United Front Games are best known for Sleeping Dogs, and (after the closure of Triad Wars) they’ve returned with a new release on Steam Early Access called Smash and Grab.
If you ever wanted to become a member of a violent gang and be down with the kids on the street then this is the game for you. The game’s title says it all, it’s about running around in a gang of five, smashing stuff up and looting shops with your hooligan chums.
The game is multiplayer only and two teams duke it out on the streets to grab as much stuff as possible in an allotted time-frame. The sides are split into East and West side crews with each team having three real life players who command a crew of an additional four thugs.
Each side starts at the subway station and runs into the streets to start looting the stores for weapons and cash. The more stuff you grab the better the chance of winning, but it’s not that simple because everyone else is trying to do the same.
There are numerous factors to consider while out looting; how much cash you can grab, what weapons you can find, upgrading your weapons, and collecting loot drop boxes. All these involve kicking the crap out of windows, drop boxes, or vending machines.
Combat in Smash and Grab is not particularly complicated, it involves mashing a mouse button, grabbing an enemy into a hold, or evading attacks. It’s not exactly brain taxing stuff and anyone can play this, but there is some element of skill as I found out in my very first game where some hoodlum kept taking me out with a machete. What a naughty bastard.
Weapons can be upgraded at upgrade vending machines and what you can apply to them depends on what you have looted. The higher tier stores which open as the match progresses have the better upgrades so there is weapon progressions throughout a match.
United Front has created a roster of characters to pick from, each with their own special abilities. Some are better at melee while others are handy with ranged weapons. Abilities include such gems as setting an opponent alight. Despite being full of them, this game is not really aimed at youngsters.
As the match progresses you’re bombarded with sweary words, because clearly that’s what all the cool kids do. It’s actually quite funny when you realise you’re sitting behind a PC all nice and safe, and there’s expletives of ‘fuck this’ and ‘fuck that’ going on everywhere. Yes, it made me feel really tough.
Within your gang roster, you need to assign a Lieutenant. This guy also comes with abilities to help in the fights, as opposed to the other three crew members who are there to make up the numbers. Grunt thugs, if you like. There are selection of different archetype options to choose from for these guys. Who you decide to make part of your crew is up to you, and it really depends what kind of help you want from the AI during the street brawls.
Character abilities do play a part, and with a couple of extra specials alongside the basic attack, the combat can be unpredictable. When all hell is breaking loose around you, it’s not easy picking a target and moment to unleash a special move that counts.
Playing against and alongside live Smash and Grab players really adds to the gameplay. Playing the AI is all well and good, but when you come up against real players that know what they’re doing the difficulty level is significantly ramped up.
The map is pretty small, so it’s never long after a quick bout of looting at the start before you bump into the other team. It’s these brawls that add to the tension with hammers smashing heads, machetes flying, punching, kicking, and nail guns firing. Should your crew fail to take the other gang down, it’s back to the subway after a respawn before hitting the streets again for more of the same.
The tension is heightened by the race against the clock and how much cash you can loot before the end of a match.
Right now Smash and Grab has two game modes. Ransack, which is the first team to reach $50,000, and Take Back, which involved grabbing $50,000 and collecting strong boxes with $10,000 inside, which then have to be returned to the subway station for a $10,000 bonus.
For practice purposes, there is an AI bot mode which can also be played co-op; so there’s at least an option to help improve your tactics and play style before taking the plunge with real players. I suggest everyone does that first, otherwise you’ll find yourself in a bloody heap for most of the match.
The game’s premise is simple and it actually works pretty well. It’s a little samey at the moment but as Early Access progresses more will be added to spice up the action, including more characters. Smash and Grab is definitely worth a look if you want to punch in windows and take part in some largish scale street battles against other players and AI thugs.