The chase is on

Stuntcar Racer logo Amiga Computing Supreme Award

IMAGINE a race with only two cars, each as fast and powerful as the one Nigel Mansell drives at work, each with wheels like a tractor and suspension to match. Now put them on a track which is closer to a big dipper than Brands Hatch
This is the flight of fantasy taken by Geoff Grammond. And while mere mortals would have to go back to daydreaming, he - the programming genius responsible for Aviator, Revs and Sentinel - has turned it into reality.

The game was started at Firebird before it sold out to Microprose. Geoff was given free rein to write whatever he wanted and take as much time as he liked. Not the usual contract. The results prove that the unusual pays.
Free from deadlines and the confines of an arcade conversion, Stunt Car Racer is the best driving game ever produced.

Controls are simple - if you aren't breaking you are accelerating. Steering self-centres on the straight bits. The fire button provides a not too limited supply of boots and the dashboard shows if you are in the lead or have set the fastest lap. The distinctly dated speedo reads up to 250. Then it wraps around for higher speeds.

Minimalist controls leave you to worry about racing line. Not just corners, but how fast to go up the hills. Tear up a ramp, boost blazing, to find a corner just over the apex and you will be airborne without a track to land on. When pro racing drivers talk about "falling off", they don't mean this.
But leaving the track is part of the fun. There are jumps to negotiate where speed is critical. Too slow and you won't make it. Too fast and you'll land hard, wrecking the chassis.

Damage is shown as a crack which works its way across the top of the screen. Really hard bumps show up as holes which cannot be repaired between races. So it is very important not to fall off.
Keeping the tarmac becomes less easy as the chassis damage starts to affect your handling. Enter too tight and you'll slide off the inside a corner, too fast and you'll shoot off the edge.

The computer-driven opponent will help you off the circuit, although it seems to be impossible to knock the computer off. Single player races are conducted against a motley crew of nine other drivers. The aim is to win in each of the four leagues and make it to the top of class one.

You need to learn the tracks. My favourite is the Roller Coaster - curves tight as a tourniquet, slopes which make the Alps look flat. You can get up breakneck speeds, but make a mistake and the crane will have to hoist you back on to the track.

The game really comes into its own when you race against friends, either in league, or ideally by using the two-computer datalink. Even linking a vanilla machine to the fastest Amiga you can buy works perfectly.

There are no pretty sprites or copperlist skies, just a few smart title screens between races and shots of the winner's podium. The whole thing is rounded off nicely by a comprehensive manual with a potted history of motor sport and some great action photos. No one could identify all the cars.

In future years, when most games have been forgotten and aged joystick jockies reminisce of the games of their youth, Stunt Car Racer will be one of the titles which gets cited as a true classic.


Stuntcar Racer logo Format Gold

MICROSTYLE £24.95 * Joystick or Keyboard

Who said brain games were the best? Even the author of a classic intelligence tester must fancy a bit of high-speed action from time to time. Geoff Crammond not only wrote the classic game Sentinel but has also written Stunt Car Racer.

And that's just what it's about: the player takes control of a stunt car and has to drive it around eight death-defying tracks. The player's aim is to become Division One champion in the Stunt Car Racer league, but to do that you'll have to get to Div 1 first.

Starting in Div 4, you have to race both other drivers in the division on both tracks. Points are awarded to the winner of the race (who gets two points) and the competitor who put in the fastest lap during the race (who earns just one). At the end of the season the competitor with the most points is promoted to the next division, but of course once you get out of the fourth, you always stand a chance of being relegated if you finish the season in last place.

Make it to the top of the first to earn a chance to take part in the Superleague and race against some expert competition in better cars (faster with better brakes).

The action is all viewed from the cockpit and the controls are very simple: push forward on the joystick to accelerate, pull back to brake and move it left-right to steer. What's not so easy is staying on the elevated tracks with twist and turn, dip and rise the whole way round. Each race consists of three laps of the track and the race is over when either cars crosses the finish line or one car becomes a wreck.

Fall off the track (or even take a jump incorrectly and come down too heavily on the other side) and you'll incur chassis and structural damage. Too much damage and the car becomes a wreck and 'race over'. However before starting a season it is possible to practise the track so you can learn exactly where to use the nitro boost and where to decelerate (it would be far too easy to just blast about the track willy-nilly) before competing for real.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Revving engines, crashes, screeches and scrapes - all of which sound great. The graphics are superb: extremely fast and well animated. Excellent stuff.

