I've been a fan of the Destruction Derby franchise since the first effort on the PS1 (which I still own, and ... boy is it dated :)
The latest effort, Destruction Derby Arenas (DDA) is a bit of a mixed bag. DD2, the second PS1 outing, improved on the first game by introducing longer tracks for racing, jumps, more interesting arenas and new play modes. DDA introduces new races / arenas, much prettier graphics, car upgrades, and more ways to get points from tricks and crashes.
Points in DD games are everything, as the most points wins a round. In this new version, points are achieved through spinning opponents just like the old times. Now though, you also get points for style - controlled skids, driving on two wheels and spins, flips and barrel rolls in the air. Additionally, aggresive driving is recognised and rewarded, so forcing opponents into the barrier, or landing on them also nets points. Points are also awarded for destroying parts of the environment.
Some of the new race environments are interesting - mostly in their prettiness. The new arenas are very nice. Some have bits of floor that flip cars into the air (quite fun ;) and another has a drop-off edge around the arena that encroaches as the round progresses (also fun to push the other cars over the edge - lots of points awarded for that too ;)
The crashing is damn fun :) The damage system is improved, as bits of the cars fall off (or are forcibly rammed off) ... doors with busted latches swing out as you take corners, and so on. Nice little touches like that.
In all other respects though, DDA seems to be a step backwards from DD2 - the races are shorter and there's less play modes. Racing and arenas are the only modes if you're not online - I guess the uptake of the online service isn't going well. One of the more fun DD2 modes was a "survival" game in the arena where all the other cars aim at you and you see how long you last. It was a hoot, as generally it was over in a minute or two, and friends could pass the controller around to see who could last the longest. This mode is now online-only. A damn shame.
In terms of the racing, I admit I might be a little influenced here by the awesome length and breadth of the racing tracks in SSX3. The races in DDA just seem bland and a little boring. The tracks are short (often just a simple figure-8) and with the exception of one track, there's no shortcuts or alternative paths to take.
The car upgrades could've been left out - they're completely linear, with no choice by the player as to what to upgrade. Bleah.
Another potential peeve: I've played the game through three times as different "characters", and have yet to unlock one of the arenas and one of the race tracks. Doesn't look like these are available in single-player mode. I'm going to keep at it though - and see whether an FAQ appears with the answer to unlocking them...
The verdict? The crashing is damn fun :) If DDA was a snowboarding game, it'd get 3 uber tricks out of 5.