4d Sports Driving logo

Oh dear. It doesn't bode very well for a game when its protection system is so abysmal. It's not fair to operate on a first impressions basis, but when a game tells you that you've failed the security check when you haven't even been given a chance to enter anything, you know that this is going to be a sloppily programmed effort.

4D Sports Driving is an interesting game. It takes as its premise the idea that the fourth dimension is realism (and there was me thinking it was time) and that this game is 'amazingly' real. What a joke. If this game's amazingly real then obviously we've all been living in some kind of virtual reality for the last couple of decades.

Extremely hard drivin'
What we've got here is a very obviously Hard Drivin/Test Drive-influenced game. The idea is that you can race one of 11 performance cars (including a Ferrari, a Lamborghini Countach and the ubiquitous Porsche) around a series of tracks either against a computer-controlled car or the clock. The 'fun' aspects come from the stunt elements to the tracks.

Having picked your set of prestige wheels and decided which track you're going to potter around on, the screen display changes to show a fuzzy representation of the particular dashboard of your chosen car.

The garage doors then swing open and with a nudge of the joystick you can accelerate out. Unless of course you haven't been given the opportunity to enter a control word (usually I German), in which case the car will crash and you have to go all the way back to the main menu in the vain hope that the game will ask you for that previous word.

In the fast lane
If you do actually manage to make it out onto the track then the game doesn't get much more exciting. The programmers boast about the "Fast, detailed and smooth polygon graphics" which grace the game. However, all there seem to be are slow, grainy and hopelessly juddery graphics with about all the smoothness of a Channel crossing in a force 10.

Even on the supposedly fast graphic detail settings, it's impossible to get the car's handling right. You either need wrists of steel or some form of orthopedic support to help you maintain any reasonable cornering speed.

It's easy to spot the influences in this game, especially when you find out that it's from the same team who created Test Drive. Obviously, the main influence is Domark's Hard Drivin', but look a bit closer and you can see bits of Lombard RAC Rally and Powerdrift. However, those games were quite reasonable compared to this. Sadly, 4D Sports Driving is far more difficult to control and has got the kind of screen update you'd expect from a 1932 Kinotrope.

So you didn't like it much then?
Ahem. Nope. When this kind of game gets released for a machine as advanced as the Amiga you've got to wonder. Software houses think that by giving you such wonderful options as replays, camera viewpoints and re-designable tracks you'll miss the fact that there's naff all in the way of gameplay.

If the programmers had spent a little more time getting the graphics smooth and the cars controllable, they might have a half-decent game on their hands. As it is, this is wholly awful. 4D indeed. Try 4th rate!

4d Sports Driving logo

Genau vor einem Jahr hatten wir im Märzheft schon mal den Test eines Autorennens mit Vektorgrafik - der Insider wird wissen, daß hier nur das fulminante "Hard Drivin 2" gemeint sein kann. Jetzt ist wieder März, folgerichtig testen wir auch wieder ein Autorennen mit Vektorgrafik...

Leider ist das Ergebnis trotz der unübersehbare Ähnlichkeit zu Domarks Pistenjagd diesmal ein völlig anderes - damals hätte es beinahe zu einem Hit gereicht, unser heutiger Testkandidat gehört dagegen eher in die Rubrik der Fast-Flops. Warum? Darum.

Losgehen tut es noch äußerst vielversprechend, in den diversen Haupt- und Untermenüs kann man vom Grafikdetailgrad über die gewünschte Karoße bis hin zum bevorzugten Gegner allerlei hübsche Dinge auswählen. Die zwölf angebotenen Wägelchen rotieren auf einer Drehbühne, während der Amiga gleichzeitig die technischen Daten kundgibt.

