Trackmania is the ultimate track-building, racing game.
In this match I was racing in the track The Last Ride. The song that’s playing is Kungs – I Feel So Bad Ft Ephemerals.
Trackmania is the ultimate track-building, racing game.
In this match I was racing in the track The Last Ride. The song that’s playing is Kungs – I Feel So Bad Ft Ephemerals.
Riff Racer (Drive Any Track) is a game similar to Beat Hazard and Audiosurf that lets you play with your music. It creates a track based on a song from your music library.
In this video I race to First! by Gazebo. It’s a 2 star difficulty track. I was using the car Monaco.
Here is an Air Revenge event in Airplane Graveyard for Episode 12 Out With A Bang in the game Split/Second.
Here is an Air Revenge event in Port Bridge for Episode 6 Midway Pass in the game Split/Second.
Here is a Race in Dry Docks for Episode 9 Scorched Rubber in the game Split/Second.
Chase HQ was my first arcade love. It’s the first arcade game I can actually remember, well, remembering. I knew the name, I would actively seek it out in the various horrible, dingy, seaside arcades I forced my family to take me to as a kid.* It was colourful, it was noisy, you got to drive a car, bash into another car, and a man leaned out of the window and fired a gun. Brilliant. Simple, effective arcade action. I did whatever Nancy told me to do. I still probably would.
So it was only natural I would want my very own version to play at home. As Lewis has already touched on here there was a time when everyone was obsessed with something being ‘arcade perfect’. The dream held by every school boy was that they could play an exact replica of the game they played at the arcade in the comfort of their own bedroom, away from the frightening puffa-jacketed older boys who might beat them up or intimidate them by standing right behind them and watching them play.
Of course it all seems so quaint now, bloated as we are on fancy graphics and plasma tellys. Why, the arcade itself now struggles to compete with home consoles, relying on ever more elaborate and expensive gimmicks to try and get people to fritter their pound coins away as they once did with their 20ps. Ahhhh, ’twas a different time.
At the time my brother and I were proud owners of an Amstrad CPC6128k (with disc drive, and I’m sure it was spelt disc not disk back then). Now the Amstrad CPC version of Chase HQ was never going to be arcade perfect. Even at 10 years old I knew that.
While the arcade version looked like this:
The Amstrad CPC version looked like this:
Didn’t matter though. I was well used to such differences and had lowered my expectations accordingly, I just wanted the chance to play Chase HQ at home. Is that really so much to ask?
I found a mail order company in an Amstrad magazine selling Chase HQ at a very reasonable price. I can’t remember how much now, something like £5, but it was cheap. I saved up the odd 20 pence and 50 pence given to me by grandparents and aunts and uncles until I had enough. I got my mum to write a cheque for me, posted my order and waited.
And after about 2 months my parents tired of me asking if Chase HQ had arrived every time I got home from school. My dad called the company, it seemed they had gone bust. I wasn’t going to ever get the game. They had though, in a thoughtful parting gesture, cashed my mum’s cheque, effectively stealing from a 10 year old.
Now this is were Robert Maxwell gets involved. At least I think he does. I’m sure I remember my Dad saying the company had gone bust partly because one of Maxwell’s companies, I presume Mirrorsoft but again I don’t know, owed them a huge amount of money. So, in a roundabout way, Robert Maxwell stole Chase HQ away from me. How did he sleep at night? Maybe that was the final guilty nail when he was on that boat…
Though now I think about it (and having done a little bit of research on the internet – I checked wikipedia) that doesn’t seem that likely. Still, I like to blame him, he did enough crooked things that adding another seems fair enough.
I never got Chase HQ. Very soon after that incident it became increasingly difficult to find places selling Amstrad CPC games, certainly older ones. It seemed I just wasn’t meant to play it at home. In fact after that experience I stopped playing it in the arcade. The game had been soiled in some way.
So, how did Chase HQ make my life slightly better? Well, it taught me to be wary of ads in the backs of magazines – an important lesson to learn whatever your age.
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By: Criterion Games / Acclaim Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: Infinity
Also Available For: PlayStation 2, Xbox
As many regular readers here may know, the demise of Sega’s fantastic Dreamcast took with it my enthusiasm for all ‘modern’ gaming as well. Consequently, a vast majority of systems and games released since then went largely ignored by me. Still to this day I’ve used a PS2 only very briefly, and I’ve never used an Xbox, but the GameCube is a bit different. My appreciation of racing games is also well-known and it was these games that consumed the bulk of my time with my shiny Dreamcast so my interest in modern gaming was again briefly piqued by a magazine cover I saw. The magazine was Edge whose cover was only usually awarded to notably important or prestigious subjects so when I saw one dominated by a new racing game called Burnout, I took immediate notice, particularly when I saw the text accompanying the image – “OutRun meets 3DO Need For Speed”…
That said, any interest I had in video games at all during my post-Dreamcast depression was intermittent so it took me a good while to get around to playing Burnout, but when I finally did it was the GC version that I plumped for and my first impressions were mixed. It certainly isn’t a game to bog you down in exposition – as far as I can tell there’s not even a basic outline of your objectives beyond the obvious goal of being ‘number one’ (snigger), never-mind anything as radical as a backstory, but that isn’t too important with games like this. All the game does give you is a choice of several play-modes – Championship, Single Race, Head to Head, Time Attack, and Special. The first two consist of races against three CPU-controlled cars over ‘street’ courses which of course are crammed full of civilian vehicles. Single Race (arcade mode, basically) give you a choice of five fictional cars – Supermini, Sports Coupe, Saloon, Muscle, and Pickup – and three courses to race them on.
Doesn’t sound like much I agree, so luckily more cars and courses can be unlocked by racing (well) in the Championship. This is the mode you’ll probably spend by far the most time with and it consists of two types of race – Grand Prix and Marathon races. There are four Grands Prix, which are each a series of three races over several laps of circuit-based courses (the number of laps depends on the length of the circuit), and two Marathons, which are single races over one long point-to-point course. Both types of race have a fairly strict time-limit to reach the numerous checkpoints but successful completion of each unlocks subsequent Championship races, more courses, more options for the Special Mode, and Face Off races. There are four of the latter which are head-to-head races against a CPU-controlled opponent in a new car. Win the race and you unlock the car for future use!
