|The YS Complete Guide To Driving Games|
|Published in the Nov 1990 YS59 issue|
4x4 Off-Road Racing ATV Simulator American Turbo King Championship Sprint Chase HQ Chequered Flag Enduro Racer Hard Drivin' OutRun Rally Simulator Rallycross Simulator Scalextric Super Hang On Super Stock Car TT Racer The Duel: Test Drive II Twin Turbo V8
It's strange but true - normally courteous YS readers tend to turn into
homicidal maniacs once they get behind the wheel of a Spectrum. We sent JONATHAN DAVIES,
who still hasn't managed to get that wretched helmet off, to find out why.
It's an expensive business, driving. Not only do you have to hand out piles of dosh to actually get a car, but there are loads of 'hidden costs' thrown into the 'bargain' too. For a start, you've got to get it insured (in case you crash), which means serious sponds for your average Spectrum owner. Then there's road tax, servicing, MOTs, petrol, all sorts of things. And, if you want to keep up with the latest fashions, you'll want to purchase a few 'extras' as well, ranging from simple '-TURBO-' stickers for the back window to alloys, buckets and twin cams. And they all mean spending lots and lots of money.
So, wouldn't it be nice if you could get your Spectrum to sort of 'pretend' it was a car, allowing you to zoom about to your heart's content for minimal outlay? Well, actually you can! Yes, all you need to do is get a suitable driving game, load it up and you've got yourself a set of wheels. It'll be almost exactly the same as driving a real car except that you can crash as much as you like without having to worry about repair costs. And you'll be able to choose from all the latest posh sports cars like Porsches, Ferraris and Lotuses and drive them as far and as fast as you like without having to splash out on a drop of petrol! (In fact, because driving games are so much cheaper and more practical than real cars, it is predicted that by the year 2012 the motorcar will have become obsolete, replaced by the driving game.)
The only trouble with all this is that it's a bit hard to pick up girls with a 48K Spectrum.
JUST WHAT, EXACTLY, IS A DRIVING GAME?
Mmm, knew we'd have to get round to this sometime. Well, I've had a think and come, up with the following spec...
Seems simple enough. It means we're including Grand Prix-type games (where you just race against other cars) and shooting ones (where you zap them) but not similar-looking ones that don't have cars, bikes or lorries in (like boat ones). Okay?
Phew. I never thought it would be quite so easy.
SO HOW ABOUT THINGS LIKE ARMY MOVES?
Oh cripes. Look, just shurrup, will you, whoever you are. No, Army Moves is out, I'm afraid. It's rubbish anyway.
So let's take a look at a few examples, eh? It's worth noting that, where driving games are concerned, the ratio of crap ones to good ones is a lot higher than with other types of game (apart from football games, of course). So you can't be too careful.
THE FIRST EVER DRIVING GAME
Despite a sore knee and a terrible fear of the dark, I crouched down in the murkiest corner of the shed to browse through my collection of cardboard-boxed archives. And did I come up with anything? Well, not really. Certainly nothing very interesting in the driving games department. I was hoping to turn up some really ropey-looking Basic game from about 1982, but the best I could come up with was Chequered Flag, a Sinclair game that came out a year later. It's quite good actually - a bit like Pole Position without any other cars to race against. We'll give it a thorough going-over later, but in the meantime I'll stick my neck out and say Chequered Flag was the first commercial driving game.
The Normal Ratings System? You don't want that old thing. No sir, over here we have the brand-new top-of-the-range 1990 model. It's turbo-charged, fuel-injected, 16-valve, super-cooled and has a full X-pack (with droop snoot). And spots. You'll be doing yourself a favour.
Kicking off, these are the ones where you get a bird's-eye view of the course and see your car as a little blob hammering round the track (which may scroll if it doesn't all fit onto the screen at once). The basic idea takes its cue from a vintage coin-op called Super Sprint, and you can sometimes get anything up to 29 players on the screen at one time (giving them the edge where competitiveness is concerned). They do tend to lose out graphically though, as there isn't much scope for scrolling 3D roads etc.
We're heading into dicey territory here, as we could start wobbling on about scrolling shoot-'em-ups if we're not careful. They do generally scroll however, but they're a bit weird as you don't actually have to worry about steering. All you really have to do is get the speed right when going over ramps and maybe launch the odd missile now and again. Motorbikes, rather than cars, tend to feature prominently in this sort of game, which seems reasonable enough as they look a bit thin when viewed from the rear. One thing we've got to be careful of here is bicycles - they seem to crop up in these rather a lot and, as we already know, they don't count.
