Hard Drivin'


by Binary Design Ltd: Mike Day, Matt Furniss
Domark Ltd
1989
Crash Issue 72, January 1990   (1989-12-14)   page(s) 48,49

The original arcade version of Domark’s Formula 1 entry into the Chrimble scramble isn’t so much a racing game as a racing simulator: an impressive beast, mainly because of the clutch/gear set up that allows you to drive it like a real car. Obviously the Speccy isn’t built like a car, but you do have the option to pick either manual or automatic gear mode just by moving the steering wheel left or right to choose. Two tracks await you: Stunt and Speed. As the name suggests, the speed track demands warp speed driving. But the Stunt track is probably the most graphically impressive of the two, because apart from driving like a maniac you must negotiate three types of obstacle.

These are the Bridge Jump, the Loop the Loop and if your stomach is still in its proper place the Bend’s sheer slope has to be tackled. Watch out on both tracks for the speed signs: drive any faster or slower than they advise and you’ll be witness to the spectacular action replay of your car rocketing off the track and exploding in a sheet of flames. The first lap (whichever way you go) is against the clock, and if you beat the lap time you enter the second phase of the game.

This is a straight one lap race around the Stunt track against the Phantom Photon (a computer controlled car), and you need to get a move on cause this guy doesn’t hang around. If you manage to survive the course (crashing means instant disqualification) and beat the Phantom your score is entered on the high score table, and your driving pattern is taken up by the Phantom next time you race him.

The arcade version was fast, and on the Speccy we couldn’t believe our eyes - this game moves at warp factor seven. The graphics are all beautifully drawn and shaded. The controls take a bit of getting used to: I found myself spinning off the track (with accompanying action replay) so often, I considered applying for a pilot’s licence. Luckily this is a computer game, and not the real thing, so you get endless goes with no damage — and endless attempts at Hard Drivin’ you’ll definitely want!

MARK ... 92%


'Oh wow. This is simply amazing. I first played the arcade machine at the 1989 PC Show, and with its proper car controls (clutch, brake, accelerator and gears) it was the best driving simulation I had ever seen. Now it’s come to the Spectrum (or SAM if you have a prosperous Christmas!). Everyone must have dreamed of sitting in the little toy cars when you used to push them around tracks as a child. I know I did, and now I can live out my fantasy with Hard Drivin’. The 3-D graphics are out of this world. Made up of monochrome shading and detailed backdrops, they zip around the screen so fast. The choice of two styles of game is a good idea, You can zoom at speeds up to 140mph on the speed track, or perform loop the loops and jump ramps on the stunt track - brilliant. Just to add an extra boost of addictiveness there’s the replay sequence that shows an aerial view of you (and all your mistakes). This is an instant hit with me and will keep me hooked for ages. Get a copy of Hard Drivin’ - the ultimate driving experience.'
NICK ... 92%

Presentation: 90%
Graphics: 91%
Sound: 86%
Playability: 89%
Addictivity: 90%
Overall: 92%

Summary: An excellent conversion, fast 'n' thrilling and something very different from the rest.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 95, January 1992   (1991-12-27)   page(s) 61

One of the most realistic arcade machines ever to take your dosh became an amazing home computer game back In January 1990 and earned itself a CRASH Smash with 92%. Now this mega game is on rerelease from The Hit Squad!

There are two action packed courses to choose from, the speed track and the stunt track. Choose the former then zoom around to the check point in the shortest time possible. The stunt track's a different kettle of fish altogether: open bridges, banking curves, steep hills and loop-the-loops are all lurking on the course. The speeds you take obstacles at are restricted, too - go too fast over the bridge and you won't touch the other side.

The great thing about Hard Drlvin' is once you've smashed the car into a pulp you get an action replay from above so you can see exactly where you went wrong - or have a good laugh!

This is a damn good version, the coin-op's three dimensional landscapes excellently recreated. The big advantage the Spectrum version has over other formats is that by holding down the space bar the steering wheel's locked and the car goes forwards instead of sliding all over the road. This little feature doesn't make the game much easier - it just saves your sanity!

