Released way back in 2000, Smuggler’s Run is an open world racing game with a twist. As a rookie member of the “Forgotten” gang you have to prove your worth by smuggling illegal cargo across the border while evading authorities. The game did not have a lot of depth, but the goal was to wow gamers with the huge environments and realistic physics, which apparently worked as the game received a very favorable reception. Looking back at it now, however, reveals a different picture.
Visually Smuggler’s Run is sub-par even for a PS2 launch title and were it not for the huge levels, it would have looked at home on a PSone. The draw distance is at least impressive and the frame rate very solid but that’s about it. With only three types of environments things start to look bland very quickly. Once the novelty of running over hikers and wildlife has worn off you’ll notice just how mediocre everything looks. The vehicles look nice enough and feature damage modeling, but the effect is spoiled somewhat by the constant clipping as other vehicles smash themselves into and on top of your car. The whole presentation also feels very stripped down with only a text briefing preceding each level. The story isn’t exactly engaging, but some more polish or a cut-scene or two could have helped a lot.
Gameplay consists of driving from one checkpoint to the next while picking up or dropping off contraband. You have strict time limits to contend with at all times, which is made even worse by the relentless enemy vehicles. Something which sucks the fun out of things even more is the horrible controls. Driving the twitchy vehicles is something that can be mastered, but you’ll find yourself wondering why you are even bothering. You start off with a twitchy buggy and truck that spends more time on its roof than its wheels but unlock better vehicles later. Your car has a damage meter which causes a stall if it fills up. If you are touched by an enemy during a stall you are busted, but mostly the AI just gets in your way long enough for the time limit to run out. Levels are not very long and start off very easy, but soon become an exercise in tedium.
The final nail in the coffin is the absolutely terrible audio. The music is forgettable enough, but the voice acting and sound effects can drive a person insane. Besides a never ending procession of wailing sirens you also have to put up with a female member of your gang screeching in your ears all the time. She’s annoying, repetitive and her insistence on constantly using phrases like “baby” and “bigboy” got her muted very quickly in my game. Why something so creepy was shoved into the game is anyone’s guess.
Smuggler’s Run has some redeeming qualities when it comes to multi-player modes, but overall the game has had its day in the sun and it is time to move on. It is not the worst game that I have ever played in my life, but it does come very close. I gave it a fair chance and stuck with it as long as I could, but the bottom line is, unless it’s for nostalgia this game is just not worth playing anymore.
*Review originally published in 2010.