This does of course bring the total number of cars available in the game to nine – the un-lockables are (skip this part if you want it to be a surprise!) – Roadster, Saloon GT, Tow Truck, and a Bus! Each vehicle is modeled on a real world equivalent (unofficially, of course) and differs with regards to its acceleration, top speed, and handling. The first two don’t matter too much as your opponents will generally be of an equal standard anyway – i.e. if you choose a slow car, they’ll be slow as well, so finding a car that handles according to your preferred driving style is most important. Some of them stick to the road like glue and obey your every command without question; others skid and slide around all over the place! Everyone knows it’s way more fun going for the fastest, craziest option though, and to that end I would recommend the Dodge Viper. Ermm, I mean the ‘muscle car’ – it’s big, heavy, and a challenge to control around corners, but it’s fast!
There are a total of fifteen named courses through the game but only five of them are wholly unique – Interstate, Harbor Town, River City, Hillside Pass, Gridlock USA – the others are made up of sections taken from these courses, sometimes reversed or at different times of day (or night). Although they’re all comprised of public roads, there’s still a reasonable variety of types and features. Their names should give you a good idea or what they’re like but you can expect to tackle inner-city areas, motorways, coastal roads, quiet country lanes, and various others featuring undulating surfaces, tunnels, long sweeping corners, sharp right-hand turns, bridges, and lots of other stuff. As mentioned, all roads are filled with normal road-users as well, including everything from normal cars to buses, petrol-tankers, and big trucks, and these are predictably involved in much of the action.
Travelling the sort of speeds typical of this game, it doesn’t take too much contact to cause a crash. Indeed, hitting stationary objects like walls and barriers is normally enough but touching any other vehicle that isn’t travelling at a near-identical speed (i.e. your opponents) will result in a usually-spectacular accident, often involving numerous other vehicles as well. Whilst it was almost certainly the often-leisurely drives around attractive locales that Edge magazine had in mind when they compared Burnout to OutRun, it was surely the huge crashes that made them mention the original Need For Speed. I guess Criterion were rather proud of them too – each is replayed from several angles and gives a damage figure in dollars. There’s even a ‘biggest crash’ category in the records screen, tempting you to cause them on purpose in pursuit of the record for each course!
This can be tremendous fun as you might imagine, but believe it or not there is actually some incentive for avoiding accidents where possible, and that it what gave the game its name to begin with – the Burnouts! This is represented by a meter in the bottom-left of the screen and there are a few ways of gradually filling it – getting ‘air’ by driving over bumps and hills fast enough, driving on the wrong side of the road without crashing, drifting around corners, and by ‘near misses’ – in other words, nearly hitting civilian cars. Once the meter is full it’s available to use by pressing the relevant button which causes a significant increase in speed for… about thirty seconds if memory serves. This does of course greatly increase the likelihood of a crash as not only do the other cars come at you faster, but it also makes cornering a lot more difficult. When they do come though, they can be among the most spectacular crashes of all!
They certainly do look impressive as well, whether you cause them on purpose or not! In fact, everything looks good here really – the cars, courses, roadside, and scenery are all fantastic and superbly detailed, but this kind of stuff is the least we expect from 21st century gaming – what impressed me the most was the smaller stuff. You can change the color of your chosen vehicle and the races take place at various times of day so the lighting there is great as well, and the attention to detail is superb – weather effects, your car’s shiny windows and bodywork reflecting the sky and parts of the scenery, its drive wheels kicking up dust if you veer off track, its headlights reflecting off the road surface during wet night races, your indicators flashing when you turn corners, shadows appropriate to the sun’s position, other road user honking at you if you get in the way… it’s all here!
Even better is the sense of speed which was the best I’d experienced at the time and still impresses now, especially when using the ‘bumper cam’, and even more so when using a ‘burnout’ – everything gets a tinge of blurriness as your pace immediately increases, reflections pass over your car faster, tunnels approach scarily, it’s pulse-quickening stuff! And then there’s those crashes… The crashes are undeniably a visual high-point – sometimes your car will just stop dead, other times roll numerous times down the street, it can get wedged under trucks, stuck between two buses; hitting a crash barrier or something can even send you spinning through the air, but the results are usually the same for all vehicles involved – smashed windows, dents and scratches all over, and a million different types of crumpled bodywork. I’m no physicist but I’d say the vehicles also behave exactly as they should in these high-speed collisions too which is perhaps even more impressive.
As entertaining as the crashes are though, I always found them a bit overrated. Games like Destruction Derby were created specially with crashing in mind but Burnout, however good its crashes may be, was designed as a racing game first and foremost, and in this regard it’s fantastic. The Championship mode probably won’t take too long to complete but all the courses and cars unlocked therein are available for use in Single Race and Head to Head modes which helps prolong the lifespan of this fine game, and then there’s the hitherto unmentioned Special Mode. To start with this only offers race replays and a music player but it’s also possible to view the credits, access a Survival mode (challenges you to race for as long as possible without crashing), Free Run (lets you race a course without any other traffic around), Free Run Twin (two player version of Free Run), all of which is unlocked in much the same way as the courses and cars.
Even all these play modes will only last so long though. As with any other driving game, the thing that will or won’t keep you playing after you’ve seen everything is simply how enjoyable it is to play, and this is probably Burnout’s greatest strength. Part of the reason for this is the racing system which is surprisingly fair – if you race well but crash occasionally, your opponents will usually be very close by, constantly jostling for position, although not too violently. If you race really well and rarely or never crash, they’ll be way behind, and if you crash every thirty seconds you’ll never catch them up, or at least the leader! Something else that’s very welcome here is the fallibility of the other racers – they all make mistakes and frequently crash, often right in front of you, leaving you with a pile of wreckage to try and steer around unscathed! Possibly a tougher enemy than your opponents though, is the rather harsh time-limit which necessitates fast but careful driving in order to make each checkpoint. This, however, may sometimes seem impossible due to the design of the courses.
