Rockstar Games has made a name and a reputation for itself by releasing games with consistently subversive themes. Though it may seem mundane when compared with Rockstar's games focused on inciting riots and committing random acts of violence, the Smuggler's Run series has done a commendable job of delivering visceral racing action with a slightly deviant twist. After a good run on the PlayStation 2, Rockstar Games and Angel Studios have brought the series to the GameCube in the form of Smuggler's Run: Warzones. Not so much a genuine sequel, Warzones is more an enhanced version of Smuggler's Run 2: Hostile Territory. It's a great introduction for first-time smugglers, but those already familiar with the series won't find much new here.
Warzones is the perfect introduction to the Smuggler's Run series for uninitiated players...
Warzones does little to change the Smuggler's Run formula of picking up and dropping off contraband, all the while dodging a menagerie of law enforcement agencies, military organizations, and other smugglers. The single-player campaign in Warzones is identical to the one found in its blood cousin, Smuggler's Run 2: Hostile Territory. As is explained in grainy FMV cutscenes, you represent a team of smugglers operating under the legitimate business title Exotic Imports, and your latest gig has you smuggling an assortment of contraband from Southern Russia to Georgia on behalf of a fairly corrupt Russian colonel, and eventually your dealings with the colonel will lead you from war-torn Russia to the thick jungles of Vietnam.
You'll be limited to using a simple dune buggy during your first few missions, but as you progress, you'll unlock a selection of other vehicles, including the speedy and squirrelly Special du Monde, the nimble Baja truck, and the tank-treaded Kavostov. All told, there are eight different playable vehicles, including a hidden vehicle exclusive to Smuggler's Run: Warzones: the impossibly fast hover sled. Your progress through the single-player campaign will also be rewarded with the addition of vehicle-specific offensive and defensive countermeasures, ranging from the mundane smoke screen to the impenetrable repel sphere.
Regardless of what you're driving and what kind of gear it's equipped with, Warzones consistently cultivates a sense of urgency and controlled chaos, with rival interests and different law enforcement agencies constantly breathing right down your neck, coupled with the sensation that you're constantly pushing your vehicle well beyond its intended use. The drama is increased by the game's enthusiastic AI, which will use both dogged perseverance and intelligent tactics to keep you from making your next delivery. All this makes for a fun, challenging experience, but each mission essentially boils down to going from point A to point B over and over again, and the smuggling can become repetitious after a stretch.