Life isn't this simple

Hard drivin' 1 logo

ONLY a few years ago a game such as this would have been impossible. A faithful conversion from the arcade game, Hard Drivin' is most definitely a car simulator, not your bog standard formula one racing car game. The arcade cabinet even had an ignition key.

Here you drive a red car of indefinable type with improved handling and tyres. It is sort of based on a Testarossa, but during the action replay sequence it looks like a breeze block with a brick on top.

The track layout is designed to offer you a choice of straight speed or a stunt circuit with open bridge, 360 degree loop and banked corners.

When you skid, which you will do if you exceed 60 mph, you must point the wheels in the opposite direction to correct - and jolly realistic it feels, too. If you can resist shouting "Yeeeehaaa!" when you jump the bridge, then you are a stronger man than I.

Usual gripes about not having a steering wheel to plug into the Amiga apply, but using a mouse or even a trackball is a workable substitute.
A joystick can be used as a gear stick or as another steering implement, but it's not any easier to use than the dreaded rodent. Remind me to set up a company to sell steering wheels.

The mathematically generated world in which you exist shows a few cracks here and there. Oncoming cars have a frightening habit of appearing to travel towards you through solid hills, and the action replay finds it difficult to keep up with the car travelling up slopes, and instead plants it under the surface. I was prepared to let these bugs pass (like the lorry on the loop-the-loop) because they are not damning.

Unfortunately, there is a subtle moral dilemma in making car games as realistic as this. Striving to emulate the real world is to be recommended - it could be used to encourage skilful driving and potentially save lives. Instead you are encouraged in Hard Drivin' to break speed limits, drive on the wrong side of the road and infringe more road traffic laws than a typical cab driver.

A head-on collision with another car incurs nothing more than a time penalty. No multiple pile-ups and being forced to play the rest of the game in a wheelchair here. No, this is good clean family entertainment - killing people is OK as long as they are computer-generated people.

In a form of acknowledgement, the game gives you a helpful warning message to the effect that attempting the stunts in the game for real could be dangerous or even fatal. So make sure there is a grown up around when you try this, kids.

Solid, real-time 3D graphics have come of age on the home computer. The question is, are we ready for them?


Hard drivin' 1 logo

DOMARK £19.99 * Mouse, Joystick and/or Keyboard

During the Amusement Trades Exhibition International at London's Olympia in the Spring of '89, one coin-op was making its world premiere on the Atari stand. It was billed as "The most realistic simulator ever to hit the arcades" and was stealing the show. Now the Amiga version of Hard Drivin' has arrived.

You're in control of a popular sports car, driving as fast as possible around two tracks: speed and stunt. Before starting, you must choose the transmission from automatic or manual (beginners should select automatic). Manual requires the player to shift gear himself either using a joystick as a gear lever or by hitting the right keys on the keyboard.

Then you start driving just before a fork that allows you to choose which track you'd like to take. Assuming you take the speed track, you then have a set amount of time to make it to the checkpoint which is of the way round the track and so gain a few extra seconds to make it to the finish (where you get more time to try to do the same again).

On the stunt track the same has to be done, but things are much trickier because there is a bridge to jump, a loop-the-loop to complete and some high banking to negotiate. Speed and steering skills are essential here as it's all too easy to go flying over a jump and crash through excessive speed, or to lose control of the car as you round the bend just before the loop-the-loop and enter the thing at the wrong angle.

Getting the hang of controlling the car and cornering at 100+ mph is the first priority, because without it you won't stand a chance of completing either track in under two minutes and proceeding to the Championship Lap which is raced on the stunt track. Incidentally, win the Champ' Lap and all successive players are required to race against your 'phantom' car.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

When you're driving, everything is viewed from the driver's seat and it's all solid 3D. There's a nice impression of speed when you're driving and though the other road users look a little basic they serve their purpose (getting in the way, it seems). The instant replay is a nice feature when you crash, giving you a bird's eye view of the accident, although the masking of sprites over backgrounds is decidedly dodgy.