Hard Drivin' is one of the best arcade conversions I've ever played. If you're a fan of car racing games or addicted to the coin-op, give this a whirl - you won't be disappointed.

NICK ... 88%


Presentation: 84%
Graphics: 90%
Sound: 82%
Playability: 89%
Addictivity: 85%
Overall: 88%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 49, January 1990   page(s) 63

Hmmm! Hang on a mo, let me consult the YS book on how to start a driving game review. Ah yes, here it is.

"Vroom! Vroom! Watch me zoom!" Hmmm! In this case it's more like "Vroom! Vroom!" (unless you've got a 48K, 'cos there's no sound) "Watch me swerve all over the shop as if I've just consumed 15 pints of vodka!" Make no bones about it, this game is hard, but then, as Clare (the rather nice Domark lady) told me, "It's not called Soft Drivin' is it?!" Hem, hem, point taken!

Hard Drivin' has been one of the most eagerly awaited arcade conversions of this year. How on earth could Domark think it could squeeze such a massive driving sim into the humble Spec?! I had my doubts, but now it's arrived and, bearing in mind I'd braced myself for a disappointment, it's skill! In case you missed our Megapreview last month, the arcade Hard Drivin' is a racing game much more akin to a driving simulator than a normal arcade machine, and the first I've seen with a full complement of gears and a clutch pedal for starters! In it you get to drive a 'popular sports car' (Italian, red and with a name which begins with 'F' - Domark doesn't have the licence to use the name!) around a 'Speed Track' or 'Stunt Track'. The latter features high speed banking, an open drawbridge and a spectacular loop-the-loop! Oh, and there's a cow standing next to the barn which 'moos' should you run it over! Half way around each circuit is a checkpoint - make this and you'll get extra time. Make it to the end and, if you're quick enough, you'll get to race the 'Phantom Photon', a computer-controlled car which emulates the performance of he previous best lapper! (So if you had the previous best lap you'll get to race yourself!) Oh, and any time you crash you'll get to see a replay of yourself coming to grief from a spectator's viewpoint!

Suffice to say then that most of this has been ported down on to the Spec, which is no mean technical achievement! There are no pedals, of course, it's largely monochrome and there's no cow (boo boo!) but most of the other arcade features are here, F'rinstance, you've got the whole arcade course to zoom around, even the skid pan which isn't on the 16-bit versions! (So "Yah boo sucks!")

Alright alright, so you know all this - what you want to know is 'how does it play and is it fast?' The answer is that it plays remarkably well, and, considering just how much the computer has to cope with, it is fast! I mean, what we're dealing with here is a solid-filled 3D environment a la Freescape. Unlike most games in which a car will be represented by so many different sprites, in Hard Drivin' no matter what angle you look at something the computer will mathematically work out what area should be filled by the graphic and present you with the appropriate image. Okay, so I've compared the graphics to Freescape, but, whilst those games are very slow, this isn't the case here. There are times when the action will noticeably jerk and slow down, such as when you come around a corner and see the suspension bridge, but the overall impression is of it being pretty darn speedy! I assume the programmers, Binary Design, overcame some of the speed problem by having the computer update screens on a system of priorities. Background details, like half the bridge, appear in their own time! There are other glitches in the graphics too. The Spec basically can't cope with tying all the blocks of graphics together. This is most apparent in the loop where the graphic appears to break up. But you'll learn to live with it. Oh, and the replay feature is brilliant, especially if you can manage a 'head on' over the drawbridge!

In terms of control, the game is not unlike the arcade original in that it's very tricky. It's more akin to a flight sim in many respects (!) and did take me some time to master. Although much easier with a joystick, there is a key available to automatically centre the steering wheel which will assist beginners. My first attempts were really erratic (hence the intro!), but be patient, it's worth it! Suss this out and you get to have a go at the manual gearbox! Like the best flight sims it'll take some time to perfect your control, but stick at it. It might not have the instant playability of Slant Car Racer, and don't expect an OutRun or WEC Le Mans clone, but if you're into a thinking person's driving game you won't want to miss Hard Drivin'.


Life Expectancy: 88%
Instant Appeal: 65%
Graphics: 90%
Addictiveness: 85%
Overall: 90%

Summary: Difficult to master, technically accomplished arcade/driving sim with brilliant graphics. If you like flight sims you'll definitely get your money's worth!!