They’re not badly designed you see, just realistically, and since real roads are not designed for 150mph races, there’s lots of potential problems. As well as the many, many normal road users who move around as real drivers would, changing lanes, turning at junctions, stopping at traffic lights, etc, there are plenty of tight (and often blind) corners, and even things like crossroads to try and catch you out as well, frequently successfully. The control of the cars is one of my favorite things about this game though. Each is noticeably different and testing the limits of them all is great fun – push any of them too hard and they’ll complain! The floopiest one is also, not in-coincidentally, my favorite, but even the weediest ones will give in eventually. What all this basically means is, although it can often seem like a tough or even unfair game, it’s more than possible to navigate each course quickly and safely. It’s definitely not a game to simply hold down the accelerator and bash your way around each course, but careful as well as skillful driving make playing it a thoroughly entertaining experience.
First impressions of Burnout are ultra fantastic – the very superb presentation, flashy graphics, eye-melting speed, and of course the crashes! Criterion definitely nailed it from an aesthetic point of view, although the oft-criticized in-game music is very much background music and quite inconspicuous. Get past the initially dazzling exterior though, and second impressions of the game may put you off a little. It seems as though you crash every thirty seconds without being able to do anything to prevent it and numerous angry shouts are sure to leave your mouth while playing. Stick with it though, and you’ll soon see that practice absolutely pays dividends. Time spent with the challenging courses and flawlessly-handling cars soon becomes immensely enjoyable, you’ll start finishing races without having crashed at all, laps times will continually come down, and Burnout soon becomes one of the most exciting, addictive, edge-of-the-seat racing games ever seen at the time.
RKS Score: 8/10
Format- Atari Lynx
Genre- Racing game
Screw you Checkered Flag. Screw you. That’s pretty much what I was saying while playing it anyway. And when I threw the cart across the room.
I was willing to give it a little lee-way. After all, it’s a racing game from 1991 on the Atari Lynx. But despite being nicely presented, it’s frustrating experience i’m not keen to go back to any time soon.
The game opens with a nicely animated intro of a car rushing around a track. The menus also seem well organised – there’s much promise here.
When you get onto the track though, the troubles begin. You’ll notice a little man waving a flag at the start and think it’s a nice touch, you’d better keep your eyes on the road. One mis-step and you’re motoring your way to frustration-ville.
There can be up to ten cars on the track, and unwisely I chose to have the full complement as my opponents. You play in a red car, and all the rest are yellow. You already feel an outcast.
Racing is a simple case of steering left and right, but the main annoyance arises from your racing foes. Even the smallest of contact between your motor and theirs result in both of you spinning around once and grinding to a halt.
As your vehicle is so big and the track is so narrow, this results in a major fun drain. On the tracks where there are twists every few seconds it’s incredibly difficult not to make no contact at all with your fellow racers. Races are lost with one collision, and that’s no fun at all.
You also run the risk of making contact with a piece of off track scenery if you don’t take a corner well enough, and this results in the same major sap of speed. Collisions are given a Space Invaders-esque explosion sound effect though. That’s quite cool. As is your wing mirror getting cracked when you crash too much.
Not that any of your failures matter though – win or lose, you’ll get the same screen of a babe congratulating a driver and handing over a trophy.
The game’s graphics could be considered a minor consolation, but even they don’t really improve the gameplay in any way. All the tracks are the same thing but with a different background. As is the case with these type of behind the car perspective games.
So I didn’t really like this. End.
Racing fans always wanted to get their hands on a game that allowed them to challenge themselves on real life racing tracks. As games began to come out featuring them, fans wanted more and more. Enter, Victory Run for the Turbo Grafx-16. It was released in 1989 by Hudson Soft and was one of the first racing games to depict the Paris-Dakar Rally.
Victory run also featured degradable parts that you had to replace if you had spare parts which you acquired before the start of a race. You can find rereleases of Victory run for the Wii Virtual Console and the Playstation Network.
For those of you that know me well, you know that racing is one of my favorite activities to do not just in the gaming world but in real life as well. As far as reality goes, I’ve owned a track ready racing Mustang since 2004. I’ve been racing cars since about 1997 both on the street and at the track. The first time I ever raced a professional racing go-kart was about 1989. The first racing games I’ve played were Pole Position and Pit Stop 1 and 2 on the c64. The first arcade racing game I’ve ever played was Sega’s Outrun with the arcade console feeling like a car with pedals, steering wheel, and shifter. I’ve played almost every racing game ever made from games like RC Pro AM on NES, the Top Gear series on SNES, Lotus series on Amiga, Chase HQ on the arcade, Jaguar XJ 220 on the Amiga, Grand Prix Legends on PC, every Trackmania game on PC, every Need For Speed game on PC and consoles, every Codemasters racing game ever made, etc. I was ranked in the top 10 US players for Trackmania Nations when they were doing the world championship for the game.
Today I will look at Logitech’s G27 Racing Wheel. It is designed to be used with PC and with the Playstation 3 console.
Setup – Installation and Software:
The installation on the PS3 is basically a plug and play procedure. For PC, you simply install the software from the drivers CD that comes with the unit. Shortly after installing the software and drivers you get prompted to plug in the wheel to one of your USB ports and it will be detected. You will know that the wheel is detected because it will spin like a bat out of hell for about two to three seconds and it will flash the tachometer RPM lights. After that, you can calibrate the wheel if it is needed. Once you’re done doing that, you’re ready to use it. Configuration and sub-calibration can be done through whatever game you are going to play.
The Wheel also comes with (RFactor) which is a very popular racing simulator.
Setup – Assembly and Physical Installation:
The first thing you want to do is connect all the subcomponents of the wheel to the main wheel unit. This means that you will plug in the pedals, shifter console, and AC adapter unit. After you have done so, you may need to assess your gaming desk area to make sure you have enough physical space to mount the wheel properly to a desk or table as well as find a comfortable chair and distance to your TV or monitor. You also want to make sure that all cables are tucked away so that they don’t interfere as you use the controller.
Both the wheel and shifter have plastic screws which you can use to secure them to the edge of your desk or table. I have found that they can slide off sometimes if the bottom surface of your desk doesn’t have the right kind of surface for them to stick to. I wish Logitech would have added a rubber surface of the plastic area that holds the controller in place. To me without such a surface friction it is easy for the controller to become loose while using it. Since I’m a low-tech-fix kind of guy, this isn’t much of a problem. I recommend to either glue a thin rubber piece to each plastic end or the even easier fix is to use a piece of cardboard in between the surfaces (just make sure you screw the plastic screws as tight as possible).
