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!
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! Haft 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
the 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 hoo!) 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
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 Stunt Car Racer
and don't expect an Outrun
or WEC Le Mans
but if you're into a thinking person's driving game
you won't want to miss Hard Drivin'
|Arcade version screenshot...|
|Click here to view all 12 pics|
|Ratings given by other magazines|
|Info supplied by the SPOT*ON database|