World Destruction League: Thunder Tanks is the type of game that comes along in surplus at the very beginning or the very end of a console's life. Had this title come out in 1995, it would have done well with the Twisted Metal/Destruction Derby set. But now that we're at the end of the PlayStation's time, WDL just comes off as standard "been there, done that" fare. And while style isn't everything, the rest of what World Destruction League: Thunder Tanks has to offer quite simply isn't worth taking.
The spiritual sequel to 3DO's BattleTanx, WDL uses the same tired premise used in almost every vehicular combat game. Set in the post-apocalyptic future, the most popular televised sport is the World Destruction League, where insane tank warriors battle each other in different arenas across the globe - not a fresh concept in the least.
While the game offers a few variations on the standard vehicular combat structure laid down many moons past by Twisted Metal, the modes are simply not done well. Capture the flag stays true to its namesake but ends after a single flag capture, never really allowing for the action to reach a satisfying level. With no real incentive to clash with your opponents, capture the flag can be easily won without ever firing a single round, which counters the supposed destruction theme of the game. The standard deathmatch mode also suffers from a low kill quota, ending after a mere three kills. The gauntlet mode, where you must get from one end of an arena to the other while dodging turrets and drone tanks, is so uninteresting, it's barely worth mentioning. Frenzy mode, a more free-for-all version of capture the flag, is the most enjoyable mode, as it is the most conducive to head-on confrontation with your opponents.
While all these modes could have been adequate, the game's shoddy control and poor level design cripple them. Each tank handles in its own unique manner, but they all tend to move slowly and have a poor turning radius. The levels never make use of their locales, instead providing a compilation of indistinguishable arenas. Additionally, the whole mess is accentuated by the game's lousy collision detection and slightly lobotomized AI.
The lackluster vehicle and level design are further marred by Thunder Tanks' graphical troubles. Muddy, low-res textures and slowdown run rampant throughout the game, and WDL rarely maintains 30fps in a single-player match. The two-player matches suffer from these problems doubly so. The game's sound is as uninspired and poorly done as the rest of the game, with murky sound effects and a generic, wholly characterless soundtrack.
As we rapidly approach the PlayStation's demise, cheaply produced tripe like World Destruction League: Thunder Tanks will likely become the norm for the console as developers set their sights and their budgets toward the higher-performance next-generation consoles. While the buzz around the PS2 version of this title is good, World Destruction League: Thunder Tanks for the PlayStation does not suffice in any facet of its execution and should be avoided by even the most fervent vehicular combat fans.