Hard Drivin' looks as much like its coin-op parent as you could reasonably expect. The sound effects, however, are dire. Domark assure us they're taken from the arcade machine, but they're still awful, with weak engine and skidding sounds. Nice intro music.

LASTING INTEREST

The first few attempts will have you thinking 'Corks, this is tough', but it doesn't take long to get to grips with handling the car. After that it doesn't take long to master the tracks and you'll be qualifying for the Champ' Lamp almost every time. Although it is, arguably, more of a simulation than a racing game, it's too easy to master, which doesn't do much for the lasting interest.

JUDGEMENT

Despite the bugs (for example, crash on one track and the game will occasionally restart you on the other), it's fun for a while. But take away the best features of the coin-op - continuous feedback through the steering wheel and the manual gear-shifting using a clutch - and you're left with a driving 'simulation' that is really nothing very special at all.

It's a great conversion and all credit to Domark for that, but this is a classic example of a game that may be great in the arcades, but may not necessarily be great on a computer.


Hard drivin' 1 logo CU Screen Star

Domark/Tengen
Price: £19.99

It has been a year when racing games truly found favour again both in the arcades and, subsequently at home. The Amiga has seen a steady stream of conversions and original games, with the latter, in the shape of RVF and Stunt Car taking the chequered flag for quality. Now we have a conversion to rank with them.
Hard Drivin' must be one of the most hotly fancied games to top the charts this Christmas. It has been number 1 in the arcades for months due to its realistic blend of simulation and arcade thrills.

When machines like Turbo Out Run and Monaco GP concentrated solely on the racing aspect of their appeal, Atari's coin-op attempted quite successfully to emulate the feel of controlling a motor vehicle at high speed. Its colourful 3D graphics enhanced the sensation more than usually.

The idea is to control your vehicle around two routes, the speed track and the stunt track, against the clock. The ultimate goal is to qualify for a championship lap against the mysterious Phantom Photon, a ghostly blue turbocharger that is not prepared to concede the title of top Hard Driver without a fight.

Domark's conversion will come as a relief to fans of the coin-op - it is extremely impressive. Graphically it is nearly a replica, partly due to the fact that the backgrounds from the original have been downloaded, but also due to the attention to detail which has gone into the rest which have all been redrawn from sketches, right down to the cow standing by the shed at the beginning of the stunt track. Programmer Jurgen Friedrich who was responsible for the 16 bit versions of Star Wars has got his maths right again with silk smooth scrolling and fast updates. The sound too is particularly strong with many of the original effects sampled and a particularly punchy original introduction tune.

As a game I have my reservations about Hard Drivin'. Despite its undeniable quality, its realism is such that it has always reminded me slightly of a drive down to the supermarket - well on the speed track anyway, there are not any loops on the Finchley Road. Nevertheless, on the home computer it translates even better. The raw thrills of Stunt Car are not there, but these are replaced by an extremely absorbing challenge.

There can be little doubt given the quality of this conversion, and that it won't be up there challenging for the top spot from the moment of its release.


Hard drivin' 1: Compo
COMPO
These 1/18 scale, radio-controlled roadsters won't be winning the next 24-hour championships, but they will career quite nicely across the park.
Based upon the new Ferrari F-40, there is one to be won for the first five who correctly answer the following:
Who has started more Grand Prix's in pole position than any other racer?
Answers on a postcard to Hard Drivin' Compo, CU, Priory Court, 30-32 Farringdon Lane, London EC1r 3AU, by 8th January 1990.

Hard drivin' 1 logo

Domark/£19.99/Out now (ST Version reviewed in ZERO 3)

Amiga review Paul: This has to be one of the most long awaited arcade conversions since Brighton Pier. Has it lived up to expectations? Well it's hard to say really, 'cos Tim's been playing it all afternoon and I've not had a look in.
No, seriously folks, this is one of the most faithful conversions I've yet seen. The graphics look like a straight port from the arcade version, though they're a bit on the slow side. Sound effects are akin to Silverstone without Murry Walker (That's a merciful release at least. Ed).

