It has been several years since the last time those good old Duke boys graced a gaming console with their presence. The first two Dukes of Hazzard games attempted to go the logical route with the license, combining mission-based driving gameplay with storylines befitting of the classic Dukes of Hazzard TV show. Unfortunately, both games suffered from a myriad of bugs and other problems that wrecked them both completely. This latest Dukes game, The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee, unfortunately isn't much different. It features a plot worthy of the TV series, a number of the original TV actors reprising their roles...and boring, frequently broken gameplay that absolutely ruins the entire experience. Just like the show's Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, this game is foiled largely by its own ineptitude.
Them Duke boys have gotten themselves into a mess o' trouble in The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee.
Return of the General Lee once again puts you in control of Bo and Luke Duke, by way of the General Lee, the brightly colored, rebel flag-sporting Dodge Charger that helped make the show so famous. You'll also control a few other characters throughout the game, such as Daisy Duke, Uncle Jesse, and Cooter Davenport as you attempt to stop another one of the vile, money-hungry "Boss" Hogg's evil plots to get rich at the expense of the good people of Hazzard County. The plot itself plays out fairly predictably, with the Duke family and friends constantly having to outwit Hogg and the Hazzard police department to save an orphanage as well as the very county itself. The script was written by professional TV writers, and in some respects, it really shows. The game features the same sort of flashback-styled narration as seen in the TV show, and the dialogue is delightfully goofy. In fact, it's safe to say that Return of the General Lee's story is probably its greatest asset. Then again, it doesn't have much competition.
The gameplay and mission structure follow pretty much the exact path of General Lee's predecessors, consisting of a number of mission-based driving scenarios that should seem pretty familiar to anyone who has played a game of this type. Sometimes you'll have to race from one place to another in a certain amount of time, or perhaps you'll have to follow another car while keeping yourself out of sight so you don't get caught, and at other times, you'll be trying to distract the dim-witted cops of Hazzard County to allow some other doings to transpire. In theory, this sort of thing should work absolutely grand within the scope of the Dukes of Hazzard universe, but the execution of these missions leaves lots to be desired.
For starters, the pacing of the game is just achingly slow. The cars themselves provide very little in the way of a satisfying sense of speed, but even the missions seem to just drag on endlessly. You'll be driving from one part of Hazzard County to another, and even though the county isn't especially big, you'll feel like it's taking forever to get anywhere. Further compounding this is the game's lousy mission structuring. Return of the General Lee uses something of a GTA-esque mission design, wherein you'll have to drive to specific locations to actually set missions in motion. However, unlike GTA, there's no open-endedness to it. You never really have more than one mission available to you at a time, and all you can do in Hazzard, apart from missions, is roam around aimlessly, and there's really nothing of note to do around the county while roaming.
Bad driving physics, a plodding mission structure, and a few boneheaded design choices pretty much suck all the fun out of this game.
Make no mistake--driving around in Return of the General Lee isn't much fun at all, thanks to the downright unpleasant driving physics. Every car in the game is ridiculously powerslide-friendly, so even a slight turn one way or the other will often cause your car to jerk just far enough off course to become frustrating. Even more annoying is that you still have to use the hand brake to powerslide around certain corners or turns. This powerslide mechanic is insanely overwrought, causing you to often spin out 180 degrees every time you turn unless you're extremely, extremely careful. There are also no real crash physics in the game. Yes, cars can run into one another and into random objects, which will stop any forward progress, but that's about it; even that isn't a guarantee. Sometimes cars will just drive up walls or objects, rather than actually crashing into them, and there is no damage modeling at all beyond a few little scrapes and scratches. You can total your car, though there's no way to gauge how close you are to destroying it, so it all feels largely random.