Released in Europe a few months ago, BANDITS: Phoenix Rising has finally made its way onto US shelves treating gamers to some post apocalyptic combat racing action. In BANDITS you play the role Fennec and Rewdalf, part of the or Wolfpack clan who are trapped in the wilderness along with the other unruly clans beyond the gates of the rich and powerful Jericho city. Not content with their meager existence, and wanting to get a slice of the Jecricho Gold, Fennec and Rewdalf decide to do something about it and spring into action. It’s here the game begins with the Wolfpack clan and Fennec and Rewdalf taking on the other clans such as the Pumpkins, Enclave and Crusaders.Now any game involving vehicles, whether it be straight racing or mission based, never seems to work too well when weapons are involved. It’s one of the mysteries of the gaming world, in theory it should be no different to say an FPS but for some reason it never really ‘feels right’. Enter GRIN, a development team on a mission to make vehicular combat a fun and rewarding experience.In BANDITS you undertake various missions involving combat, protecting, racing and pillaging as the game’s two characters. As Fenrec and Rewdalf youhave the choice of weapons and vehicle types to choose from depending on how far you’ve reached in the game. These vehicles can be customised with different weapons, each more suitable than the other for certain mission types so there’s some planning involved before entering the fray. Vehicle and weapon selections are carried out on the simple and easy to use game interface and menu system prior to each mission and weapons can be placed on the front side and back of the vehicle depending on its size. Once you’re happy with the selection it’s into the mission you go, usually armed to the teeth.BANDITS takes the idea of combining a shooter with vehicle control, something that is not easy to pin down. Thankfully, this is one of BANDITS strong points, the game could so easily have fallen down right from the start if GRIN hadn’t thought long and hard about how this was going to work. When playing BANDITS you need to embrace the game as an FPS. If you forget you’re playing a driving game and treat the controls as a shooter you’re off to a flying start. The vehicles are controlled with a standard FPS key combo and mouse control for aiming, with the keys used to turn, accelerate and decelerate while the mouse controls the targeting of weapons. I’ll admit now it’s not an easy game to master and if you use the tactics of standing still and taking pot shots you’ll find your a* getting whooped pretty quickly by the enemy vehicles. The upshot is, the control system works well and is a credit to the development team.Another aspect of the game that impressed us is the physics. The vehicle handling is good, and while the physics seem exaggerated, it adds to the game’s atmosphere and gives the player that extra bit of maneuverability. There are little glitches here and there as far as collision is concerned and you’ll find some of the AI vehicles getting stuck every so often and I had a nasty sticky moment being stuck inside a falling bridge which made me whack the ‘exit mission’ button. It may be over the top the physics, but it does work well.One thing to note about this game is the action, it comes thick and fast. The missions should get any gamer’s adrenaline pumping as the AI is decent meaning you need total control of your vehicle and weapons to come out on top. The game is also fast moving, expect to be racing over hills, through valleys, over bridges and down slopes at breakneck speeds, it’s action all the way. The maps for each mission are sprawling and GRIN give you the ability to drive just about anywhere adding to the feeling of space in the game world’s wilderness wastelands. Fortunately it’s pretty hard to get lost thanks to the radar in the top right of the screen which shows mission objectives, and you’re even given distances to the targets on the radar just in case.So the control is good but what about the graphics. Well GRIN have an impressive engine to drive this game (no pun intended), the visuals are pretty stunning to say the least. The vehicle detail is great, you can even see the suspension on the vehicles move as you roll over the rough terrain, and the landscape is a joy to behold, if not a little barren at times. Explosions go off with a real bang making the battles an exciting experience but you’re only going to get the most from the game if you have a fairly decent gaming rig and graphics card.The games sound effects are solid, the weapons rattle and boom, and the vehicles let out a decent roar. The shining star in the sound department has to be the music though. BANDITS features some of the best game music I’ve heard for a while and there’s a good edgy rock feeling throughout. There’s obviously some rockers in the sound department and the game’s dialogue even sports reverences to AC/DC by paying tribute to the legendary Bon Scott with ‘If you’re looking for trouble, I’m the man to see’ piping up in one section of the game. The music does real justice to this game.The character dialogue also plays an important part to keep the game’s plot moving, and again, it’s decent enough, although it would be nice if a Scot could be employed to do the Scottish accents. As a Scot myself, there’s nothing worse than a bad Mel Gibson-esque accent 😉 Overall though the dialogue is well done and keeps the cutscenes and gameplay interesting.BANDITS does feature multiplayer so you can hook up for some deathmatch car combat online. While BANDITS would lend itself perfectly to online play, thanks to the control system, there’s unfortunately not many people to play with and you are restricted to either direct connect or Gamespy Arcade. The biggest failing of the online play is the lack of punters which is a shame. If you are lucky enough to find some chums or get a LAN game going, it’s a matter of choosing from a variety of vehicles and weapons before each game and blasting the h** out of the enemy.BANDITS is an enjoyable experience, the single player was a right rollicking romp, the game does impress visually and the music simply ROCKS!. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the controls do take some getting used to and some p***verance may be required. Nevertheless, GRIN has managed to fuse vehicles with fast action combat successfully and if you love mission based vehicle combat then we think you should check this baby out.