Race Drivin' logo

You wait ages for a racing game to come along and then three or four come at once. This one, though, won't take you to where you want to go.

When a game is sold on the merits of its predecessor, you instinctively know something has to be wrong. Race Drivin' is the sequel to the popular - but unfortunately that's just about all it's got going for it.

Race Drivin' has the original Hard Drivin' stunt and speed tracks, and two bonus tracks to push your boy-racer skills to the limit. You get the chance to put the pedal to the metal in three high-performance cars - the Sportster, the Roadster and the Speedster. The basic differences between them are handling and speed, but the control system and the graphics are so awful it doesn't really matter which on you drive.

The game's polygon graphics are pretty standard, but the 3D system is horrendously slow and jerky. The buildings and other cars lurch horribly around the screen, giving you absolutely no chance to judge distances or spot which way the road is going to turn.

Overtakin'
If you think you've got room to overtake, what looks like a clear gap will invariably by swallowed in an instant by a single screen update. Before you can react, you will either smash into the side of a building or crash into the car in front. To add insult to injury, you sometimes crash into non-existent objects. But then again, you can cruise straight through some concrete pillars without even scratching a go-faster stripe.

The 3D system doesn't stand up to much punishment. Just drive off the side of a bridge and you're suddenly transported to Glitchville Tennessee, where bridges don't exist and cars can seem to glide effortlessly through the air. And no, you haven't accidentally driven on to the stunt track.

Steering a high-performance car should be an absolute delight, but the controls in Race Drivin' are stodgy at best and dreadfully erratic at worst. You can choose between either using a mouse, which is an absolute nightmare, or using a joystick, which is just a very bad dream.

It's impossible to control the car with any degree of accuracy - you can't even change lanes without spinning off the side of the road. After a couple of hours practice you can just about get the hang of steering on the speed track, so it's on to the stunt track with the promise of untold thrills and spills.

The stunt tracks look as though they've been designed by a guy who thought Spaghetti Junction was a good idea. They certainly should be exciting to drive on, with loop-the-loops and stunt bridges, but once again the spectre of uncontrollable cars and appalling graphics rears its ugly head. Driving on the stunt tracks is insufferable. If you can't change lanes without falling off the road, what hope have you got on the loop-the-loop?


The cars were so hard to control that I was tempted to get my Scaletrix out of the loft and get some real racing excitement

Nostalgia
My favourite obstacles were the high-banked curves, but only because they reminded me of my old figure-of-eight Scaletrix circuit, and of the vast amounts of simple fun I used to have with a few sections of plastic track and a couple of plastic cars.

I had absolutely no fun on the stunt tracks in Race Drivin'. The reason was that cars were so hard to control, that I was very tempted to get my Scaletrix out of the loft and get some real racing excitement.

The game has a reasonable range of options, including a choice of manual or automatic gear changes, but you'll have so many problems with the steering that you won't even start thinking about driving the manual cars.

Action replays of your crashes are shown, but they only serve to highlight the awful collision detection and pitiful graphics. Your confidence in the game takes more than a little bruising when you see the car explode into flames when it's nowhere near another object.

Race Drivin' gives you the chance to link two Amigas and race head-to-head, but it's not enough to salvage what is essentially an atrocious driving game.

The jerky graphics and unresponsive controls make you spend as much time off the road as you are on it. The game doesn't give any feeling of acceleration or speed - there's no real difference between driving at down the track at 50mph or 150mph. What use is a racing game if you can't tell how fast you are actually going? The stunt tracks could be reasonably exciting - if only you could control the car well enough to get round them.

Race Drivin' is a totally unenjoyable game from start to finish. You don't need Race Drivin' if you've got Hard Drivin' and it's certainly not in the same league as Geoff Crammond's Formula One Grand Prix or Lotus Turbo Challenge 2. After Race Drivin''s promise of so many high-speed thrills and spills, I was just left with a load of bellyache.

It comes to a sorry pass when a game makes you just want to unplug your Amiga and dust off your old Scaletrix set. But sadly, that's exactly what Race Drivin' made me want to do.


