Review: Starsky and Hutch

For anyone old enough to have been able to watch 'adult' TV in the Seventies, Starsky and Hutch was THE cop buddy show of the day. Transmitted on a Saturday at 9pm (in the UK anyway) it was the height of cool and while every boy from the age of eight wanted to be part of this duo, most adults simply sprayed the family saloon the famous pillar box red with a white line darting across the doors. Like Rocky and The Italian Job this console outing would seem a little overdue but with all things retro currently seeming something of a goldmine for developers and producers alike it's hardly a complete gamble. A big screen outing is also due to hit your local cinema sometime during 2004 although this game is actually based on the TV original. With the announcement that Driver 3 will no longer be appearing on the GameCube the future for Mission Based Driving titles is looking somewhat less certain but has Starsky and Hutch got enough va-va-voom to keep you interested? Read on and see...

Graphics:

As usual with these types of games the visuals can best be described as variable with some definite highlights but also some unforgivable glitches such as the occasional 'game freeze' and some less than pretty 'slow downs' for no apparent reason. On the plus side the model of your trusty Ford Gran Torino looks wonderful and even takes a fair amount of realistic damage throughout the duration of the game. Other vehicles however are less detailed and pedestrians simply seem to stand around on street corners until the very last minute, although to be fair this is exactly what innocent bystanders did in 70s TV shows. The city is huge and incredibly well designed with secrets and short cuts absolutely everywhere. It does suffer from the same type of problems that plague games of this nature though so though everything appears fine when driving around the city, when you hit an open space the dreaded pop-up becomes very evident. Texture-wise the whole thing is clearly on the cartoon side of things, which while it seems to suit the style of gameplay is a little less appealing in the comic book style cut screens.

Sound:

Like the visuals, the audio is somewhat mixed. Music-wise it's all here with the original theme and other incidental tracks playing throughout the game. There are even some pleasing sound effects including guns blasting and car tires screeching. Things start to become a little unstuck with the recorded dialogue as, while the developers have the original Huggy Bear on board, the rest of the characters are read by a variety of session actors who provide the quality of performance we've come to expect from these type of titles. Also, and like many early football titles, there's a problem with repetition and once you've heard them refer to almost everything as 'cool' a dozen or so times we're sure you'll feel the same.

Gameplay:

Starsky and Hutch is basically a chasing and shooting title with a Story Mode padding out the kind of stereotypical plot that made the series so successful back in the 70s. It takes place over three seasons with six episodes in each but as most of these are almost identical it's sometimes hard to see where one ends and another begins. Control is very easy indeed with the shoulder buttons controlling the speed and the 'A' allowing Hutch to lean out of the window and shoot at just about everything. Targeting is done automatically with everything that can be shot indicated by a yellow target. Shooting like this is not particularly accurate though so lining up you car to turn it red instead will give much better results. Each mission is preceded with a main and secondary objective and whilst the former is generally 'stop this car' or 'shoot that truck', the latter really could be anything. Secondary objectives range from mowing down 20 fire hydrants to driving through cardboard boxes. It's not essential you complete these but it will increase your viewer rating and it looks great on camera.

The Viewer Rating System is possibly the most unique aspect of this game. It cleverly replaces a timer or a fuel gage and is instead influenced by your on screen actions. Completing level objectives, pulling off stunts and collecting bonus items will mean it rises very quickly whilst the opposite is true if you prove to be less than entertaining colliding with cars and pedestrians. Many bonus items are hidden around the city and uncovering them will reward you in other sections of the game. Seeking out keys for example will unlock more cars for you to select whilst Huggy Cards opens up some interesting multimedia aspects from the original show. You'll also gradually open up the 'Free Roam' sections, which reveal just how large the city area is without having to race around it and a handful of mini games. Finally, you may have noticed at the top of the page that this game is actually for two players and if you happen to have a friend and controller handy it's well worth a go. It simply allows one player to take on the role of Starsky (driving) and Hutch (shooting) and really is great fun especially when you try and take on both roles yourself.

Playability:

Initially Starsky and Hutch is very playable indeed with intuitive controls and exciting gameplay. That is until you realize that every level has almost identical objectives to the first, which becomes a little tedious to say the least. There's also the problem that most of the challenges are actually quite easy so you're unlikely to make more than a handful of attempts on each before you ultimately succeed. Finally, and most annoyingly, there are some rather irritating bugs so, although your car is meant to right itself in a matter of seconds it will occasionally get stuck. We also had some unfortunate instances were the controls simply froze, particularly the acceleration. This doesn't happen all the time but at this level it really shouldn't occur at all.

Controls:

A: Shoot.
B: Hand Brake.
X: Toggle Camera.
Y: Not Used.
L: Brake/Reverse.
R: Accelerate.
Z: Not Used.
C: Steering.
D-Pad: Menu Selection.
Control Stick: Steering.

Lifespan:

Once you've completed the game (which you're likely to in around five hours) there is the question of returning to the various stages in order to unlock absolutely everything. This includes full access to all the 'free roam' areas, a handful of mini-games (shooting, racing and stunts) and a variety of goodies in your locker including a filmed interview with Antonio Fargas aka Huggy Bear. You could even try and attain a gold medal on each of the stages but to be honest because of the limited variety you're very unlikely to revisit Starsky and Hutch once you've completed it.

Final Say:

Starsky and Hutch certainly has its plus points and the city where all the action takes place is huge with almost every type of environment you could wish for represented to some extent in the various missions. There's also the novel introduction of the viewer rating system and the fact that a great many of the buildings can be entered throwing up some unbelievable surprises. The problems with the game though far outweigh the positive aspects and whilst this overall design probably looked good on paper there's not nearly enough variety to sustain your interest. Amazingly the GBA version is far more diverse offering missions such as one where you must deliver a bomb to the city limits without colliding with other objects or another where you must deliver evidence to city hall whilst almost every criminal in the area is trying to steal it from you. Given the game engine these would have been easy to add but instead the whole thing is a case of speed, stunts and shoot. If that's your thing and you're a big Starsky and Hutch fan then this is the game for you. Everyone else though should probably take a look at Acclaim's Burnout series, which is undoubtedly still the best in its genre.

N-Europe Final Verdict

A fun romp while it lasts but not nearly as much variety as you'd expect and less enjoyable than the GBA version.

  • Gameplay3
  • Playability3
  • Visuals4
  • Audio3
  • Lifespan3
Final Score

7

Pros

Huggy Bear
Lots of Unlockables

Cons

Can Become Repetitive
Too Short
Dumb Traffic AI


© Copyright N-Europe.com 2022 - Independent Nintendo Coverage Back to the Top