Developer(s) – Climax Development
Publisher(s) – Gamezlab & Vivendi Universal
Producer – Barry Simpson
Designer – Mark Davies
ELSPA – 11+
Released in the 4th quarter of 2001 shortly following the fourth season of the program, Robot Wars: Arenas of destruction was to a tirade of criticism with reviewers citing issues with the controls as well as the difficulty, with critics thinking the game was too easy. In my opinion, however, possibly due in some part to the fact that I was a huge fan of the show growing up, I spent a lot of time playing this game when I was a kid, since I found it to be a very enjoyable experience, and the truth is told, I think it still holds up to this day. There are elements to this game that have largely gone unappreciated that make this a far better game than what most people seem to think.
Graphics – 8/10
The game is based on the hit UK series Robot Wars, popularised from the late 90s to the early 2000s. As such, it features some of the best robots to have ever competed in the program, such as Razor, Hypnodisc, Cassius, and Firestorm II, as well including the infamous House robots like Sgt Bash, Shunt, Matilda, Dead Metal, and Sir Killalot. But perhaps more impressive than this is the game’s level design; as well as having the traditional Robot Wars arena included, there are several other areas around the world where tournaments are held that are designed very differently, and more elaborately in some cases, than the original Robot Wars arena. It’s. Quite impressive to me that the developers were able to pull this off despite the clear lack of source material that becomes apparent if you ever watch the show.
Gameplay – 8/10
The objective of the game is to build a robot using a preset amount of money and to enter the robot into Robot Wars tournaments in order to compete and earn more money to build and better robots out of tougher materials and customizing it with better weapons. The amount of variety in gameplay is extremely impressive for a licensed game, which back then was much more of a niche interest than what it is now with the standard for licensed having increased dramatically following the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum. But even before then, there were more than a few diamonds in the rough beforehand, such as the Disney games developed by Capcom, the Mickey Mouse Illusion series, the earlier Lego games, and in my opinion, this too.
Controls – 8/10
As I alluded to before, one of the most common criticisms of this game was aimed at the control scheme; that movement is not as fluent as what it perhaps should’ve been. However, although it can be a bit of an unnecessary hindrance, the movement of a robot largely depends on what type of wheels it’s fitted with; which over time, becomes less and less of an issue as the player gets a feel for what axis are best to fit their robot with, and what type of tyre to use to give it better overall control. It poses somewhat of an issue because it can be annoying as the player just starts out, but to me, it is at least bearable to play until better wheels can be purchased. It’s not. It’s not the perfect control scheme, but one that does gradually get rectified.
Lifespan – 6/10
To complete the entire circuit of tournaments in the game can take up to a few hours, dependent of course on the quality of the robot the player can create, as well as much damage the robot sustains (players also have to spend money repairing their robot as it takes damage). But regardless of that, there is a fair bit of replay value to be had; especially since not only can players make different types of robots using different frames for a completely different playthrough each time, but can also compete as the classic robots, as well as the house robots.
Storyline – N/A (10/10)
The game will most definitely work better for people who watched the program and have come to like it, but this by no means doesn’t make the game any less enjoyable; another criticism I’ve read of this game is that it didn’t include the then-presenter of the program Craig Charles, with only commentator Jonathan Pierce featuring in the game, but to me, that’s far too much of a finite excuse to criticize the game.
Originality – 7/10
There had been games like this made before, and games made like it since, but not as many as there have been a majority of other genres. It’s certainly a fairly unique concept, which to me, does warrant the further development that it did end up getting, with the follow-up to this game, Robot Wars: Extreme Destruction, generally considered to be better. But to me, this game would’ve served as more than an adequate jumping on point despite the amount of flack it got at the time and still does extremely well to stand out among other games of its kind.
In summation, Robot Wars: Arenas of Destruction not only uses the license extremely well, but it adds to it greatly whilst appropriately celebrating it at the same time. I grew up with the show, with my dad even once taking me to a live show in Sheffield one time, but regardless of whether you may have been a fan of the show or not, this game is certainly worth playing through and totally undeserving of the negative response it received upon release.