Monday, August 2, 2010

Hard Drivin’ is a Wreck

Like that lame kid down the street who has no idea he’s a dork, Hard Drivin’ for the Sega Genesis really thinks that it’s providing players with an awesome driving simulation unlike any other. That’s true; Hard Drivin’ really is unlike any other driving sim, but for all the wrong reasons.

If you’ve played the arcade version of Hard Drivin’, the first thing you’ll notice is that the graphics took a huge hit during the port to the Genesis. While it’s impressive to see the Genny pushing polygons without any fancy chips built into the cart like in Virtua Racer, the game looks like a cheap ‘80s film version of what awesome games would be like in the future. The buildings appear to be made entirely of legos and the animation lacks the fluidity needed to make the player feel like he’s at the wheel of a high-powered auto.

Hard Drivin’ offers a single track with two routes: The standard speed track and the stunt track, which has the player doing crazy loop-de-loops and high-flying jumps. There isn’t anything here that won’t get dull after 15 minutes. The entire game – easy, normal and hard modes – can be defeated by a decent player in one sitting. Even dropping roof-first to the ground from a poorly executed loop-de-loop or ramming into the game’s lone cow loses its charm all too quickly.

There are a total of three songs in Hard Drivin’, including the one at the title screen and another when you win. But the only song that matters is the third, an absurdly dramatic piece that accompanies the instant replays of the player’s crashes. It multiplies the hilarity of mistiming a jump or zooming into the grill of a semi by at least 100 times and is, in fact, the best part of the game.

This game is a quarter cruncher through and through, a fact made obvious by its lack of gameplay options and the reality that most of the ROM space went to the visuals. When Hard Drivin’ was in the arcades, a quarter per play was perfectly acceptable. Take away the steering wheel and the wow factor of the graphics and you’ve lost most of the appeal of the game. Hard Drivin’ on the Genesis feels more like a tech demo than a full-fledged game and it really isn’t worth more than two dollars and an hour of your time. Even if you manage to come across it in some woefully understocked arcade, do yourself a favor and don’t dump more than a few quarters in it.

But be cool and don’t tell Hard Drivin’ I said any of this. If you see it at a used game shop, tell it that it’s badass and that everyone loves it. Just like the well-meaning dork down the street, there’s no reason to be mean to something that tries so hard to be awesome.


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