JUDGEMENT

This is gripping stuff. Action all the way - you really will be holding your breath as you go flying over the jumps and gritting your teeth with determination when you see your opponent go whizzing past. All it lacks is an instant replay option to allow an out-of--cockpit view of those spectacular crashes.


Stuntcar Racer logo CU Screen Star

Microstyle Price:£24.99

Since Enduro Racer made its debut in the arcades, almost every single racing game has had a hill or two added to try and make your stomach churn. To be honest, none of them really have succeeded, until now. Here we have a product that will not only have you on the edge of your seat, but will also keep your stomach churning you're your guts tell you that you shouldn't be doing what your eyes are telling you you're doing. Stunt Car is that good.

If your attitude to race games is "seen one, seen 'em all" then look again. Stunt Car is the race of the future. The tracks you race have been specially designed for high speed runs. The bends have been banked, which means you don't have to slow down. The interesting thing about the courses is that at no point do they come any lower than twenty feet from the ground. In fact, some of the "hills" reach between eight and one-hundred--and-twenty feet, so racing is pretty hair raising stuff.

Comparable to Domark's Hard Drivin' SC is made up of filled vectors, and very nice they look too. The track is a huge grey strip raised high above a lush green lawn, and as you speed along over the bumps and hills, the ride can only be described as exhilarating. If you were lucky enough to see the game in action on Microprose's miniature stand at the PC show this year, you'll remember the gasps as people found themselves glued to the oversized monitors. And excitement is what gives this game its winning edge.

Geoff Crammond (remember him, the author of Revs?) has done an amazing job on the maths involved in getting both the handling of the buggy and the response to gravity just right. Inertia works perfectly, and you realise after the first time you try it that racing up a hill at full pelt with your finger on the thrust button isn't a good idea. You suddenly run out of road to race and plummet downward, re-joining the track with a nasty smash up.

Crashing isn't advised, it has to be said. Every time you do anything to damage the car a crack appears on the left hand side of the windscreen. It gradually works its way across with every knock, until it reaches the far right of the screen, at which point your car falls apart and is considered a wreck.

I've said it before but the graphics are incredible, and that doesn't only apply to the movement of the track in relation to you. The other buggies are amazing to watch, too. It's almost worth losing the race so that you can follow the other car along the track, watching it bounce around realistically. Sound too, provides some of the most realistic revving and acceleration noises yet heard.

But that's not all. There's plenty of other additions - like the facility to link up your Amiga with a friend, either Amiga or ST owner, and have a head to head race via a modem link. Or the league option. You start the game bottom of division four, with other drivers (computer controlled) in your division. You have to race the computer cars over the two tracks assigned to your division, and gain enough points to be promoted to the next division.

An amazing game, almost perfect in fact. A 'must buy' for all Amiga owners.


64 UPDATE

Stunt Car 64 is, difficult though it may seem, virtually identical to the Amiga. The main difference being that the tracks and other cars are composed of faster hidden line vectors rather than the filled type. Also, almost all the colour has been removed from the roadway, making it look slightly more like a Spectrum game than a 64 game but this isn't a bad thing at all, because it plays brilliantly.

Probably most remarkable is that the "cockpit" has been copied identically, right down to the two front wheels that bob around when you move in almost perfect imitation of the Amiga.

A conversion in the true sense of the word and a top notch product. Price: £9.99 cassette and £14.99 disk.

SOUND
GRAPHICS
PLAYABILITY
LASTABILITY
82%
92%
91%
90%
89%

Stuntcar Racer logo Zero Hero

Question: What do you get when you cross a high speed car racing game with a roller coaster ride?
Answer: The contents of your stomach all over your lap... or Duncan MacDonald's lap in this case. He popped to the bathroom, changed his trousers and joined Sean Kelly to take a more in-depth look at MicroStyle's new vroomer...

Austin Allegro drivers, eh? They pootle along, indicators flashing, at about the same speed as an ox, and everyone who's stuck behind them knows full well that there aren't any turnings coming up for at least three miles. Well, with the need to expend such a vast amount of concentration energy on simply driving in a straight line, it's unlikely that an Austin Allegro driver is going to go a bundle on this game. So, if you're a member of this rare breed, it's probably rather a good idea to go away. Go on, shoo!

In Stunt Car Racer you not only have to contend with a series of courses which go round and round (and round), but you also have to worry about your height above sea-level. That's right - these tracks are not flat, indeed no, by cracky - they undulate up and down like a sine curve from Hell. And guess what's missing from the sides of the not over-generously wide roads? Crash barriers, that's what! Muck up an approach to a corner and it's not just a case of "Oh dear, I've skidded onto the grass verge and bruised my little finger", it's more a case of "Oh dear, I'm going to die", which, if this was real life, you undoubtedly would.