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 75, March 1992   page(s) 59

There are games with tricky controls and there are games with overly tricky controls. And then there's Hard Drivin'.

It's a lead-sled sim with a heck of a lot going for it. After the licence was announced there were widespread murmurings that Domark must have been eight socks short of a laundry to take it on. Then the conversion appeared and smugly quashed the scoffing. There are two distinct parts to the action, the more straightforward of which is the Speed Track. Here the idea is, well, to drive as fast as possible really. If you manage to complete the course you're put up against the Phantom Futon, a mean driver with a grim expression who'll blow you off the road with his jet-propelled mattress. (I think you'll find that's Phantom Photon actually. Ed) As an alternative, if you turn right at the first junction you'll find yourself blazing along the nerve-busting Stunt Track. This offers an unrivalled opportunity to be loudly ill as you scream over an open bridge, thump flatly down steep ramps and zing through a 360 degree loop. All this (and more) whilst swerving past road users who appear to have been hand-picked from the ranks of the Barnstaple Elderly Stick Whittlers' Club. The action is depicted in speedy shaded-3D, the most impressive graphics outside of a Freescape game. Even though they do tend to fall to bits if there's a lot going on. Spookily enough, this actually adds to the game.

So why, for those of you who've impatiently sought out the final score, isn't this a Megagame? For one simple reason - it's completely impossible to play. The controls are preposterously sensitive - one twitch of the joystick and the car reacts like Bambi on ice. To be fair, this is what happened in the arcade version, but there you had mechanical feedback via the chunky steering wheel. Though it pains me to say it, I'm afraid that as a game Hard Drivin' is only good for frightening people into using public transport.


Overall: 62%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair - Article Re-review Issue 59, November 1990   page(s) 80

If you haven't heard of this one you must be... erm, well, I'm sure you've got your reasons. It's an extremely famous coin-op conversion of a game that wowed 'em all in the arcades (most of them, anyway) with its solid 3D graphics and unnerving realism. Playing the arcade original is more or less just like driving a real car, with gears, a clutch and a proper steering wheel. There's a choice of speed or stunt track, the latter featuring a loop-the-loop and a drawbridge. And it really is brilliant fun.

So how does the Spectrum version measure up? Okayish, on the whole. The graphics are just about 'there', although they're a bit jerky and tend to start falling apart at crucial moments. And the car handles quite well too, allowing for the limitations of a joystick. The snag is that, when you get down to it, Hard Drivin' isn't such a great game. It's a good 50ps worth in the arcade if you only play it a couple of times, but when you get to load it up on me Speccy it loses its appeal astonishingly quickly. All the same, it's the state-of-the-art where driving games are concerned. and a great feat of programming.


Drive: 70%
Visibility: 91%
Road Holding: 67%
FOATLF: 81%
Overall: 84%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 94, January 1990   page(s) 36

Hard Drivin? They're not kidding! This has got to be one of the toughest driving games ever released. Not because you're racing ultra-proficient steel-nerved opponents, but because the simulation of driving the car is so realistic in its difficulty.

Among the bunch of driving action games we've had this month, Hard Driving is certainly the closest to driving a real car. However, this doesn't necessarily make it a more enjoyable game.

There are essentially two games in Hard. You can belt around the speed track, amassing points by taking the curves at ever-increasing speeds. The other option - the more entertaining in the short term - is the Stunt Track. Here, innocent sounding obstacles like The Bridge and The Loop prove mind-bendingly difficult nightmares of car control.

I'm making the controls sound a bit horrific aren't I? Well, they're not as bad as all that. I think the problem is that after playing games with hi/lo gears and steering with only two gradients. Hard Driving's precision makes an unexpected, and initially tiresome change.

If you're a real stickler for accuracy (and mad) you can change every gear yourself. If you're into getting some serious speed under way, select the auto-box and get going. Steering is really a bit ridiculous. The original arcade game was obviously controlled with a steering wheel. The 16 bit versions are best controlled with mouse or analogue (non self-centering) joystick.

