Drift Out (1991)
By: Visco Corp Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade
Also Available For: Super Famicom (variation)
Overhead racing games were one of the earliest types of games to appear, with their history extending as far back as the 70’s, so as you can imagine the genre has undergone quite a few changes in the intervening years. One of them is obviously the standard of graphics, but there’s only so much that can be done using the Super Sprint style view. The best way to improve graphical quality was to zoom in closer to the action. It might seem obvious but it didn’t become commonplace until the 90’s. Many of the titles that then appeared were rally games, and Drift Out was one of the first. It’s actually Neo Drift Out that I’m personally more familiar with but in the interests of chronological accuracy I’ll look at this one first! I don’t know how well-known it was at the time – I at least never saw it, but it was a very pleasant surprise!
Well, initially at least! As mentioned, Drift Out is based in the world of rallying and is surprisingly realistic for an arcade game. You initially have a choice of seven cars, including such (kind of) familiar names as Fard, Toyata, Subaro, Mitsuboshi, etc. You then have to qualify for the race where each of the twelve racers start in successive increments. Each course is viewed directly from above and from a zoomed in perspective. Fortunately you get warned about each course’s many corners by large on-screen arrows but it still takes a bit of practise to successfully complete a course. As mentioned, each racer starts in increments so you’re strictly racing against the clock here, but if you race well enough or badly enough, you will see other cars and can overtake or be overtaken by other cars.
From the screenshots this game probably looks awesome, and it is pretty unique in the way that it moves. Unlike similar games where you simply steer the car around the track, here you steer the track around the car! It’s an interesting approach which kind of reminds me of F-Zero on the SNES (although non-3D, obviously), and can take some getting used to. However, Drift Out is a very tough game and it’s not just because of this! The courses look nice, featuring the type of backdrops you might expect to see – wooded areas, dusty tracks, desert areas, shallow water, mud, etc, but there are also a lot of roadside objects and it’s very easy to become stuck by one of these which pretty much ruins any chance of doing well in a race, and it’s this which is Drift Out’s main problem.
I can’t tell you how many courses there are here because I honestly don’t know. You can’t choose which you want to race on, the game emulates an actual WRC season, so if you want to see later courses, you’ll have to qualify by performing well in previous courses. Maybe I just suck at this game (and there’s a good chance of that) but I’m confident I didn’t get very far. Every time I think I’m doing well, I end up not taking a corner well and getting stuck against a barrier or rock or something similar. The collisions remind me of the original Ridge Racer or Wipeout where you stop dead and just keep bumping against the obstacle until you manage to free yourself. Okay, it’s not always that bad but it’s very frustrating and, for me at least, ruins what initially looked like being a really enjoyable game.
The presentation is very nice here though, it’s one of the reasons why first impressions of the game are good I guess. The title screen is laid over a rolling demo of the game and all the menu/presentation screens are nice. There is no music, either in game or otherwise, with Visco Corp instead opting for realistic car noises, but strangely they seem totally out of sync with your performance. It’s almost as if it’s just a recording of a rally car! The graphics are very nice with much or the roadside featuring impressive detail, and the cars all look authentic. It’s just a shame I didn’t get to see more of the game. I realise arcade games are generally pretty tough in order to get more of your money, but you’d have to spend a fortune practising each course here before you saw everything!
Despite the frustrations involved, I have had some enjoyment playing this. Steering the course around the car is tricky to start with but it’s satisfying to do well (satisfaction I felt all too rarely!), plus this game provides a rare opportunity to race a ‘Fard’ Sierra! There are some great ideas here but ultimately it’s just too frustrating. Still, there are a couple of sequels, maybe we’ll have more luck there…
RKS Score: 5/10