However, this is computer-game land so you don't actually die. But you do have to put up with a small wait as you're winched back onto the track by crane.

There are three ways of playing Stunt Car . There's the 'head-to-head' (where you need to attach two computers together and take on a 'chum' in real time), the multiple player (two or more players take it in turns against the computer-
controlled cars, with race and lap times being saved, so you can tell at a glance who's the crappiest driver) or the direct 'you versus the computer' mode (in which you vie for position against the computer-controlled cars in a league table made up of four divisions).

THE LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Each of the four divisions is made up of three places and you, at the start of play are right at the bottom of the barrel. Yup, 'fraid so. Division four, third place. Ideally you want to be in division one, first place, but ideals aren't always attainable. Especially if you happen to be useless. To rise a division you have to take on both the other contenders in your particular class, and beat them on both the tracks of your division (each race comprises of three laps by the way). At the end of each set of races, the person in first place gets promoted a division while the parson at the bottom gets demoted.

THE TRACKS
There are eight tracks in all with a pair of tracks allotted to each specific division. For instance, the two 'easiest' tracks (The Little Ramp and The Humpback) are allocated to the most pathetic division i.e. division four. Beat the computer cars on these and promotion takes you to division three - where you can compete on the Big Ramp and The Stepping Stones and so on. If you want to 'have a go' on one of the tracks that's assigned to a division higher than yours, that isn't a problem - you can just click on the practice option and choose a course but in this practice mode there isn't an opponent. Just you, your car and the promise of three stomach-turning laps. Mind you, there is a digital stopwatch at the bottom of the screen, so you can compete against your own times (unless you're so crap that you never even manage to complete a lap. In which case you can't).

Atari ST reviewDunc: Well jipper me scaries (Eh? Ed.). I really love these car games. They give me a chance to drive the way I normally do so I'm quite good at them, and this is a car game and a half. In fact it's five car games! (Just stick with the 'car game and a half' Ed.)

Having gone through the options sequence, a crane hoisted my buggy up and over the track and then 'plop', dropped me onto it. All of a sudden, my opponent zoomed out ahead of me and started to diminish in size. Why was he getting smaller, I wondered? So I popped to the library and quickly read a book called Perspective And Distance by Professor Arnold Sweetcorn.

Apparently the computer car was becoming smaller because it was getting further away from me which meant I was losing the race. Confound it! I rushed back to the monitor to see the words 'Race Lost' on-screen. So Professor Sweetcorn was right. Curse him. This time I was ready. As soon as my car landed on the track, I snapped the joystick firmly forward and heard the engine pitch rise. Yahoo I was moving but the computer car was still tearing ahead. On squeezing the fire button I discovered it was for turbo-boost. Phew, (crunching noises) just make it round the corner and oh no, what's that? It looks like a ramp of some sort. Boing. STILL up in the air (maybe I was going too fast). Crunch, bounce, back in the air, snap... CRUUUNCH. Whoops.

You know the feeling you get when watching a televised roller coaster ride? Yeah? Well, that's the feeling you get when racing around these circuits - especially the one called, erm The Roller Coaster. The difference is, however, that your car isn't on rails, it's up to your joystick skills to keep it from making a large mess on the ground.

The suspension on the car 'works' too - when you land after a jump the springs compress and then recoil. Even on a straight piece of track, if you hit the brakes the nose of the car drops and the scenery responds as in real life by going up a smidgin. Actually, when I said 'the brakes' it was a bit misleading as there aren't any. Pulling back on the stick simply slows the engine down, rather than acting directly on the wheels. Pull it back for long enough and not only will you stop, but you'll actually start to go backwards. I tried to complete a couple of the courses in reverse, but it's a bit tricky without a rear-view mirror.

There's something you won't be able to see by just looking at the screenshots though, and that's the impression of speed involved. You'll have to take my word for this - but it's fantastic. The animation of the other car is pretty 'brill' too. It's best to zoom ahead and overtake as soon as possible and put some distance between the cars. There - a little tip!

What more can I say? Stunt Car Racer is brilliant. The sound could have been a tad better, there might have been a teensy-weensy bit of ground detail during the crash sequences, and it would have been nice if you could have saved the game in the middle of each set of races rather than only at the end but other than that I can't fault it.