Stoßverkehr auf der Achterbahn

Race Drivin' logo

Da soll sich noch einer auskennen: "Hard Drivin'" war eine Umsetzung des gleichnahmigen Atari-Automaten, "Hard Drivin' 2" eine Eigenproduktion von Domark, und die dritte Vektor-Raserei kommt wieder aus der Spielhalle. Der erste Teil war mies, der zweite gut, und jetzt?

Na, jetzt fehlt jedenfalls der Streckeneditor, mit dem man beim zweiten Streich eigene Stunt-Tracks entwerfen konnte. Aber bitte, den gibt es in der Spielhölle schließlich auch nicht. Was es hingegen beim originalen Race Drivin' gibt, das sind verschiedene Boliden und drei Strecken zur freihen Wahl...

Zunächst entscheidet man sich also, ob man lieber im Sportwagen, Speedster oder Roadster seine Runden drehen will. Unterschiede im Fahrverhalten wird man zwar vergeblich suchen, dafür kann jeder Wagen mit einem individuell gestylten Armaturenbrett aufwarten. Außerdem sind die Wägelchen mit Automatik oder Viergangschaltung zu haben, letztere hat sogar einen Rückwärtsgang. Kommen wir nun zu den Kursen, genaugenommen gibt es davon nämlich vier - schließlich ist der alte Originalkurs auch wieder mit von der Partie und zählt dank seines "Stung" bzw. "Speed-Tracks" ja quasi doppelt.

Neu ist dagegen der "Super Stunt Track", und gegen den wirken die Steilkurven, Loopings und Zugbrücken des Oldies direkt wie Kinderkram: Die Achterbahnfahrt auf den Serpentinen ist ja noch relativ problemlos zu meistern, aber spätestens bei dem "gespaltenen" Looping dem Korkenzieher oder dem Überkopfsprung trennt sich die Spreu vom Weizen! Etwas gemütlicher fährt sich es dann wieder auf dem "Autocross", einem Rundkurs ohne nennenswerte Schwierigkeiten.

Wie gehabt wollen sämtliche Schikanen innerhalb eines Zeitlimits gemeistert sein, wobei ein sogenannter Phantom Photon kein noch so halsbrecherisches Manöver scheut, um den Spieler von der Straße zu drängen. Nur gut, daß man wenigstens auf der Super Stunt Strecke seine Ruhe vor dem computergesteuerten Geisterfahrer hat, dafür herrscht auf dem althergebrachten Kurs nun umso mehr Verkehr.

Um sich heiße Kopf-an-Kopf-Duelle mit einem Kumpel zu liefern, kann man entweder per Nullmodemkabnel zwei Amigas verkuppeln oder auf den brandneuen Duo-Modus zurückgreifen. Hierbei fährt der erste Spieler zunächst sein Rennen gegen den Phantom Photon, die Fahrt wird automatisch gespeichert, und der zweite Spieler muß sich dann gegen beide Fahrzeuge (das des Phantoms und das Gespeicherte!) durchsetzen. Etwas unfair, vielleicht wäre ein Splitscreen à la "Lotus Turbo 2" die bessere Lösung gewesen. Naja, so muß man sich halt abwechseln.

Langeweile kommt in keinem Fall auf, dafür sorgt allein schon die prachtvolle 3D-Vektorgrafik. War sie bei den Vorrasern schon hübsch anzusehen, so wurde sie jetzt nochmal gehörig aufgepeppt und glutscht nun deutlich williger über den Screen. Wer seine Bildschirmrennen am liebsten ruckelfrei genießt, darf durch Verzicht auf das eine oder andere Objekt (Schilder, Häuser, Kühe, etc.) noch einen Zahn zulegen, denn neuerdings ist der Detailgrad regelbar. Gut gefallen hat uns auch, daß sich die Rennstrecken in der Farbgebung und durch einen anders gestalteten Horizont voneinander unterschieden; daß Crashs aus der Vogelperspektive wiederholt werden, ist für harte Driver ohnehin Ehrensache. Dafür muß man nunmehr auf einen einstellbaren Schwierigkeitsgrad verzichten, und die Soundeffekte sind immer noch so mäßig wie bei den Vorgängern (ganz im Gegensatz zum tollen Heavy Metal im Titelscreen).