You might have to be careful as well with the pedals because the bottom is plastic as well. Since I have a tile floor all over my house I had to use a small portable rug to place it under the pedals as well as putting a heavy object behind the pedals to keep them from slipping further (remember you’re going to be putting a lot of pressure on them with your feet).
Once you have setup the wheel as needed, the fun starts!
Test On Multiple Racing Games:
I tested the wheel on RFactor, Dirt 2, Dirt 3, Dirt Showdown, Grid, Trackmania United, Trackmania Nations, F1 2010, F1 2011, and F1 2012. For most of the games the wheel was enabled through the game options of the game if it didn’t automatically detect it and set it as the default control method. You can enable the motion feedback to get a more real feel of driving a real car with the resistance would feel in a real steering wheel. I found that with the G27 it was more enjoyable to do so after first of calibrating it to feel as you need it to based on your driving style. Also, it was overall more enjoyable on racing games which are more simulator than arcade style racing games. Simulators need exactness, whereas most arcade racers can be played even with keyboard or a cheap handheld controller.
Using a racing wheel on games like the Codemasters F1 games is almost necessary. I found it nearly unplayable to play such games using just a pure keyboard. With a racing wheel such as the G27 it becomes a real F1 car that you’re driving rather than a musclecar like it would feel with a primitive controller. It’s all about precision when you use a wheel. For this reason although we have the computer technology to do it, we still use a pedal and steering wheel in real cars as opposed to using joysticks like a normal video game controller or the controller for an RC car.
Construction and Feel:
The materials used in the G27 are sturdy and it feels almost like you are racing using a aftermarket racing wheel like a Momo steering wheel for a racecar. Although most of the parts are plastic the G27 is durable under most wear and tear situations.
The shifter is both soft and sturdy. I would compare it to using a shifter in a manual Japanese car like Honda Prelude or Nissan Skyline. The wheel itself has flappy paddles which can be used to much like in a real Ferrari or Lamborghini. It is a matter of personal preference and the G27 provides both the flappy paddles and the normal manual shifter. The wheel part has an LED tachometer, which is color coated green, yellow, and red, which makes using a manual gearbox a more viable option in your game.
Since the pedals are made out of drilled metal it feels like the pedals found in a modified street car or a racecar. As they are sturdy, it’s no problem to push down on them as hard as you can, if need be. With the inclusion of a clutch pedal that’s highly responsive you can power drift to your hearts content if you want to drive like that.
Conclusion and Recommendations:
If you are serious about playing racing simulators I recommend a wheel like the G27 to get the precision you need for competitive racing.
A racing wheel system like this one works extremely well when paired up with the Playseat chairs that are ideal for having a sturdy armature that keeps your controllers in place and gives you a much more realistic car feel. I haven’t tested the G27 with a Playseat chair but I have used a chair like that at multiple game conventions and they do make a huge difference and are much more favorable over using a regular chair and desk/table for setting up a racing wheel.
The G27 costs about $200 retail so it might be outside the budget for many gamers but then again there aren’t that many racing simulation gamers out there anymore and those that are into that genre are always concerned with having as good of a controller as possible to be able to execute precise maneuvers.
I’ve always been of the opinion that fancy graphics are far less important than a well-designed game. I think my continued love or retro games and enduring disdain for modern gaming is evidence enough of this, but there’s always been one exception – driving/racing games. Try as they might, developers in the 80’s and early 90’s were rarely able to fashion both a playable and convincing into-the-screen racer outside of the arcades, and I can probably count on the fingers of one hand how many I personally liked. That is until the CD-ROM-based consoles appeared. The Need For Speed on the 3DO was perhaps the first indication of what this medium could do for the genre but it took the release of the Saturn and PlayStation for it to reach full bloom, with the latter system producing both the most numerous and most impressive examples yet seen.
I personally got into PlayStation gaming late, sticking loyally with my good old Saturn for as long as there were games made for it, but eventually I had to join the ranks of the competition. When I did, a majority of the time I spent on it was spent playing driving games. I certainly didn’t play all of the ones on offer but of the ones I did play, here are in my opinion the Top Five:
Special Note: A big thanks to Martyn Carroll, Facebook friend and editor of the original version of Retro Gamer magazine (and contributor to the current incarnation) for providing me with a working PlayStation emulator for this piece. Yes, I own the originals of the games featured here, but I needed the emulator to get the screenshots, so… thanks Martyn, I owe you one!
Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!
If I review any PS1 driving games in my upcoming feature that get really high scores, they don’t appear in this Top Five because I hadn’t played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)
5. Total Drivin’ (1997)
I bought this game cheap with no prior knowledge of it on the off-chance it might be worth the risk. Luckily it paid off! Whilst far from the pinnacle of the PlayStation’s graphical achievements, it is pretty innovative in other ways. The championship mode, for example, features races in various locations around the world and consequently on a variety of surfaces. To this end, there’s not just one type of racing here but five – Rally, Sports, Indy, Buggies, and Dakar Rally! One of my favourite things about this game is that your opponents aren’t just bunched up behind you waiting for a mistake – the better you race, the further ahead you’ll get. You can even lap them if you’re fast enough! This is a great and underrated racing game with a lot more variety than even Gran Turismo.
4. Porsche Challenge (1997)
This was the first game I ever got for my PlayStation when I finally gave up hope for my beloved Saturn, and I was very pleased with it. Admittedly, looking back, the graphics are a little ropier than I remember – the car models are nice (as you would expect from a game with an official license) but the draw distance isn’t great and there’s a fair bit of pop-up, but luckily it still plays very nicely. The only car available to drive is the Boxster but there are six different coloured ones to choose from, each driven by its own character, some of whom exchange banter between races. There’s only four courses to race over but they’re pretty long and there’s many variations of each (mirrored, reversed, extra sections, with shortcuts, etc), and all are very enjoyable to drive around. A not-too-hectic racer that provides a really pleasant driving experience.