Amiga reviewSean: First of all, let's get all the usual superlatives out of the way. Stunt Car Racer is flippin' brrrrrilliant. There's no other word for it. Well, there's brrrilliant with slightly fewer 'r's in it. It's a very simple idea - racing another car around a bumpy track - and it's perfectly executed. There. This reviewing is lark's easy. (Another paragraph please. Ed.) Oh... erm...

The first thing that strikes you about Stunt Car Racer is the way the perspectives work to create an excellent emulation of reality. (Eh? Ed.) What I mean is, that when you go crashing off the side or the track, you will literally lurch forward and brace yourself for the impact. That's how involved you will get. The speed and smoothness of the scrolling is largely to thank for this, along with the solid and realistic nature of the graphics.

A special mention must also go to the sonics. Forget about music - that's for shandy drinkers - what you get here are incredibly realistic ('cos they's sampled) gut-wrenching, bending metal sounds as you swerve around a corner with your frame shot to pieces. And sick making crunchy noises as you hit the ground having fallen silently through about a hundred feet of fresh air. But that's only two major noises, in addition there are loads of other screechy, clangy, bendy effects that are guaranteed to have you clenching your teeth and praying your "buggy" won't fall to pieces halfway through an accurately executed jump.

And that's another thing. The tracks are all cleverly designed so that it's not just a matter of belting round like Duncan when he's given the honour of parking the Publisher's car, (although the sounds are the same) each track is a mix of Dunc's driving, and more considered and "intelligent" driving. For example, it's better to take some bumps slowly and accelerate on the down side, rather than hit them at two thousand miles an hour and spend the next 10 seconds gliding through the air before landing nose first with your suspension knackered. I would have liked more special features however, along the lines of The Drawbridge. It has a section of track that rises and falls as you race, forcing you to reach it at just the right time, 'cos if you don't you either go plunging over the edge, damaging your suspension, or smash into it with a resounding... er... crash, bang wallop.

For many people one thing that will add to the gamer's lasting appeal is the option which allows you to connect two computers together (even an Amiga to an ST) and race head to head. In the future this will doubtless give me the chance to take on Duncan and whip his ass, but for the moment racing against Brian Blessed and Co is keeping me fully occupied.

As it stands, Stunt Car Racer is a fantastic mix of Microprose simulation-style graphics and fantastic arcade-style addictiveness. It's a well thought out very playable game which must rate as one of the best games of the year. Stunt Car Racer proves that MicroStyle can really cut the mustard. Actually it doesn't, it proves they can produce a pretty, damn brilliant racing sim thingy and who cares about mustard anyway?


WHAT'S THE DAMAGE JOHN?

Even though your car is a custom built buggy with fantastic suspension, super-doper bumpers and roll bars all over the shop, it's best to avoid hard knocks, though the courses are designed to supply you with just that. Each time you take a jump too quickly and come down with a little bit of a thump, a hairline crack snakes its way along the roll bar. When the crack reaches from one side of the roll bar to the other, your car then becomes an 'ex-car' and you come to a grinding halt in a shower of sparks.

If you make a major guff up (such as coming off the track and smashing into the ground or not hitting a take-off- ramp at a high enough speed) then an 'impact crater' will appear on the roll bar. These holes in the metal framework weaken the car, and the more you get, the quicker the crack snakes across - in a breaker's yard version of 'join the dots'. The real trouble with the impact craters is that (unlike the crack) they aren't reset to zero at the start of each race - they stay with you throughout the season. Having eight craters at the beginning of a race on The High Jump isn't a good idea... You'll be lucky if your buggy holds out for one lap, let alone three. (Unless you drive very slowly and avoid the bumps - but then you aren't going to win the race anyway).

SOME MILDLY INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT DRIVING...

MILDLY INTERESTING FACT ONE
Stunt Car Racer was actually conceptualised and coded by Geoff Crammond, the same geezer who designed and wrote The Sentinel. What a clever chap he is. Um, that's it - end of Mildkly Interesting Fact One.

MILDLY INTERESTING FACT TWO
It is quite dangerous to drive a car at a very high speed (in reverse), the wrong way down a motorway with your eyes closed and all the doors open. Um, end of Mildly Interesting Fact Two.

MILDLY INTERESTING FACT THREE
Ford Anglias are not the world's most desired cars. Nor are Reliant Robins. Nor are Austin Allegros (especially the estate version). Erm, end of Mildly Interesting Fact Three. (Hang on, I've got a Reliant Robin... Ed.).


Stuntcar Racer logo Zero Hero

Microprose

Amiga review I'm not going to bore you with the details because we've done this one to death. But I couldn't leave it out because it's so good...