These are the most common by 'miles' (yuk yuk), being those games where you see your car on the screen in front of you from a position behind and slightly above it, and with the road coming towards you in 3D. They all started in the arcades with stuff like Pole Position and moved onto the Speccy via Chequered Flag and later things like Outrun. And, of course, there was the classic Road Race in '87. They're generally good fun, but can be a bit samey and tend to be just a case of pressing Left and Right at suitable moments. And an element of violence tends to creep in - you often get a gun or something mounted on your car to bag other vehicles with.
With a theme as wide ranging as 'driving' we're bound to come across one or two miscreants that don't really fit into any of the previous categories (the scamps). Well, I have anyway. First of all there are ones like Hard Drivin' and Stunt Car Racer where you get a 3D view out of the window. Then there are the vertically-scrolling ones such as LED Storm which are really a cross between looking-at-it-from-behind ones and looking-at-it-from-the-top ones. And there are boring 'management' ones like Grand Prix. Best forgotten, those.
So here we are. The official First-Ever
Driving Game. So what's it like then? Well, it's one of those where
you get the view from the driver's seat as you race round the track
(with a choice of things like 'Micro Drive' and 'Psion Park' as well
as genuine ones like Silverstone) in your McFaster Special (or Psion
Pegasus or Ferrati Turbo). There are obstacles to avoid, like oil,
glass and water, but not much in the way of competition from other
cars. In fact there aren't any other cars at all. It's just you out
there, and it gets damned lonely at times. All you can do is race
against the clock, trying to beat your lap record. On the plus side,
the car handles extremely well considering its vintage, and the road
is one of the best around (although there are no hills). There are
gears to fiddle about with if you choose the second or third car, and
there's a great crash effect too. (Even better than the one in Flight
Accolade seem quite keen on driving games,
don't they? Which is a bit of a shame, as they're nearly always crap.
At least, on the Spectrum they are. On things like the PC they're a
lot better, and that's where Test Drive first cropped
up. The Spectrum conversion is a cut-down version and, predictably,
it's rubbish. The graphics are hopeless, for a start. They're all
sorts of horrible colours, and there are only about two different
things to see. And they give no impression of 'speed' at all (but a
superb impression of 'slowness'). You're supposed to be driving either
a Porsche or a Ferrari, you see, but the graphics make it seem more
like a Number 29 bus. The idea is that you're meant to be racing
against another chap, who's controlled by the computer, and at the
same time being chased by a police car. Er, what else is crap about
it? Oh yes, the collision detection. It's useless! If another car so
much as appears on the screen you crash into it. In other words, it's
chronic. And with so many others to see, lets waste no more time on
This one did rather well when it first came
out, I seem to remember. It's a very motorbikey sort of game where
you've got to race against lots of other bikes round a series of
courses. And it's these courses that are the key to the whole thing -
they're brill! There are huge hills which you climb up and then
plummet down the other side of, and there are even (I seem to
remember) hills combined with corners which are particularly
disconcerting. Your bike is nice too. It's multi-coloured and leans
over superbly on corners. What else? Your fellow riders are pretty
hard to beat, which helps. And that's about it really.
It's a bit American-looking, this one. And
that means that you can't just hop into your vehicle and hit the road.
Oh no. First you've got to walk your driver between two shops and buy
all the bits and pieces you'll need along the way. These include fuel,
maps, spare parts and any luxury extras that may tickle your fancy.
You get to choose the terrain you'll be racing across as well and this
ranges from deserts to icy places. If it is American (I'm not too
sure), this would account for the terribleness of the graphics. The
sprites are weedy-looking things, and the choice of colours is
appalling. On the other hand they are extremely fast, and this gives
the game the edge over quite a few others. You get a great driving
feeling, especially when you hit a bump in the road and go flying up
into the air. The courses are nicely designed as well, and have novel
obstacles such as sticky mud to get through.
This one appeared ages ago, produced by a
company that's better known for its flight sims. And, to tell the
truth, it looks a lot more like a flight sim than a driving game.
You're on a motorbike, racing against lots of other motorbikes, but
rather than the usual view from behind the bike you get an
over-the-handlebars job. This means that when you lean over round a
corner the handlebars stay horizontal while the horizon tilts over,
and when you pull a wheelie the horizon wobbles up and down. It's a
bit hard to explain, but think of flight sims and you should get the
general drift. This gives it a very realistic feel, which is helped by
having lots of gears and dials to worry about. There are loads of
other complexities, like an ability to connect lots of Spectrums
together and get them to race against each other, not to mention
hundreds of options to adjust various things.
Here's a controversial one. When I reviewed
it ages ago I thought it was quite good, while everyone else thought
it was utter tosh. In fact, it's quite surprising that I'm still doing
reviews today. So let's be diplomatic, and say that it's 'aged' quite
a lot. The idea, as you'll know if you've seen the arcade version, is
to drive along a series of roads getting to the end of each one within
a time limit. Not too thrilling, you might think. But the success of
the coin-op lay in its corkingly fast graphics and hydraulic cabinet,
neither of which have made it to the Spectrum. It looks okay in
stills, sure, but everything moves horribly slowly, especially when
you go into one of the tunnel things. And the multiload really doesn't
help at all. There are some nice 128K tunes though.
