them all without breaking too much of a sweat. Sure, there are some manic moments, but once the co-driver gets the hang of shooting when their sights are constantly moving, and the driver holds it steady for long range efforts, most missions can be dispatched pretty easily, allowing you time to look for hidden goodies within the well presented city streets.
The second series of missions sadly contain that tell-tale of woeful game design, the multi-part mission. And it’s the worst of its kind, sadly, as you’ll find yourself without enough viewing figures left to stand a chance at the second part of the mission more often than not, and if you fail that you have to do the whole thing all over again. Add to that, there’s no way to skip the cut scenes at the start of each level. It wont take too many attempts before you begin to get impatient and annoyed with the cheesy dialogue.
Graphically the game is very nice – with comic-book style narrative setting the scene for each mission. Sound wise it’s so-so – mostly engines reving, guns banging and Starsky or Hutch offering words of encouragment to each other. Perform a nice sweeping powerslide and Hutch will call out “Nice turn!” – fun for the first few times. Likewise an accurate and long distance shot from the gunner will prompt Starsky to give props in the other direction. Again, a nice touch but it gets samey pretty swiftly. The cheesy retro soundtrack and incidental explosions all add up to give the game a cool, super-fly ambience, without ever doing more than they’re asked of.
Overall, Starsky & Hutch is a good game – the AI takes a variety of routes through the city, too, so there is an element of replay value even when you’ve completed the series. If you liked the driving missions from GTA 3 / Vice City at all, then this is definately for you.
A fitting tribute to the hottest cops from the seventies – seven out of ten.