3. Ridge Racer Type 4 (1998)
I don’t care what anyone says, Ridge Racer sucks big floppy donkey dicks and so does its ‘sequel’, Revolution. Rage Racer, however, was where Namco started rectifying this situation and RR4 (complete with ridiculous and unnecessary Type in its title) is arguably where the series peaked. Featuring a huge number of courses (for RR standards) and billions of car variations, it’s already infinitely better than the stupid original, but it also vastly improves the horrifying handling problems that blighted earlier efforts too. It has a number of play modes including an excellent career mode, and in my opinion is one of the best looking racing games to appear on Sony’s debut console with races taking place at various times of day meaning some lovely lighting effects. Ridge Racer finally becomes a must-play!
2. Colin McRae Rally (1998)
Yes, the second game in the series (also on PS1) is technically more impressive but I’ve always preferring playing this original. It pretty much kickstarted the whole rally game craze by itself, and with good reason – driving Mr. McRae’s iconic blue Impreza around the world’s rally courses was a fantastically enjoyable experience. Near enough any kind of driving surface (and weather condition) you can think of is catered for here and the attention to detail is amazing – watch your car get progressively dirtier throughout the race (and damaged if you keep hitting trees!). There’s no in-game music, no opponents to race against (on-screen, anyway), just precision driving, and it had arguably never been done better.
1. Gran Turismo (1998)
I’m sure a majority of PlayStation gamers would opt for the second game in the series as the peak of the genre on their favourite console but I’m not sure any driving game had as much of an impact on me as this original. It pretty much rewrote the rule book on what could be achieved in a driving videogame with its license tests forcing you to earn the right to race in the game’s various classes, huge range or real cars to buy, race in, and customise, near-photo-realistic replays, and hugely intricate championship mode. It’s amazingly playable and addictive too – I had great fun gradually building up my Honda Prelude to an all-conquering rice-rocket! There was more to this game than most racing fans could dream of at the time and it still impresses today.
Exhaust Heat a.k.a. F1 ROC: Race of Champions (1992)
By: Seta Co.Ltd Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES
Also Available For: Nothing
After I’d had my SNES for a while and played the first few games I had to death, I started to gradually add a few more to my collection, and one of the first games of my second batch was this F1 racer. After playing F-Zero so much of the previous year, I had high expectations of this, especially given its glowing Mean Machines review. Granted, on paper an F1 game doesn’t sound as exciting as a futuristic racer featuring hovering jet-cars that blast around the obstacle-filled courses at speed in excess of 400kph, but being a big fan of F1, I was looking forward to it all the same. First impressions after turning the game on were good – the title screen is nice and the presentation over the menu/options screens is really nice, but once I made all the selections I needed to and actually started playing the game my heart sank.
Whilst also featuring a Training Mode (a ‘quick race’ arcade- type mode, basically), the main play mode in Exhaust Heat is its comprehensive Grand Prix mode (career mode). Here you take on the role of both team owner and driver. You’ll start the game with a little money and must earn more through your racing – obviously the better you do, the more you’ll make. First things first though. Before you begin, you need to select a slot (giggity) in which to save your game. You can then opt for a Test Run which gives you two laps to familiarise yourself with the course, or jump straight into the Race. Here you must first qualify for the race before taking your place on the grid and racing amongst a field of eight cars. Each season consists of 16 races based on what at the time were the actual races on the F1 calendar (this was of course before all the new ones started being introduced).
The drivers are also based on the F1 drivers of the time, with the emphasis firmly on the ‘based on’ part! It seems that Seta didn’t have the license to use the actual driver or team names so we have some vague approximations being used here, but the drivers all look like who they’re based on (Mansell, Senna, Prost, etc). One thing that is not based on actual F1, however, is the ability to customise your car. Well, in real F1 I guess you can change wings, tyres, engines, etc, but I’m pretty sure they don’t use nitrous oxide! For yes, the cars here are able to employ the use of nitro’s amongst other things, and very useful it is too. The customisation options are actually pretty extensive for an arcade-style racer, allowing you to alter front, middle, or rear downforce, add faster/lighter components, change brakes, chassis, fill up the nitrous tanks, and install more powerful engines. This all costs money of course, which must be earnt by doing well in races (or by doing badly many many times).
Something else that costs money is damaging your car during a race. In a slightly unfair alteration to real F1 courses, running off the course here, even by just a small amount in some places, will not result in gravel traps as you might expect, but instead, what seem to be masses of solid concrete. These not only cause damage to your car but are also a real pain to get away from. If the damage-meter fills up, it’s game over. You can repair your car by visiting the pits, but as you might imagine, the time-delay in doing this during a three lap race pretty much ruins any chance of winning, and finishing a race with a damaged car sees you incur financial penalties, so the only way to get maximum money is to drive perfectly. That’s pretty much my biggest gripe with this game – it can be very frustrating. A great run can be ruined by hitting… well, anything really. Contact with other cars often results in a 180 degree spin, and straying off course usually has the annoying effect already mentioned.
Aside from that, the game looks very plain and there’s very little variety in the backgrounds. I know that’s to be expected with this kind of game, but even the cars are small and lack detail, and the Mode 7 effect, made famous with the aforementioned F-Zero, is less impressive here. There’s no in-game music either which is a shame as the music that does exist is pretty good, much like the presentation generally. It can be a pretty fast game when it gets going though, and it will last a while too. The Grand Prix mode doesn’t last for a mere season – you can carry on as long as you want, as far as I can tell. I believe I was a five-time defending World Champion at one point! After the initial disappointment of seeing the game for the first time, I did get into Exhaust Heat after a while. I always enjoy a good career mode to get my teeth into, but the game hasn’t aged well and despite still being reasonably playable once you’ve readjusted to it, there are so many superior racing games on the SNES, it’s hard to think of a reason why you would. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh – it’s really not that bad, but don’t expect to be bowled over!
