Calling David Jaffe

Shut up and let Calling All Cars do the talking
By MITCH KRPATA  |  June 5, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars

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BLOGOMANIA — but the quality of the game speaks for itself.

Somebody’s a little sensitive.

Video-game designer David Jaffe was so incensed by a bad review from gamers’ site Joystiq of his latest effort, Calling All Cars!, that he was moved to blog about it. “TO THE LAME ASS WEBSITE THAT SHALL GO UNNAMED: Fuck you, guys. Go fuck yourselves.”

Joystiq’s crime? Reporting on one of the game’s several last-minute delays, as well as mentioning an earlier Jaffe hissy fit regarding a negative review from Gamespot. Even given the caustic nature of most such exchanges in the blogosphere, Jaffe’s outburst garnered a lot of notice throughout the gaming community.

And why not? Jaffe has attained near rock-star status after creating God of War, one of the best action-adventure games of the modern era. It seemed uncouth for someone with such talent to stoop so low. On the other hand, maybe now we know from where God of War’s Kratos got his legendary temper.

It’s a shame, too, because the brouhaha distracted from what should have been a proud moment for both Jaffe and Sony. For Jaffe, Calling All Cars! represents a massive conceptual departure from the mega-budgeted, slickly produced God of War series — and his team put it together in only 11 months. For Sony, this first casual-game salvo was a sign that the company intends to compete with Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade service. It was also the first original content of note for the beleaguered PlayStation 3 since MotorStorm in early March. The story should have been a triumph. Instead, it became the latest in what seems an unending string of Sony public-relations gaffes.

The good news is that the quality of Calling All Cars! speaks for itself — no need for any Jaffe screed. A vehicular combat game with the off-kilter visuals and madcap energy of a Looney Tunes cartoon, CAC captures the simple appeal of classic multiplayer arcade games like Super Sprint. Criminals are on the loose, and you can earn points by rounding them up and bringing them back to the station. The twist: as many as three other players are trying to do the same thing, and there aren’t enough perps to go around. You’ve got to do what any self-respecting glory hog would do: steal from those who have what you want.

The result shares a little in common with one of Jaffe’s first games, Twisted Metal. Each car can acquire weapons that are good for just one use. Each armament is calibrated for maximum goofiness, such as a comically large and vaguely phallic missile, or the horseshoe-shaped magnet that emits a visible tractor beam. The effect of each weapon, properly applied, is the same: it bounces the criminal out of your opponent’s car and puts him up for grabs. And if the weapons fail, you can always just start ramming jerks. Each map is fairly small; that ensures maximum anarchy even as one criminal after another is dunked back into the slammer.

And what of the criticisms that so piqued Jaffe? At great risk to my own safety, I have to concur that Calling All Cars! seems a bit thin on content. Four maps just don’t seem like enough, even at the low price point of $9.99. But it won’t sting too much unless Sony later opts to charge for additional downloadable maps. Still, the maps are just the platter upon which CAC serves a heaping helping of multiplayer mayhem. This is one of the best bets on the PlayStation 3 right now, and I’m not just saying that because Dave Jaffe is pointing a gun at me.

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