Das wichtigste kommt wie so oft zum Schluß: Endlich kann die Steuerung voll überzeugen! Je nach Gusto darf die Sensibilität justiert werden, dann braucht es nur noch einen Joystick zum großen Raserglück, denn die Maus ist nach wie vor zweite Wahl. Tja, hätte man den Streckeneditor nicht wegrationalisiert, wäre Race Drivin' seinen Vorgängern nicht gar so ähnlich, und gäbe es mittlerweile nicht schon eine Unzahl solcher Games - wir hätten nochhmal 10 Prozent und einen Hit draufgelegt! (rl)


Race Drivin' logo

After the home-grown, unofficial sequel, Domark at last bring us the 'real' one. But is it better?

So then guv, let us go over this again. What you are saying is that your present vehicle is not as fulfilling as it once was, eh? Well, I am sorry, but you are driving a very old model - fine in its day I am sure, but really up to the standard demanded from today's serious stunt driver. Have you considered the 1992 range? I am sure you will be impressed by all the new features and optional extras on offer... " (ahem). Or something much like that anyway.

Yes, much in the same way that your average company exec would not be seen dead driving (or drivin', even) last year's Gavalier Gsi, Domark figure that it is about time Hard Drivin' was re-written and released to cash in on a whole new generation of Amiga-owning wannabe stunt racers.

Race Drivin' (the coin-op) was Atari's official sequel to 1989 ground-breaker Hard Drivin' (Hard Drivin' II was just something Domark made up themselves, and not a coin-op conversion at all), and has taken a year or so to filter down to the Amiga. As it is, it comes out hot on the heels of Mindscape's broadly similar 4D Sports Driving (reviewed last issue) which provides another interesting point of comparison.

Race Drivin' certainly is not short on competitors (through truth be told, none of them are exactly what you could call spectacularly good). If the original game can be described as the basic Popular Plus model then this is an XR3i by comparison (though probably no the Cosworth). Well - in principle at least.

LICENCE TO DRIVE (AGAIN)
So how is it different from Hard Drivin'? Well, the 1992 model includes two new courses (as well as the original speed and stunt tracks) to master, a choice of three cars to drive, enhanced graphics (you can now see the towers and lights of a city on the horizon) and a two-player head-to-head race option, via the linking of two Amigas. This is an excellent idea, and adds an intriguing extra dimension to the whole rev/skids/crash experience.

Without this link-up, two players can still compete (racing the same track alternatively and then comparing lap times) but it is no substitute for actually bombing along the same strip of concrete neck and neck. This novel feature aside, however, improvements upon its predecessor are merely cosmetic. So once again, it is time to get your motor running, head out on the high-powered car. The challenge with games such as this is to master the art of guiding a (frighteningly realistic) car around a difficult course in as short a time as possible.


Linking the two Amigas is excellent

NEEDING THE FEEL FOR SPEED
The first thing you will learn is that each corner, dip, loop-the-loop and bridge can only be taken at certain speeds. Once you have worked out what that speed is, you can start carving fractions of seconds off fastest lap times as you fine-tune your cornering and braking technique. It is this aspect of the game that is supposed to provide the long-term enjoyment factor.

OK, people go for different things, and I am sure that there are lots of us who found Hard Drivin' a lot of fun and a great challenge - though more likely down the arcade than with the stuttering Amiga version. The problem always was that this game relies too heavily on novelty value and coin-op-style smooth 3D - the actual gameplay does not stand up for very long once they are stripped away, and try as it might the Amiga cannot really cope with this sort of 3D speed very well. The programmers have done a sterling job here - much better than on the first game - but Race Drivin' still lurches uncontrollably into the same no-fun trough as Marble Madness, Afterburner, Dragon's Lair and all those other classic coin-ops that made for lousy Amiga titles.

This is no real fault of the original games as such, it is just that they were never designed to be played for longer than ten-to-fifteen minute stretches. No, they were designed to be immediately appealing - underneath the gloss, there is not really much left to be discovered. Basically, then, I have mixed feelings here. Domark have certainly made an effort to add more to the game but I am not sure that it is enough. What I can definitely confirm is that the graphics are excellent, the cars seem to handle realistically and the two-player option could be fun.