RKS Score: 6/10
Chase HQ (1988)
By: Taito Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 4,723,860 (one credit)
Also Available For: PC Engine, X68000, Master System, Game Gear, NES, Game Boy, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console
Before the days of polygons, it was pretty rare to find a decent driving game. Even in the arcades they were pretty rare. If you asked any gamers around my age to name their favourite, most would probably say OutRun, and with good reason – it was a revolutionary game that made a huge impact. There was a few other good examples from around that time as well though, and one was Chase HQ. This effort from the awesome Taito was clearly influenced by OutRun – what else wasn’t in the years after its release? – but it’s not just a shameless rip-off, no sir. Whilst the basic gameplay has shades of Sega’s classic, Taito also injected it with themes taken from some of the American buddy cop movies and TV shows which were so popular at the time. It sure sounds like a perfect combination but how does it stand up today?
Taking on the role of police detective, Tony Gibson, it’s your job to pursue one dangerous criminal on each of the game’s five stages. They have all commandeered some sort of powerful sports car and are fleeing out of the unnamed city (which is probably LA), They have got a head-start too so you, along with your partner, Raymond Broady, need to move quickly to make up the lost ground. After a briefing from the lovely Nancy back at ‘Chase Headquarters’ you’ll get sixty seconds to catch up with each felon in your black Porsche 928 Turbo. Once you’ve reached him, you’ll get another sixty to smash his car up until they stop (they’re all men – women don’t commit crimes, remember)! Your ride is equipped with three helpful turbo boosts per stage/credit which can either be used to catch up with the ‘con’ quicker, or to smash into him more aggressively once you already have.
You’re probably thinking that it sounds like a lot of fun, but you may also have thought that it sounds rather short. Well, you’d be right on both counts, but the latter point is pretty much the only bad thing about the game. Rather than attempting to craft a longer lasting, more subtle kind of driving game, Taito have instead gone for an intense ten minute blast of a game. It’s not particularly difficult either but some replay value is added by the accumulative bonus you receive for passing each of the many civilian cars the roads are filled with without hitting them. Technically the game is a noticeable step up from OutRun too. The sprites are probably a little better and more varied and the game plays a bit faster, but the biggest improvement is in the stages themselves.
Rather than sticking to one backdrop each, the backgrounds and scenery here change numerous times per stage and are pretty varied too. The courses are also much less flat than OutRun’s and each features a fork mid-way through with one route being longer than the other. The audio is also pretty half-decent. The music, whilst perfectable fine, could never hope to best Hiroshi Miyauchi’s immortal tunes, and the effects are okay too, but Chase HQ’s most noticeable addition is the speech. Your partner is pretty vocal throughout the game, willing you to drive faster and getting excited once battle commences, and good old Nancy has a fair bit to say for herself, both during the briefings and over the police radio during the game too.
Such is the glorification of crime and violence these days, I’m confident that if this game was released today you would play the role of the criminal, most likely with the object not only to escape from the pursuing police officers but to kill them too, and bonus points scored for killing civilians too, or some such nonsense. As it is though, this is very much a ‘good guys sim’ and remains one of the most memorable cop games released. The combination of OutRun and cop film was a superb idea for a game and makes this play very differently to the former. It also creates a fantastic atmosphere and makes it a different enough game to stand proudly next to OutRun instead of in its shadow. It won’t take you long to see all Chase HQ has to offer but it’s such a fast, exciting rush of a game, you’ll be back time and time again. A genuine classic.
RKS Score: 9/10
Ridge Racer (1994)
By: Namco Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PlayStation
Also Available For: Arcade, PlayStation 2 (as part of compilation)
Every now and then, you’ll get an arcade game that takes the world by storm. Everyone, everywhere is talking about it, playing it, or talking about playing it. Ridge Racer was one of these titles. When it was announced as a launch title for the PlayStation, its fans went into hysterics. “We can now play the best racing game of all-time in the comfort of our own homes!” they all exclaimed with glee. It arrived – they all bought a Playstation and a copy of it, played it for a couple of hours, and realised that Ridge Racer was far from the best racing game of all-time, after all. A valuable lesson to us all then, that good arcade games do not always make good home console games.
Okay, maybe that’s a slight exageration, but it’s true to some extent – at least as far as some of the games that don’t receive any or many substantial improvements / additions are concerned. That unfortunately, is where this port of Ridge Racer falls down. Of chief concern is the number of courses on offer here: one. Okay, it’s a good course, and a pretty big one, but even for an arcade game, one course just doesn’t cut it. Some fans of this game defend its appalling number of courses by claiming that Namco had a very short amount of time to develop it, having to rush it out in time for the PlayStation’s launch. This may be true, but I don’t think it’s the real reason – Ridge Racer Revolution – the sequel to this game, is not a significant improvement, after all, and Namco had plenty of time to get things right with that one.
As mentioned though, the course is more than half decent in itself. It is quite a large one and takes you from the city over bridges and through tunnels past such views as a construction site, mountainsides and a beach. Before racing on it, you must choose a car, and there are four available. Actually, one nice feature of this conversion is that while it is loading, you can play a single-screen version of Galaxians. If you manage to shoot all the aliens before the game loads, the quota of cars is trebled. Regardless of how many cars are initially available (all of which are fictional), each has differing attributes – acceleration, traction, handling and top speed all vary from vehicle to vehicle, and the usual manual or automatic transmission can be selected. With the car selected, it’s onto the race.
Races are contested against eleven computer controlled opponents (you always start at the back of the grid, of course), with the difficulty level you select determining the number of laps of each race and the top speed of the computer-controlled cars. The highest difficulty setting also sees night races introduced and adds a small, more challenging section to the main course, and later on, some races are also contested over mirrored or reversed versions of the course. In the last race, you’ll have the opportunity to race the mysterious black ‘Devil Car’ which is the fastest in the game. Beat it and you’ll have completed the game, as well as having gained access to the black car yourself. The only other play mode is the time trial where you must try and beat the best lap times for the course in its various configurations.
