Retro Racing: Hard Drivin’


Today’s racing games are simply stunning in their beauty and realism. You can watch beads of moisture drip off a car’s paint in Forza Horizon 2, or see every oil streak on the road in Project CARS, or be so dazzled by the scenery in The Crew that you drive off the road.

But let’s flash back to where it all began, with one of the very first 3D driving games, Hard Drivin’ for the arcade. Even though this game was packing less polygons in its entire environment than in one of Driveclub’s hubcaps, it still provided a fun and new experience for the kids of 1989 as we pressed our sweaty bodies into its cramped custom cabinet and drove its knockoff Ferrari Testarossa through impossible stunt loops.

Hard Drivin' Flyer

Except for the places where it is completely unrealistic, Hard Drivin’ has some interesting nods to realism. It’s one of the few car games where you can actually stall your car by messing up with its manual transmissions. And crashes have real, if over the top consequences. The game also has a satisfying instant replay feature for crashes that would be copied by pretty much every 3D racing game ever.

The game was also not misnamed. Because of its low framerate it could be tough to control.

Hard Drivin’ had several ports, some to machines, like the Sega Genesis, that were tragically unable to handle its advanced-for-the-time polygon graphics. The experiences are, let’s say interesting. It also had a sequel, Race Drivin’, which expanded on the game with more tracks and cars and better control, but kept the casual approach to grammar.

So think about that when you see something so pretty in this year’s upcoming racing games that you want to cry a little. Think about those sweaty ten-year-olds, climbing into those cabinets with their grimy quarters. Think about how far we’ve come. And maybe spare a good thought about what we’ve left behind, the days when we didn’t get upset if a game didn’t hit 60 FPS. When we were just happy we could drive a loop-de-loop.

Image from Wikipedia

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