£9.99 cass/£14.99 disk
Reviewer: David Wilson
Hmmm! Hang on a mo, let me consult the YS book on how to start a driving game review. Ah yes, here it is.
"Vroom! Vroom! Watch me zoom!" Hmmm! in this case it's more like "Vroom! Vroom!" (unless you've got a 48K, 'cos there's no sound) "Watch me swerve all over the shop as if I've just consumed 15 pints of vodka!" Make no bones about it, this game is hard, but then, as Clare (the rather nice Domark lady) told me, "It's not called Soft Drivin' is it?!" Hem, hem, point taken!
Hard Drivin' has been one of the most eagerly awaited arcade conversions of this year. How on earth could Domark think it could squeeze such a massive driving sim into the humble Spec?! I had my doubts, but now it's arrived and, bearing in mind I'd braced myself for a disappointment, it's skill! in case you missed our Megapreview last month, the arcade Hard Drivin' is a racing game much more akin to a driving simulator than a normal arcade machine, and the first I've seen with a full complement of gears and a clutch pedal for starters! in it you get to drive a 'popular sports car' (Italian, red and with a name which begins with 'F' - Domark doesn't have the licence to use the name!) around a 'Speed Track' or 'Stunt Track'. The latter features high speed banking, an open drawbridge and a spectacular loop-the-loop! Oh, and there's a cow standing next to the barn which 'moos'should you run it over! Half way around each circuit is a checkpoint - make this and you'll get extra time. Make it to the end and, if you're quick enough, you'll get to race the 'Phantom Photon', a computer-controlled car which emulates the performance of he previous best lapper! (So if you had the previous best lap you'll get to race yourself!) Oh, and any time you crash you'll get to see a replay of yourself coming to grief from a spectator's viewpoint!
Suffice to say then that most of this has been ported down on to the Spec, which is no mean technical achievement! There are no pedals, of course, it's largely monochrome and there's no cow (boo boo!) but most of the other arcade features are here, F'rinstance, you've got the whole arcade course to zoom around, even the skid pan which isn't on the 16-bit versions! (So "Yah boo sucks!")
Alright alright, so you know all this - what you want to know is 'how does it play and is it fast?' The answer is that it plays remarkably well, and, considering just how much the computer has to cope with, it is fast! I mean, what we're dealing with here is a solid-filled 3D environment a la Freescape. Unlike most games in which a car will be represented by so many different sprites, in Hard Drivin' no matter what angle you look at something the computer will mathematically work out what area should be filled by the graphic and present you with the appropriate image. Okay, so I've compared the graphics to Freescape, but, whilst those games are very slow, this isn't the case here. There are times when the action will noticeably jerk and slow down, such as when you come around a corner and see the suspension bridge, but the overall impression is of it being pretty darn speedy! I assume the programmers, Binary Design, overcame some of the speed problem by having the computer update screens on a system of priorities. Background details, like half the bridge, appear in their own time! There are other glitches in the graphics too. The Spec basically can't cope with tying all the blocks of graphics together. This is most apparent in the loop where the graphic appears to break up. But you'll learn to live with it. Oh, and the replay feature is brilliant, especially if you can manage a 'head on' over the drawbridge!
In terms of control, the game is not unlike the arcade original in that it's very tricky. It's more akin to a flight sim in many respects (!) and did take me some time to master. Although much easier with a joystick, there is a key available to automatically centre the steering wheel which will assist beginners. My first attempts were really erratic (hence the intro!), but be patient, it's worth it! Suss this out and you get to have a go at the manual gearbox! Like the best flight sims it'll take some time to perfect your control, but stick at it. It might not have the instant playability of Slant Car Racer, and don't expect an OutRun or WEC Le Mans clone, but if you're into a thinking person's driving game you won't want to miss Hard Drivin'.
Whiffy, spiffy, tiffy and thoroughly nifty. Prey gentle molluscs, take your seats for the great YS roundup...
The Hit Squad
Reviewer: Jon Pillar
There are games with tricky controls and there are games with overly tricky controls. And then there's Hard Drivin'.
It's a lead-sled sim with a heck of a lot going for it. After the licence was announced there were widespread murmurings that Domark must have been eight socks short of a laundry to take it on. Then the conversion appeared and smugly quashed the scoffing. There are two distinct parts to the action, the more straightforward of which is the Speed Track. Here the idea is, well, to drive as fast as possible really. If you manage to complete the course you're put up against the Phantom Futon, a mean driver with a grim expression who'll blow you off the road with his jet-propelled mattress. (I think you'll find that's Phantom Photon actually. Ed) As an alternative, if you turn right at the first junction you'll find yourself blazing along the nerve-busting Stunt Track. This offers an unrivalled opportunity to be loudly ill as you scream over an open bridge, thump flatly down steep ramps and zing through a 360 degree loop. All this (and more) whilst swerving past road users who appear to have been hand-picked from the ranks of the Barnstaple Elderly Stick Whittlers' Club. The action is depicted in speedy shaded-3D, the most impressive graphics outside of a Freescape game. Even though they do tend to fall to bits if there's a lot going on. Spookily enough, this actually adds to the game.
So why, for those of you who've impatiently sought out the final score, isn't this a Megagame? For one simple reason - it's completely impossible to play. The controls are preposterously sensitive - one twitch of the joystick and the car reacts like Bambi on ice. To be fair, this is what happened in the arcade version, but there you had mechanical feedback via the chunky steering wheel. Though it pains me to say it, I'm afraid that as a game Hard Drivin' is only good for frightening people into using public transport.
THE COMPLETE YS GUIDE TO DRIVING GAMES
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' was a car, allowing you to zoom about to your heart's content for minimal outlay instead? Well, actually you can! Yes, all you need to do is buy 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 your no-claims bonus. 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 birds 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...
- It's got to have either a car, a motorbike or a lorry in it.
- That means no bicycles, boats, jet-skis, tanks or anything like that.
- And no skateboards either. They're crap.
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 YS 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.
It's no good having a driving game that seems to be simulating an FSO or something. You want real power, a feeling of being at one with the road and all that sort of thing. Control responses, speed etc are all taken into account here.
Assuming you remember to clean all the dead leaves and bird turds off the windscreen before you set out, what's the view like? A thinly-veiled graphics category, in other words, but jolly important all the same.
It may seem to have everything, but once you've set off, and you've been on the road for a while, do you relish every second that you're behind the wheel? Or do you want to keep stopping at the services? Or perhaps you'd rather just take the bus instead, eh?
A competitive edge is most important where driving's concerned, both in real life and on the Speccy. So do the other cars put up a decent fight, or do they just seem to be part of the scenery (if, indeed, there is any)?
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.
So how does the Spectrum version measure up? Okayish, on the whole. The graphics are just about 'there', although they're a bit jerky and tend to start falling apart at crucial moments. And the car handles quite well too, allowing for the limitations of a joystick. The snag is that, when you get down to it, Hard Drivin' isn't such a great game. It's a good 50ps worth in the arcade if you only play it a couple of times, but when you get to load it up on me Speccy it loses its appeal astonishingly quickly. All the same, it's the state-of-the-art where driving games are concerned. and a great feat of programming.
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