Graphically, Ridge Racer is impressive for an early title. Aside from a slight reduction in background detail and polygon count, it’s damn near arcade perfect. A helicopter follows your car around the course as you race, and after the race, you can watch a replay of your performance as seen from the helicopter. Races start at different times of the day like sunrise, midday or dusk, so some nice lighting effects and colours can be seen throughout, and the cars look nice, though they can’t be damaged. The in-game view can be switched between a front bumper mounted camera and a behind car camera. The ‘techno’ music selected for the game will probably be awesome or terrible, depending on your taste. It consists of six ‘bangin choons’ which you can choose from before racing. I suspect though, that even if you like this kind of music, they will begin to grate after a while. The composer obviously thinks highly of them though, as there’s a ‘music player’ feature on the option screen which shows cars racing around while the music of your choice plays. Luckily, the music featured here is not mandatory. In a fairly innovative feature, you can put your own music CD’s in your PlayStation and listen to them for a while instead. Sounds effects are completely forgettable and the engine sound is awful (lawnmower?), and unfortunately, an annoying commentator rambles on throughout each race too, saying the same stuff all the time (such as “Wow, what a start” regardless of whether you made a good start or not!).
As for the gameplay… it’s a bit of a mixed bag really. The cars handling style has obviously been retained from the arcade version, i.e. ultra loose and power slidy. In fact, this game may well be the inventor of the now famous and much copied power slide, but it sure as hell didn’t perfect it first go! It’s hard to explain, but when grip is lost the car will most often start pivoting left and right around a central point of the car until your speed decreases substantially and you can start accelerating away again. It’s ridiculous, annoying, and completely unrealistic. Yes I know this is an arcade racer and realism is not the order of the day here, but some sort of basis in reality wouldn’t go amiss. Another annoying aspect of gameplay is that contact with other cars or the side of the course, even if it’s slight, results in a severe reduction in speed, and once you’ve hit one once, particularly as far as the roadside barriers are concerned, it’s very easy to keep bumping them, thereby ruining any chance of a decent finish. This obviously gets very annoying after a short time. Having said that, the challenge on offer here isn’t really befitting a game with one course – you’ll win the first race within your first three attempts to very little fanfare. But those (fairly major) points aside, Ridge Racer, as limited as it is, is very enjoyable for a day or two before it becomes boring. Of course, a two-player split screen mode would help matters, but there’s none of that here either!
Overall, Ridge Racer was an enjoyable arcade game, but is unsuitable as a home game without a radical overhaul, which this conversion has not received. There really is very little to return to here, after the first few days – the desire to improve lap times is something that prolongs the lifespan of most driving games, but when that game only has one course, it’s not nearly as attractive a proposition. When this first came out, I’m sure it had a big ‘Wow’ factor – after MegaDrive and SNES racing games, it was a genuinely impressive sight, but it didn’t take long before there were some decent alternatives – Gran Turismo, Colin McRae, Total Drivin’, Test Drive 4 & 5, Toca Touring Cars, Porsche Challenge, Need For Speed and many others are much more enjoyable driving games, and much more worthy of your time. It’s a shame too, there was real potential here. If Namco added just a few more courses, this could’ve been a half-decent game. If they tinkered with the car-handling, it could’ve been even better. Later games in the Ridge Racer series showed what was possible on the PlayStation – the stupidly-named Ridge Racer Type 4 has 8 courses and a two-player mode, for example, and is a great racing game. This original is not.
RKS Rating: 4/10
Mafia 2 Release Party Miami by Honorabili
Our friends Kevin Wasielewski and Hector Penton at OriginPC invited us to come to the club Grand Central Miami to celebrate the release of the Max Payne/GTA/Saints Row clone sequel Mafia 2. Grand Central itself was a nice club. It seems to be a converted train depot.
Here are some pictures of JA Laraque and some hot Mafia 2 models to get your attention. Hey, sex sells!
The event was free and open to the public.
I got a chance to play the Mafia 2 demo on the PCs that were doing the demo of the game by OriginPC. As far as my impression of it goes (just based on the demo and me playing and beating the original Mafia 1), the game seems a lot easier than the first game with your guy regenerating health if he doesn’t get hurt within a certain amount of time, a trend in many recent games. Mafia 1 was really brutal from what I remember in the last time I played it. Mafia 2 itself is nice eye candy and the version of the game I played was using the latest and greatest 3D gaming technology that was supplied by NVIDIA. I spent a good amount of time talking to Andrew Coonrad, the Technical Marketing Analyst from NVIDIA. He informed me (and I agree) that we will see this 3D technology implemented in a lot of future games. I think it works really well with games where stuff is being shot at you like FPS games or stuff like Descent as well as a lot of racing games.
The rest of the time I talked to a lot of local gaming people, drank about 7 cups worth of cranberry & vodka, downed a bottom of a local drink called Game Juice (which they make in Medley, FL and it tasted somewhat like Mountain Dew Baja Blast mixed with some other flavors), and talked about the future of gaming and a ton of science fiction movies with my friend Nery Hernandez, CTO of Monkey Plum Media.
For the most part they had a bunch of hip hop music playing really really loud.
As far as loot goes the event dropped a nice XL Mafia 2 shirt as well as a bunch of posters, stuff we can give away to you guys in the future. 😀 They had a contest where they randomly picked whoever screamed the most and gave them free shirts and copies of the game for PC, PS3, or XBox 360.
Overall, I will be playing Mafia 2 shortly (and probably comparing it more to the original game if I review it).
Split Second review & strategy guide by Honorabili
One Sentence Review:
“Non-stop action makes for an exciting racing game!”
9 out of 10
Overview & Gameplay:
Throw your brain out the window and enjoy the pure fun and adrenaline that Split Second will throw at you in the form of a pure arcade racer. The game gets repetitive after a while but by the time you notice, the game will be over.
The game is about a reality TV show (very similar to the remake of the movie Death Race) that consists of immortal people (or I guess people remote controlling their vehicles) racing their cars and pickups around unlikely tracks that take place in airports, junkyards, nuclear power plants, chemical plants, foundries, mines, and so on, which have all been rigged with explosives so that as you race and pull off cool moves (drafting, jumping, and drifting mainly), you build up enough energy to trigger parts of the track blowing up and taking out your rivals, in events called Powerplays.
You basically participate in races, whether traditional who gets the first place, set amount of lap races, or elimination which is like last man standing, in which every set amount of time, the last car drops from the race. There is also a race mode in which you race against the clock with no opponents and the entire track will just trigger its bombs and have the terrain collapse on you, as you basically try to race a perfect lap (without getting killed). Each time you get killed, you basically lose a position.