Now this just shows what can be done with filled vectors and a racing game. A brilliant idea, fantastically executed by the geezer who did The Sentinel: Geoff Crammond.

I can't really fault Stunt Car Racer. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, it's set the standard by which future driving 'simulations' will be judged.


The rollercoaster ride of a lifetime!

Stuntcar Racer logo Zzap! Sizzler

MicroStyle, C64 £9.99 cassette, £14.99 disk; Amiga £24.99

The world's first official motor races were held in France in 1895, and the speed-blurred trip from there to 1989 is well covered in the manual. But it is the future that holds most excitement. The 1990s see all sorts of chemicals fill the petrol tanks of racing cars. New, super-efficient engines, nitrous injection and 'sticky' tyres mean 1996 racers can accelerate at over 1G, or 0-60 mph in two seconds! With such incredible car performance, attention turns to the racing tracks.

In 2006, 500ft elevated 'stunt tracks' with massive ski-jumps are introduced. By 2006 the tracks have become unbelievably dangerous, but you are not scared, are you? After all, a fair proportion of your body is synthetic, and dropping down to Division Four should make for a really easy first couple of races, shouldn't it?

Control of your supercar is relatively simple. Pushing forward on the joystick gives acceleration, pulling back brakes or - if you are at 0 mph - reverse (useful if you are dropped back on the track just before a big jump). Once the joystick has been pushed forward the car will continue to accelerate unless you brake. Pressing fire shoots nitrous into the engine, making flames come out of the exhausts for super-acceleration, but you have only got a limited amount.

Your car will automatically follow the road, unless it is airborne - as is often the case - but that does not make it easy! The dashboard has all the usual dials: speed, laptime and distance from your competitor, plus a chassis crack! This is at the top of the screen, and lengthens during hard landings and tight corners - if it reaches the right-hand side, the car is wrecked and you retire (giving extra points to your opponent). There is also structural damage, shown by holes, which stays with you throughout the season (unless you are in 'easy' division four).

Your objective is to win Division One. There are four divisions, each with three drivers and two tracks. There is also a Super League for Division One champions. This League takes you right back to the bottom of Div Four, but both you and your opponents can now accelerate much more quickly, with higher top speeds. A racing season involves six races - at the end, the driver at the top of the division is promoted. You get two points for a win, one for the fastest lap time.

Any of the tracks can be practised, although there is no opponent to race against. Your game position can also be saved, as well as a Hall of Fame with the fastest laptimes. If a season is going badly you can choose to 'replay', going back to your last save position.

There is also a multi-player mode. Up to eight players can participate, racing against computer opponents for the highest position. If you load in a single player game position in the Super League, then you have access to all eight tracks and the superraces! The whole thing can, of course, be saved.


Phil King This is one of the most exhilarating racing games I have ever played. The solid 3-D tracks move amazingly fast: akin to riding on a rollercoaster. But even better, you literally fly over jumps and come crashing down with a thump, the car wheels bobbing up realistically, only to bounce up in the air again. And when you crash, it is really spectacular as the whole world seems to spin around before you hit the ground in a cloud of dust. I lost count of the times I wrecked my car, but the game is so much fun to play that it never got at all frustrating. And with eight tortuous tracks and a whole host of different computer drivers - who all have their own driving styles - you should be kept playing for months.
Robin Hogg I have always looked to Geoff Crammond to deliver the goods - who can forget Revs and the classic The Sentinel. Geoff has not been around the scene of late, but now he has really surprised us all with what must be one of the best racer games this year (looks like that is going to be a common phrase this year), and all this with next to no hype. The C64 game is obviously the most remarkable program with speed easily comparable to the Amiga game and a highly effective illusion of speed. I would have like more than one opponent to race against in the races to give it that much more of a race feeling. But as it stands Stunt Car Racer provides immense fun as you leap over obstacles, jump gaps and burn round corners with no thought for safety or margins of error - great stuff!
Stuart Wynne Despite all those imminent, mega-hyped coin-op conversions of race games, it is unsurprising that the most imaginative is an original game. Racing on a nausea-inducing, rollercoaster race track is the sort of lunacy you might expect of a British programmer. But could anyone but Geoff Revs Crammond make it this believable? The race track and competitor car move perfectly - at last a C64 game with solid 3-D vector graphics to boast about! But beyond the first race, there is a big range of competitors and tracks all crammed - and unbelievably - into a single load. Quite simply awesome. And while the Amiga is not so technically amazing, it is just as playable and compulsive.