I didn’t exactly have high expectations for a game based on PG-rated chicken wings, but holy shit, Ubisoft, what have you done? Hooters Road Trip not only failed to blow my socks off, but after fifteen minutes of play I inexplicably found myself wearing several additional pairs. No game featuring scantily-clad women should ever result in you wearing more clothing than you started out with, but that’s just the opening testament to how awful Hooters Road Trip really is. So heat up the dipping sauce and open a couple cold ones. It just gets uglier from here on out.
Despite what you might think, unless I have previous experience with a game I’m playing for this column, I approach each new title with as much of an open mind as I can muster. I don’t consult reviews from other sites. Ideally I approach each title as a tabula rasa, a blank slate onto which I shall carve opinions which are mine alone. I have to admit, I’d heard plenty of bad things about Hooters Road Trip before I took the plunge, but I tried to keep my low expectations in check. This was naught but folly. The opening FMV explains the whole experience will be “Tacky yet unrefined,” which honestly and forthrightly spoils everything you need to know right up front.
Hooters Road Trip, as the title implies, is a cross-country trip where you race five other desperate wankers in a bid to see who can reach the next checkpoint the fastest. “Checkpoint” in this case is shorthand for Hooters, an American institution built on the physiques of bustier-than-average woman wearing tight shirts, orange Daisy Dukes, and smiles that will melt your eyeballs at ten paces. I am also given to understand they serve food, but the one down the street from my house closed years ago so first-hand research is impossible.
It is impossible to play Hooters Road Trip for the PS1 without looking like your car is controlled by a drunk maniac attempting to slather on lipstick while simultaneously change into more comfortable shoes. Driving games should be wedded to the concept of tight controls; Hooters Road Trip‘s are so loose, Animal Control gets calls about stray dogs every time you change lanes. While you have a dozen choices of muscle cars, most of which must be unlocked and licensed for use on your main Road Trips, there doesn’t seem much to distinguish them from one another except graphically. The game claims each has different stats for braking, acceleration, and handling but this ain’t Gran Turismo and you aren’t going to notice. What you will notice is a chronic over-steer no matter how cautious you are with the pad or how highly the car is rated for turning.
It’s comforting to know developer Hoplite Research spent as much time programming the AI for the other drivers as they devoted to the controls. Your bumbling redneck fratboy “racing” buddies have trouble understanding concepts like “getting out of second gear” and “not repeatedly ramming the pick-up truck in front of me”. I can only assume the research for this behavior was standing in a Hooters parking lot at closing time and observing the results.
If you can’t get the controls perfect or the AI to pose a challenge, the very least you should aim for is a game engine that allows for some spectacular wrecks should you swap paint with another driver. Hooters Road Trip laughs at such a quaint notion. The physics were clearly written by someone who glanced at the introduction to a ‘Dummies’ book, said, “Nope,” and returned it to the shelf. Ramming another car at 100+ miles per hour results in a little bounce effect and a loss of speed, as though your car was made entirely out of Tupperware instead of steel and molded plastic. It’s possible to take curves so quickly you use the barbed wire fence on the side of the road to help you corner. You can launch yourself by hitting a hill at high speed, then brake and actually slow yourself down in mid-air. I know it’s a racing game based on a restaurant where the waitresses are expected to meet sexual harassment with a smile, but for crying out loud, Burger King’s Big Bumpin’ cost one tenth of Hooters Road Trip‘s original $40 price tag, and it had a better understanding of the laws governing our physical universe. Of course, Big Bumpin’ didn’t have full-motion video of bouncy young women welcoming you to their neck of the woods either though so, you know, six of one, half-a-dozen of the other, I guess?
The final insult to this shameless cash-in’s legacy is Hoplite Research’s founder, Manny Granillo. Granillo got his start in the game business as a quality assurance tester for Electronic Arts. This man played games to assess what was wrong with them and was paid to do so for four years. How does anyone with that much experience in the trenches let something as sub-par as Hooters Road Trip out the door with his stamp of approval as Executive Producer?
You know what would have made me really respect Hooters Road Trip? Driving controls designed to be used with one hand. That at least would have been a hilarious nudge-and-wink to everyone that the developers understand exactly what sold you on this over a copy of Gran Turismo or Ridge Racer. I would have forgiven every one of this game’s sins like I was it’s own personal lord and savior and extolled its virtues to everyone who would listen, because I’d know the developers were in on the gag and recognized the absurdity for what it was.
Somehow, despite completely shitting the bed with Hooters Road Trip, this story doesn’t end in nothing but doom and gloom. Hoplite redeemed itself on a different licensed property earlier in 2015 with the WiiU release of Space Hulk, set in the Warhammer 40k universe and derived from the popular strategy board game. (Incidentally, we talked about the original Space Hulk for the 3DO too…just sayin’.) Actually, you know what? You should just quit reading here and click on that link. It’s a lot more exciting. So we’ll catch you next week for a new installment of “Revenge of the License”. Also, I was just kidding about that whole ‘driving with one hand’ thing. Our readers are far more sophisticated than that, as you all should know by now. In fact, you guys…are really the best…um…readers that we, uh, that we…