The other game modes consist of you passing semi-trucks which drop barrels on you to try to blow you up as much as often, with that game mode ending in a sudden death mode which happens after a certain time or when you take the 1st place position. The final different kind of game mode consists of you trying to evade a combat helicopter which randomly fires rockets at shown areas of the track ahead of you. There’s a mode where you just see how far you can survive and another mode where the more you evade it and drift, the more energy you build up and counter attack the helicopter to try to shoot it down.
The final game mode for each “episode”, for which there are 12 which complete the season (single player storyline mode), is the elite race in which you race against the best AI racers the computer has to offer and requiring you to place usually 3rd place or higher to keep moving to the next episode (set of races) available in Split Second.
Overall, there are 12 episodes in Split Second, with 6 races offered in each, 4 that are always available, one bonus race (which unlocks if you meet its requirements; usually killing a certain amount of rivals), and the elite race which unlocks after you have enough credits (money) from placing good enough in previous races (it’s a total number, so you can go back and replay previous episode races if you’re lacking in performance).
There are no upgrades for vehicles and the game is rather short. After races, you get a certain amount of credits which the game automatically counts towards unlocking the next vehicle. You don’t get to pick. The only thing you get to pick is what episode you want to complete in next after the current episode is over.
The game offers the single player campaign (season play), quick play (which you get by unlocking tracks and game modes in season play), online multiplayer play, LAN play, and split screen hotseat play.
Split Second is available on PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, iPhone OS, and on Java ME platforms.
Fun Factor & Replayability:
The game is pure FUN. This game goes to the core of classic video games where the storyline might not be the greatest but you can pick up and put the game down very quickly and the game is FUN enough that you will want to keep playing, even though the races are short enough that you can literally play the game for 3 minutes at a time and go do something else if you need to. In my busy life, this appeals to me.
The fact that the speed scaling of the game is realistically done, although the game itself is not realistic reminds me of really going dangerously fast in a real car. Let’s see… pure speed and big explosions mixed together? That’s a winning combination!
I just beat the game but I am going to play it all over again right now and I’m certain that it will be fun yet again.
Fun Factor gets a score of 10 out of 10 and Replayability gets a score of 9 out of 10 from me.
Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:
Unfortunately, I found the game rather short and easy, which I guess is one of the only real long term downsides of this game. I think they will probably update the game with DLC, which might add more life to it but other than that, as far as difficulty, I never got frustrated even once in the game as the death penalty is not really severe. Even if I failed a race, I didn’t find it annoying to redo it as the game was too fun.
Difficulty gets a score of 3 out of 10 and since I didn’t see a way to alter the difficulty, the Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 3 out of 10 as every level other is equally easy than the elite races.
You can pick up Split Second, every version here in gogamer. At this time the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are $49.90, which are too high for me, but the PC version is $38.90, which is still too high for me.
Console pricing I give a score of 3 out of 10 because console games unless old games are ALWAYS too expensive, and the PC version I give a 4 out of 10 because the game is too short for that price tag.
Sounds for the explosions are really well done, as well as the wind of flying through different kinds of buildings and their environments. Some of the engine sounds didn’t sound realistic for some of the vehicles. Sometimes a vehicle like a pickup truck that would have had something like a V8-V12 gas or diesel engine in real life sounded more like an inline 4 engine with a fart-can muffler. One of the cars (the one that looks like a Lamborghini Murcielago) sounded more like a car with a turbocharged inline 6 engine rather than a naturally aspired V12.
The Sounds get a score of 8 out of 10.
The music is all tense energetic music which keeps you focused on the action and the style of the game.
It goes along really great with the speed, action, and explosions Split Second gives us. Music gets a score of 10 out of 10.
The game crashed for me only when I decided to ALT-TAB it. It let me do whatever I wanted in the desktop and once I ALT-TABbed back to the game my computer rebooted itself instantly. Since that’s the only situation in which that happens, I give Stability/Reliability a score of 8 out of 10. Just don’t multitask and you’ll be fine.
The controls are very simple and since the game is an arcade racer, the game doesn’t need anything else. For the PC version, the arrow keys control your car. Forward/up make you accelerate, left/right are obvious, back/down makes you brake and can trigger drifts. Right-CTRL triggers your typical level 1 attacks (Powerplays). Right shift triggers your level 2 super-attacks (the ones that change the route of the race).
Since the Controls are so simple yet effective I give controls a score of 10 out of 10.
Graphics & Performance:
Even in DirectX 9, the game looks completely amazing. The game makes the best use I’ve seen of the Havoc engine. Even on my 3 year old gaming PC the game ran completely flawless, not even slowing down when somebody was copying data from my hard drive at the same time. Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10 and Performance also gets a score of 10 out of 10. Really, really good job Black Rock Studio! Kudos!
I usually go for cars that have everything into acceleration or into top speed. Don’t worry too much about strength (hit points) as that will usually indicate a heavy vehicle (with terrible acceleration).
Pickup trucks are surprisingly powerful in the game not only because they take a ridiculous amount of damage but because for some reason (which is unrealistic) they have a super-high top speed. They have terrible acceleration so try not to slow down as much as possible. Simply taking advantage of that and not slowing down along with their stable 4 wheel drive will make you have an average top speed than your rivals, often letting you win most races.
Like in all racing games, memorize the tracks. Know where the booby trap areas are and avoid them if you want to be on the safe side. Blowing up and losing 1-2 seconds will cost you a couple of positions usually. Stay as close to ahead of the pack and don’t blow all your Powerplay energy necessarily because you have it. Time it so that you can use it to secure your 1st place position near the end of the race.
For the helicopter missions pick always the cars that have the most control for your playstyle and you can just ignore the missiles easily. For the truck barrel missions simply pick any car that his insane acceleration and even more so super-high top speed.
Conclusion & My History With This Game:
At times, the game reminded me of Speed Busters: American Highways from 1998, in the sense that you can sometimes in that game use the track to take out your opponents. Other times, considering how quickly the computer cars caught up to me, it made me think they were just simply teleporting behind me sort of like the AI cars did in Megarace 1 and 2.
As far as I go since this game game out at nearly the same time as Blur, I’m going to be checking that game out soon to see which one is the superior game. So far this is keeping me entertained.