Thursday, September 17, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Hard Drivin'

Retro Game of the Day! Hard Drivin'

Hard Drivin' by the venerable Atari Games - a hallmark game released in 1989, it looks like a dead man's elbow now but in 1989 seeing any kind of "filled-polygon graphics" in a video game, arcade or otherwise, was pretty much not heard of anywhere. This was quite a big deal when it was released!

Though it appears as though this title may have started it's life as a straight simulator, Hard Drivin' is something of a 1-on-1 race game/stunt driving game with a bit of sim thrown in. In fact it was much more simulation-feeling than anything else available at the time, up to this point mostly what you'd see were Outrun-style scaling-sprite driving games (by Atari as well, as was the case with titles such as RoadBlasters). Additionally this title was very innovative for it's introduction of a powerful force-feedback wheel, which they used rather than a moving hydraulic cockpit (again, as was the case with the Sega games if the day).

HD was a strange affair - certainly a novelty at the time, and at this point anytime a new arcade machine popped up by Atari you knew it was going to be at least good, if not also quite extraordinary. HD was both - the game was fun, if frustrating - and it was also looking and playing quite unlike anything else out there. Rather than a straight-up racer, you had a singe CPU-controlled rival - I believe if you ranked higher, your own driving would be recorded and stored as a "Ghost Rider" to race against. Very thrilling at the time!

The game showed up on multiple systems, shown in these last two shots are the Atari Lynx version (technically quite powerful, though they totally botched the control rendering the game nearly unplayable!) I had the Sega Genesis conversion, which stripped out much of the higher-tech fanciness of the arcade but still provided an exhilarating and unique driving experience that just wasn't matched. This was one of the first "open-world" feeling games I had ever played, where you could sort of drive where you wanted to and feel like you were exploring this 3D environment. It was a marvelous feeling at the time!

Hard Drivin' isn't much to look at (or play) nowadays as it was simply a (large) stepping tone to greater things in gaming - but at the time it was sort of the Dragon's Lair of it's day (only, actually playable) The damned game cost a dollar, and you'd be done in under a minute unless you were a champ! It kind of came ad went without much fanfare, but any rustic old-timey gamer will certainly wipe a tear from his eye when this game is mentioned "ohh yeah, the good ol' days...!"

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