In place of the arcade's responsive steering wheel, the 16-bit version has a hyper-sensitive mouse; over-steering is as big a problem in Hard Drivin' as in your first driving lesson. Well, my first driving lesson anyway (What do you expect if you try a loop the loop on a provisional licence? Ed.).

This is a great driving game with the Phantom Photon giving it an extra twist. However, as Dunc said last month, once you've done it - you've done it.


Hard drivin' 1 logo

Domark

Amiga review This one is aptly titled, although I personally would have gone a bit further and called it Nearly Impossible Driving, given the lack of control you have over the car. It's another coin-op conversion, but one that didn't quite come off - for many reasons. Here are a few...

Firstly, there's the tracks. There are two of them: the Speed Track and the Stunt Track. The Speed Track is just that, lots of long straight sections of road (where you can go flat out), connected together by a few not too sharp corners. It's a doddle, once you've mastered the control method, unlike the Stunt Track, which is almost impossible to take at the sort of speeds needed to beat the computer-controlled Phantom car.

Secondly there are the bugs. In real life, if a car travels behind something (such as a gigantic concrete bridge support post) you expect it to disappear from view, don't you? Yes. Well, in Hard Drivin' this isn't always the case. It's like being Superman - you can see right through things.

Thirdly there's the longevity. This is the biggest failing, and largely the fault of the coin-op - which wouldn't really keep you going back after about 20 goes or so (I should know; I spent 20 bloomin' quid on it). But the fact that you can race 'yourself', taking on the Photon Phantom helps a bit.

All in all though, Hard Drivin' is a fairly good conversion of the coin-op original. Quite a good effort overall though, so (sort of) well done Domark.


Hard drivin' 1 logo

Domark, Amiga £19.99

One of the most successful arcades games ever started life as a safety device, a simulator intended to save driving instructors from terminal nervous tension. But needless to say the allure of loads of dosh in the arcades soon distracted the programmers from this noble task. In short order the 1100cc mini-micro car was replaced by an extremely flash, high performance Italian car that can turn your average young driver into a stretcher case faster than you can say 140 mph. And just to help the process along, a peaceful urban route has been replaced by a Speed Track and a Stunt Track.

The latter has three main stunts: the Bridge Jump, the diabolically steep Bank, and the vertigo-inducing Loop-the-Loop. Keeping the car on the track is tough enough, but there are also plenty of other cars to run into and a time limit to make each of the three checkpoints per lap. The Speed Track has a more conventional layout, to better simulate normal driving, but the tough time limits ensure you break all speed limits.

Make a fast enough lap on either track and you get challenged by another law breaker, namely the Phantom Photon, to a race around the Stunt Track. A single crash will disqualify you, so this is one mean challenge. But if you do beat the Photon, your amazing performance is saved so that if you beat the new lap you get to race against yourself!

Obviously good control of your car is critical, so Domark have provided a variety of options. Probably the best is the mouse, with the two buttons controlling acceleration/deceleration. Press both and you get the brakes. Joystick works as you would expect - forward/backward controlling speed with fire activating brakes. Gears can be automatic, or manual with either keys or a second joystick replacing the gearstick.

For the future, Domark are planning data disks with additional cars, scenery tracks, and ultimately even a track designer!


Phil King The real thrill of the coin-op was its realism; with the lack of a steering wheel, gearstick, and pedals, the home computer versions always sounded a bit dubious! Although the mouse/joystick control is adequate it doesn't really give you the illusion of driving. Still, despite the odd bug the 3-D graphics are very good indeed and driving against the Phantom Photon adds an element of competition to this enjoyable driving sim.
Stuart Wynne Jurgen Friedrich has worked miracles cramming the coin-op into the Amiga, this really is a very close conversion which can be heartily recommended to fans of the arcade game. The lack of a steering wheel and pedals is compensated for by a nice combination mouse/joystick set-up and the graphics are great. But this closeness does cause some problems - just two tracks really doesn't offer that much depth Amiga game. The roads are also surprisingly empty, with just a few cars to avoid. Still, the data disks could solve these problems and there's no doubting what a great conversion this is.