Das Sortiment an konkurrierenden Fahrern besteht immerhin aus sechs witzigen Figuren, alternativ dazu kann man auch einfach gegen die verrinnende Zeit anfahren. Wo wir schon mal bei der Sechs sind - ebensoviele Strecken sind hier im Grundsatz vorhanden. Im Grundsatz heißt, daß man sich mit Hilfe seiner Maus und des eingebauten Editors beliebig viele weitere Pisten aus den einzelnen Kurven, Kreuzungen, Loopings, Eisflächen etc. zusammenstellen und auf Disk absaven kann. Das klappt übrigens wunderbar, der Rechner macht den Konstrukteur sogar aufmerksam, sollte er einen Fehler beim Pistenbasteln verbrochen haben.

Auch sonst ist allerhand ein-, um- und abschaltbar, während der Fahrt kann man (per F-Tasten) zwischen verschiedenen Ansichten wählen, das dramatische Geschehen auf Video Bannen und den Begleitsound (Musik & Motorengebrumm) abwürgen, sobald er zu nerven beginnt.

Darüberhinaus gibt es für jeden Kurs eine eigene Highscoreliste und weiß der Kuckuck, was noch alles. Die Vektorgrafik sieht ganz ordentlich aus, und über mangelnden Realismus kann man sich ebenfalls nicht beschweren: beispielsweise ist es problemlos möglich, die Strecke zu verlassen und eine Abkürzung durchs Gelände zu nehmen - dafür kassiert man dann halt Strafsekunden.

Hört sich das alles ausgesprochen gehaltvoll an? Dennoch erscheint es äußerst zweifelhaft, daß sich jemand dieses Programm wirklich länger als zwei, drei Stündchen antun sollte! Denn ganz gleich, ob man nun seine Maus quält, zum Joystick greift oder sich schlußendlich noch auf die Tastatur besinnt - das Ergebnis ist in jedem Fall niederschmetternd.

Unabhängig von der angewandten Methode ist die Steuerung zäh und träge, es kostet unheimlich viel Nerven, die Karre überhaupt auf der Straße zu halten. Nebenbei bemerkt, gab es dieses Problem mit der Steuerung auch schon bei der vor einem knappen Jahr veröffentlichten PC-Version der "vierdimensionalen" Sportfahrerei: daß es bis heute nicht aus dem Weg geräumt wurde, spricht nicht gerade für das Engagement von Mindscapes Programmierern. (C. Borgmeier)

4d Sports Driving logo

Options, options and yet more options. Slap in your disk and you're immediately faced with more options than an incontinent dachshund in a forest. But this is no bad thing. Hard Drivin' (probably 4D Sports Driving's closest equivalent) made a novel arcade game, but proved to be fatally lacking in depth when pruned and condensed for its appearance on the Amiga.

Mindscape are obviously aware of this, and have made sure they've beefed-up their version of essentially the same game by offering just about every option they could think of. There's (deep breath) a choice of 11-high-performance cars to wreck, the option to race against any one of six dare-devil opponents, an action replay feature that would put the BBC to shame (complete with a choice of camera angles, zoom and pan), a selection of tracks to explore and a course editor - allowing you to let your masochistic streak get the better of you.

What all this boils down to is three basic modes of play. Firstly, you can race against the clock with a view to getting your name at the top of each track's 'fastest lap' table. This involves a lot of crashing, a lot of working out the maximum speed that each obstacle can be taken at, and a lot of perseverance.

Alternatively, you can pit your driving prowess against the six computer opponents, 'Smokin' Joe Stalin, Chern Chassis (!) - it's probably an insult, but I'm not quite sure how - and Skid Vicious (to name but three) are all just itching to leave you with the bitter taste of burnt rubber in your mouth. The opponents skills vary, so take them one at a time as your own abilities develop.

Lastly, you can chose to play around with the course editor. This is where you get to position your own obstacles to create either a nice, straightforward route for a sedate cruise, or a nightmare concrete jungle that could never be described as a major contribution to road safety.

Jumps, corkscrews, tunnels 360° loops (hey, why not? Mindscape never claimed to offer realism), banks and even various track surfaces - all can be dotted around the place to your heart's content.

More options. At the start of the game, before the protection routine asks for a password you can tailor the graphics to optimise either driving speed or background detail. This is useful, though, to be honest, after a while you'll find yourself opting for the high-speed experience every time.