You pays yer money and you takes yer risk really. I would say this is not for everyone, but for those who know that they will enjoy the challenge, or for those who have enough spare dosh to take a chance, it could be a good buy.


WHAT CAR? THEY ALL LOOK JOLLY NICE, BUT WHICH ONE SHOULD WE HAVE?
Race Drivin'
There are three different models of car to crash, er - drive, but unlike in Mindscape's 4D Sports Driving they don't pretend to represent any actual real-life vehicles.
Race Drivin'
Each of the three imaginary cars can be either manual or automatic, depending on how realistic you want your crashing (er - driving), experience to be.
Race Drivin'
Although Race Drivin' was never an arcade game, for some strange reason you have a time limit in which to make your choice of car. Why? We haven't the foggiest.
THE TRACKS OF MY TEARS (AFTER A NASTY CRASH)
Whatever driving style you go for, Hard Drivin' has a track to suit you. Remember to choose the right car to match the track though (see the box on the left), otherwise it'll all end in tears. One last thing to remember - don't even bother trying to use the mouse to navigate these tracks. Grab a joystick, you know it makes sense.
Race Drivin' Race Drivin' Race Drivin'
RACE DRIVIN': THE NEIL WEST WAY (OH DEAR)
Race Drivin'
Right then, we're off. Super Stunt Tracks? Pah, I'll show 'em. Let's go...
Race Drivin'
The first 'super stunt comes in the form of a large, banked right-hander.
Race Drivin'
Safely round the bend and it's hill-climbing time. The sign warns me of...
Race Drivin'
...the need to slow down as the road winds around the side of a mountain.
Race Drivin'
No problemo. The checkpoint's in sight with 20 seconds to spare.
Race Drivin'
Ha! Extra Time awarded for some nifty driving skills. Let's try speeding up...
Race Drivin'
Pedal to the floor, our heroic reviewer screeches along the baked tarmac!
Race Drivin'
Speeding up still further, the next hopeful car-denter looms into view.
Race Drivin'
Oh dear. It all went horribly wrong for the low-flying AMIGA POWER-mobile.
Race Drivin'
And there she goes, on a one way collision-course with glory! sort of.

Race Drivin' logo

After much stalling, and more than its fair share of false starts, Domark have finally put the finishing touches to Race Drivin', the coin-op sequel to Hard Drivin', one of the finest vector racing games to date.

The original saw you racing a shoe box around a speed track resplendent with jumps, bridges, and a 360º loop. Hot on the heels of last month's 4D Sports Driving, it's interesting to note Race Drivin's similarities.

The game has three different courses, including the Hard Drivin' track. You also get a Super Stunt track, with more loops than a bowl of spaghetti, and a short but fast flat circuit. The game lets you access any of these tracks and, as a result, there's little sense of progression or, indeed, achievement in completing a circuit. To do so, there are three cars to choose from, and each has different handling and speed capabilities, ranging from the slow but steady roadster to the fast, but unpredictable speedster which sometimes forgets to take a bend.

However, there is also a nippy sportster which offers a sensible mid-point between the two. All are available with manual or automatic gears, come with plates and tax disk, and are ready to roll. Roll being the operative word.

As before, the action is portrayed from a first-person perspective, with your view of the outside world shown above a small but detailed dashboard. At times, it appears as if you are actually floating above the track, especially when other cars seem to overtake by passing beneath your car. The only viewpoint is a distant external view which is useful for showing your more spectacular crashes, but is of little practical use.

On the graphics side, the road moves smoothly and is convincing whenever the track is free of other objects. However, as soon as a more complicated object appears (buildings, trees, or what appear to be cardboard cut-out cows, for instance), the update slows dramatically spoiling the overall effect and playability.

The game controls are the biggest drawback. Although your car can be controlled via the joystick or mouse, the handling just doesn't feel right. There's an option to adjust the sensitivity of the vehicle's controls, but this doesn't improve the car's handling abilities and merely serves to increase your chances of veering wildly off the road and totalling your motor.

The amount of wheel lock is shown by a small vertical line at the bottom of the screen, with a notch to show the central position. However, the distance between the notch and the line doesn't translate into a constant turning ratio.