This is the sequel to Super Sprint,
which just happens to have been the first-ever
looking-at-it-from-the-top driving game. (Or it would have been if
everyone hadn't done rip-offs before Electric Dreams got the official
version out.) This means there are four little cars driving round a
series of courses, up to two of which can be controlled by players.
Four would have been nice, and perfectly possible. There are spanners
to collect which allow you to choose add-ons at the end of the race if
you pick up enough. So far so good, but surely there's more to it than
this? And indeed there is. Sprint cunningly
incorporates a course editor with which you can build up your own
custom courses, laden with chicanes, bridges and nasty corners. What
fun, eh? So really it's just a plain, ordinary
looking-at-it-from-the-top one with a bit of extra pizazz. I used to
find them fun, but not any more. Sigh. It's better with a friend, but
Did you have Scalextric when you were a kid?
Me, I was lucky to get a clip round the ear. I remember gazing
enviously at other people's lengths of black plastic, hoping that one
day I'd be able to get one of my own, someday. Unfortunately I haven't
yet, as Virgin's attempt at a conversion is yet another driving
letdown. To be sure, you can assemble tracks from an unlimited
selection of pieces without having to worry about running out of
left-hand bends. But once you get down to the racing bit you find that
you've wasted your time. It's a two-player looking-at-it-from-behind
game, with the screen split between the two players. Clever stuff, but
unfortunately the graphical content is minimal and there's not really
much to the driving either. One major problem is that once someone's
got into the lead he's virtually guaranteed to be the winner as long
as both players keep their foot to the floor all the way round. Very
Crikey, this one's good. On the face of it
it's just another looking-at-it-from-behind game, and a blatant
attempt to knock OutRun off its rather wobbly perch.
In actual fact though, it's a conversion of a fabulous coin-op and
rates as one of the best driving games on the Speccy. Actually, it
probably is the best. What you've got to do, you see, is pursue
various criminals around in your car. Having caught up with them you
get a neat animated sequence where your co-driver leans out of the
window and sticks on the flashing light, and then it's time to run the
other guy off the road by bashing into him.
This looks a bit like Super Hang On,
but there are a few key differences. First of all it's a bit older.
Second of all it's more of a beat-the-clock game than a racing one.
And third of all it's not quite so good. Oh, and fourth of all there
are obstacles on the road.
If you haven't heard of this one you must
be... erm, well, I'm sure you've got your reasons. It's an extremely
famous coin-op conversion of a game that wowed 'em all in the arcades
(most of them, anyway) with its solid 3D graphics and unnerving
realism. Playing the arcade original is more or less just like driving
a real car, with gears, a clutch and a proper steering wheel. There's
a choice of speed or stunt track, the latter featuring a loop-the-loop
and a drawbridge. And it really is brilliant fun.
It's a scrolling looking-at-it-from-the-top
game, this, and that's about all there is to say about it. It's neatly
put together, but very flimsy and not terribly playable. The main
problem is that it uses Up, Down, Left and Right keys rather than the
rotation system we've got used to with this sort of thing, making it
fiddly to get to grips with. Grand Prix Simulator, an
older Codies game, is a lot better.
This is almost identical to the one above.
This is a vertically-scrolling driving game
where you've got to negotiate various obstacles and shoot things.
Quite frankly, it's crap. The car is virtually impossible to control
(even worse if you try it with the Magnum Lightphaser), there's
nothing to hold your attention and the whole thing just doesn't work.
Hurray! One of the best bargains ever, ATV
Sim sees you and a chum sitting astride a four-wheel bike
thing, lurching over a set of courses. The trick is to drive flat out
all the way, but pull wheelies and do jumps when necessary so you
don't come a cropper at obstacles. It's intensely competitive but gets
frustratingly difficult on higher levels (when you start getting
attacked by birds and things). A must.
This is pretty identical to Rallycross
Sim and Rally Sim too. Only it's the worst of
the three, with awful controls and cars that are far too big and
unmanoeuvrable to drive properly. By all means take a peek at the
first two, but 'steer' clear of this one.
One of the few looking-at-it-from-behind
bargains and a complete waste of time. The road weaves about quite
well, but the graphics are awful and there's nothing to do apart from
moving left and right and laughing a lot. It's crap.
1.He drives round with his
foglamps on all the time.
FIVE SIGNS THAT SHE'S A CRAP DRIVER
1. She's driving a Mini.
Few people would have guessed that YS had its
own resident driving expert. We certainly didn't until
our Design Asst told us so.
(believe that and you'll believe anything)
3D Stock Car Championship/Silverbird
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