Graphically, 4D Sports Driving is fairly impressive - it's smoother than Hard Drivin', and fast enough to keep you on your toes. But don't forget that essentially this is an driving simulator - not a seat-of-your-pants racing game - so the pace remains fairly sedate throughout. The 3D (god knows what the extra 'D' in the title means) remains sturdy, with only the occasional glitch to spoil the atmosphere.

I suppose the cars handle realistic and there's a lot to be explored. But at the end of the day it is only a Hard Drivin' clone, and it won't keep you enthralled months (and the continual disk-swapping is a pain in the bum). As a bit of fun, though, 4D Sports Driving comes recommended - it's a definite improvement over previous Amiga incarnations of the 4D Sports series.

4d Sports Driving logo

The trouble with the majority of vector-based car games is that they are about as fast as a stalled Lada. All the thrills of cornering at speed are replaced by sluggish handling and jerky update - about as much fun as a stalled engine.

Notable exceptions have included Microprose's excellent Grand Prix and Domark's Hard Drivin', but other offerings have been incredibly drab affairs. Not to be outdone, Mindscape have now entered the fray with a Stunt Car variant. If high speed stunts, coupled with a competitive edge, set your pulse racing, then 4D Sports Driving is certainly worth a test drive.

Available cars range from a speedy Porsche March to off-road racers such as a Lancia Delta of the less-exotic Audi Quattro. Road cars include the Lamborhini Counttach or an Acura NXS and there's also an Arnie-style military vehicle, the tank-like Lamborhini LM-002. If you get fred up with the game's harder obstacles, you can always try demolishing 'em with this baby!

It's possible to either race against the clock or one of six opponents. These range from the accident-prone Bernie Rubber, who makes every race seem like a demolition derby, to the super-slick road-handling skills of Skid Vicious, a mean mutha who's learnt his amazing driving skills out-running cops in New York City.

Tracks range from off-road racing conditions to tarmac courses and all are jam-packed with a wide-variety of loops, pipes, slaloms and jumps. Some of these are almost impossible to pull off as you've got to reach speeds of more than 100mph while turning the car through 360°. Some of the jumps are more like the Grand Canyon and others force you to take off at such an angle that you could be airborne for weeks before coming down the other side.

The courses have been expertly put together and include just the right combination of stunts to make things challenging. Mastering the different stunts and courses will take time and the shortest path to the finishing line might not necessarily be the quickest. Don't think you can cheat by driving round the obstacles, either, as penalties are accrued each time you leave the track.

Luckily, you're aided in some of the trickier aerial stunts by a useful replay facility which lets you rewind events to just before you totalled the car. After you've pounded the game's six courses into submission and looped the loop until you're feeling sick, there's a neat track editor which allows you to design all manner of weird courses to test your driving skills to the absolute limit.

Unfortunately, the game's vector graphics tend to reduce each car to little more than a slab of metal and I found very little difference in their respective handling abilities. Once you've driven off the road, a pointer flashes to guide you back onto the track, but go too far and you're left stranded in green fields and it can often be difficult finding your way back.

A Stung Car-type crane to hoist you back onto the course would have been a good idea as would beefier FX. The best thing about the game are the intuitive gears which make it easy to move up and down the gears at the press of a firebutton.

It's not as instantly playable as Stunt Car Racer, but it's certainly fun nonetheless. The vector graphics aren't the fastest I've ever seen, but nor do they move at a snail's pace. If you're tired of Microprose's classic, then this is a welcome alternative offering a wide variety of stunts and some addictive gameplay.

STUNTED GROWTH Fans of MicroProse's Stunt Car Racer will lap up (sorry) the tricks and stunts on offer in Mindscape's latest addition to their 4D Sports series. Whereas the ramps and rolle-coaster design of Stunt Car have been replaced by a race across open roads littered with loop-the-loops and 360° tunnels, the basic idea is the same: press your foot to the metal, burn some serious rubber and make your car do Houdini-like contortions through some devilishly-designed stunts. Unfortunately, Driving's joystick controls are just too responsive at times, sending you into massive skids and uncontrollable spins.