Well now, I done gone and played The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee and man did my IQ take a beating. About the only thing missing from this game is your very own souvenir spittoon with Cooter on one side and Daisy Duke on the other. For the record, I grew up watching this show and got a huge thrill out of the countless stunts. It was a blast watching Bo and Luke Duke outsmart Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane through the use of over-the-top stunt work, all while trying their hardest not to look too closely at their cousin Daisy.
Like a lot of guys my age, the great Daisy Duke was my first love. There was no other while I was growing up, and when I think back to my childhood she stands tall amongst the other memories. Oh how I wish The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee was a fitting tribute to this show, or at the very least a marginally competent game.
The graphics for The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee are simply awful. We’re talking “My First Video Game” level of terrible. The landscapes are washed out, there are just a handful of car models, and the map is simply more of the same wherever you drive to. What you can do is push the Select button and the map will pop up in the screen and overlay the action. You can then drive around while looking at the map, but there’s a catch. The map shows two types of roads, one dirt and one paved. The dirt roads are dark orange and the paved are a light blue. Guess which two colors in the whole spectrum do not work when placed on a transparent map overlaid on a driving game?
I also had to laugh at one of the purported “bonus” feature of new outfits for Daisy. You can unlock them by completing stunts, but the character models look so awful I just laughed and lamented the memories of my youth. There are nice puffs of dust that blow up as you burn across the landscape, but it’s a static landscape and not one filled with a great many differences. There are individual places like the Duke Farm, the Boar’s Nest, the Hazzard swamp, and the rock quarry that stand out as unique, but in between them there is an awful lot of the exact same thing. It’s a shame that none of it looks worthwhile, or I would have enjoyed myself more while driving through the rural South listening to the same banjo twang over and over.
Whoever plays The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee better enjoy the banjo, because you’ll hear the instrument played over and over again. The only time the music really changed was during the in-game cutscenes, and that was about it. I can appreciate that Hazzard County is set in the South, but the sole measure of a redneck is not just for the love of the banjo. If you have to hit all the clichés, then it’s important to recognize how ignoring the squealing of farm animals and the ringing of someone spitting into a spittoon is just plain wrong.
I did like the sounds of the cars going off-road, and the game gets huge bonus points from me for giving you a bonus for blaring of the General Lee’s car horn during a stunt. The developers were gracious enough to get as much of the original cast back together as possible, complete with none other than Waylon Jennings as the balladeer. It’s cool to hear him go on about the adventures of the Duke boys, complete with the plays on words his character was famous for. I really liked hearing John Schneider and Tom Wopat together again.
You might notice just how low the score is for the controls and wonder just how awful they could be. Trust me when I say that in a game dedicated to a legendarily fast orange car with the Stars and Bars painted on the roof you would not be out of place expecting the car’s handling to be tight. What you get instead is a car that handles badly on paved roads, and even worse on dirt roads. I frequently would over compensate going in to turns, thereby smacking right into the corners I was trying to avoid in the first place. At first I thought it was just a matter of the developers thinking a car with so much power needed to be crippled, but later that proved not to be the case. As you progress in the game, you can earn upgrades for the General Lee. You can earn things like mountain tires, a better transmission, and better exhaust pipes but no where do you get something that actually has a tangible effect on the car’s handling.
The controls wouldn’t be so bad if they were limited to just one vehicle, but since you do get to drive other cars like Enos’ cop car and Uncle Jessie’s truck then it would help if they handled better. Sadly, every vehicle in this driving game handles the exact same way – terribly. The basic control scheme has the right thumbstick and X button for acceleration, and the left thumbstick steers. The triangle button changes the view from third person to first person, but that doesn’t help a whole lot since I find a first person driving game to be more of a challenge than others, and the third person view in this game is so close on the tail of the General Lee that it’s sometimes difficult to see anything but the car. Also, there’s no camera control. None. This leads to the car spinning out, and you not knowing what’s coming or where you are. Then you have to back up and turn around just to re-center the camera on your tail.
The first thing I noticed about The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee was that it was trying like crazy to be a Grand Theft Dixie. The second thing I noticed was that it doesn’t come anywhere close. The in-game missions are a variant on the following types: Rescue whichever Duke family member happens to be in jeopardy at the time, outrun Roscoe and Enis (who both can mysteriously appear in front of and behind you during chases), drive to a specific location in a set amount of time and drive back. Whoopee. Did I mention the fun wears off after about an hour when you realize there’s nothing going on around you, you’re repeating yourself on missions, and handling the General Lee is way too close to a mini-game itself to be fun?
I thought I would look for different things once I realized that I was playing the same mission repeatedly, so I just drove around for a while looking at the sites. I saw a few barns, a whole lot of grass, a mining camp deep in the mountains, and a couple of cars here and there. I guess what surprised me is that the developers took the show and made it literal in the sense that the show only focused on a handful of characters without really fleshing out a lot of the background. Well, if I’ve got a game with a lot of physical ground to cover and there’s not a lot to look at, that’s what one would call bo-ring.
The game keeps a running tally on your stats like how many stunts you’ve completed, how many different road blocks you’ve run and how many times you’ve evaded the police. I did notice how the stunts screen said I’d only completed three percent of the game while the save menu indicated I’d completed significantly more than that. I couldn’t tell whether it was from sloppy coding or just a glitch no one noticed… wait, that’s redundant. Am I alone in seeing a pattern here?
Um… it’ll come to me in a second. Hang tight. I’m thinking about replay value for this one… brain… hurting…
It might make a great coaster, or offer trade-in value at your local game store? To make a long story short, The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee is not a game worth having in your collection. I would suggest checking out the season one DVD set of the TV show if you have that Dukes of Hazzard craving, because not only will you get some entertainment for your dollar, but freeze frame was meant for Catherine Bach.