Oversteer is an annoying problem, and one that is difficult to correct, especially when the game begins to slow down, leaving you zig-zagging across the track. When you consider that you're competing against the clock, the game left me grinding my teeth rather than the gear stick on more than one occasion.

In these days of Thunderhawk and F-29 which use fast and smooth polygons, why are racing games left in the slow lane? Race Drivin' manages to build up a considerable head of steam but, ultimately, is going nowhere...


The game was originally designed to be controlled via a mouse. Moving the mouse to either the left or right corresponds to the degree of turn put on the car and moving the mouse the other way centres the wheel. Unfortunately, such a control method is rather alien to joystick wagglres. While pushing the joystick right turns the car in that direction, pushing it left doesn't mean the car will instantly change direction. Instead, the car will slowly straighten its course and only then begin to arc left. This might be closer to the real thing, but finding the right balance between controlled turning and wild skidding is incredibly difficult.

Race Drivin' logo

In 1990, Domark released the coin-op conversion of Hard Drivin'. It quickly became known as Crap Drivin'. Now Domark has converted the sequel, Race Drivin'. So is it a case of Crap Drvin' II? Duncan MacDonald finds out.

The Amiga version of Hard Drivin' failed to deliver for five major reasons:
(a) the coin-op original had a steering wheel, while the Amiga version didn't,
(b) the coin-op original had a gearstick, while the Amiga version didn't,
(c) the coin-op original had brake and clutch pedals, while the Amiga version didn't,
(d) in the coin-op original, you really felt as if you were driving a car, while in the Amiga version you didn't, and
(e) there were only two tracks, which didn't take long to master (this didn't matter in the arcades, because when a machine gets boring, you simply stop putting money into it, but if you've shelled out 25 quid for a computer game...)

Anyway, that was Hard Drivin' and this is Race Drivin'. A totally different kettle of fish. Here's what you get...

Track One: The Speed Track from Hard Drivin'. Yup - the very same track, no differences at all.
Track Two: The Stunt Track from Hard Drivin'. Yes, you read correctly - the same as it always was.
Track Three: Now we're getting there. The all-new Auto Cross Track. It's soft of sandy, with very tight corners, and it's very, very (very) small. Blink and you've done a lap, basically.
Track Four: This is what it's all about - the Super Stunt Track. It's just like the original Stunt Track, except for the fact that is is, as its name suggests, 'Super'. It's massive, it goes up to about nine squillion miles above sea level and back down again.

A loop-the-loop? Yes. A corkscrew? Yes. The Race Drivin' Super Stunt Track makes the original Hard Drivin' Stunt Track look like a small section of the A263 (near Basingstoke).

So what else do you get, besides four tracks? Well, there are more cars to choose from - three in all. And you can choose either automatic or manual transmission for all of them. And? Er... and that, as they say, is that. Two courses you've seen before, two you haven't, and three cars ranging from sporty to, er... sporty. Great. But is it crap?

Amiga reviewDunc: It's crap. I'm afraid. Race Drivin' is a definite trouser-jobby. A concession to actual playability has been made by Domark (after Hard Drivin' took such a panning) - they've included a cable link-up option for head to head racing. But was it worth it?
Unfortunately not - the graphics are awful, as is the sound and the cars (which are as hard to control as ever).

"But you're just crap," you may say, adding that if I wasn't crap I would be able to control the cars and therefore actually extract some fun from Race Drivin'. But I did persevere - I switched from the joystick to the mouse, I faffed around with the sensitivity option and finally drove to what you might call a 'victory' on the Super Stunt Track. But did I have fun getting there? No - it was a chore, and I certainly didn't think: "Wow, I must do that again soon!" I don't ever want to do it again, actually.

So what of the other tracks? Well, the first two are old hat and the third, the 'rally cross' thingummy, is like driving around an oversized and slightly irregular roundabout.

There you go then - Race Drivin' really is Crap Drivin' II. The cars handle like turds on skates, the sense of traveling at high speed is practically non-existent, the graphics are limp, the sound is dire and... need I go on?

It's almost as if everyone concerned with Race Drivin' got near the end of the deadlines, realised everything had gone horribly, horribly wrong, and said: "Let's just get rid of it and start on something else". When you look at superb driving games like Formula One Grand Prix or Stunt Car Racer, you just think: "Why?"Stop