In a rather misplaced attempt at universal similarity, the Speccy version doesn't have self centering steering either. After you've turned a corner, you have to remember to center the wheel, which is a slow process.

Alternatively, you can tap the space bar which automatically makes the car straighten up instantly. Both of these are a bit naff since a) real cars don't simply go round in circles if you don't centre the wheel, and b) pressing the space bar while using the joystick is a pain in the neck.

Aside from this, Hard Driving is tops. The graphics are filled 3-D shapes which move at an acceptable rate (they're a bit jerky actually) and are all varying shades of blue and black.

The lower portion of the screen deals with all the details that real drivers don't worry about (oil pressure, temperature etc).

You're given the option of driving on the right or left hand side of the road. This is actually a pretty important factor, since the gameworld is populated by the most unsympathetic drivers this side of the M4. They'll smash into you from behind. They'll plough into you head on and they'll sand you spinning off road. None of this is through any malicious intent they're all simply intent on completing their mindless journeys.

Without any question, if you're out for laughs, the best feature of the game is the action replay. You can spend many a happy hour setting up the most gruesome crashes and watching them played back at excellent third-person perspective angles.

Hard Driving is an excellent exercise in mega-maths programming, and its combination of morbid crash-fascination and genuine intricate accuracy make it a sure-fire hit.

Label: Domark
Author: In-House
Price: £8.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Jim Douglas


Graphics: 79%
Sound: 65%
Playability: 80%
Lastability: 79%
Overall: 78%

Summary: Extremely clever programming. Wonky steering but brill replays.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 120, February 1992   page(s) 40

It's the celebrated roaring return of that classic arcade race game, Hard Drivin' to the Speccy. But with so many other racing budgets will it make the pole position?

Fast 3-D has hardly ever been implemented so well as in this Grand Prix style racing sim. Nigel Mansell, step out of your flame proof undies there's a new kid in town!

The course consists of to tracks, Stunt and Speed. Both are pretty well self explanatory really, but the stunting mayhem needs some elaboration. There are three main stunts, The Bridge, Loop The Loop and The Bank. The course is litter with speed signs which you have to adhere to like super-glue if you want to stay on the track and going too fast on approach to the obstacles is guaranteed to either send you into orbit or ruin a perfectly good jump suit!

Every race has the same aim: to reach across the time check points in the alloted period and qualify to race against the Phantom Photon (Boo Hiss!). Great graphics and growling sound effects make this game take pole position!

Label: Hit Squad
Memory: 48K/128K
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Steve Keen


GARTH: I've never been a fan of Hard Drivin' as I find that the simulation of actual race driving is too accurate. The gameplay is very tricky for the uninitiated. Not a game for the youngsters.

Overall: 85%

Summary: Great 3-D that updates almost as quick as a blink of the eye. The driving system takes practice, but should be well within most people's reach quite quickly.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 28, January 1990   page(s) 46,47

Domark put the hammer down.

Tengen's Hard Drivin' managed to go up a gear on its numerous racing rivals in the arcades earlier this year with its realistic handling controls.

Tengen have concentrated their efforts on making the car handle like a true racing simulation - rather than lavishing stacks of code on pretty scenery and background graphics.

The visual effect of this approach is to create a game that looks very simple - basic geometric line drawings and blocky angular shaped vehicles on the road. But what Hard Drivin' may be considered to lack in graphics it more than makes up for in game play.

You are placed at the controls of a super fast sports car competing in a race against several other cars on a choice of two tracks.

The Stunt track features three exciting challenges; the Bridge Jump, Loop-the-Loop, and the Bank. It is also the part of the game where the main thrills and spills are to be had.

Getting the speed and approach right as you go into these stunts is the key to success - and mastering this control will take a good deal of practice.

Steering the car in Hard Drivin' also appears quite difficult on the first few attempts - but this is very much by comparison with other racing games that actually operate quite unrealistically under joystick control. Hard Drivin' is much more realistic. If you swing wildly out of control in one direction then in your attempt to right your position you are likely to swing pretty strongly in the opposite direction. Skidding also needs to be mastered if you are to become a skilled Hard Drivin' ace. The skidding is excellent fun and can be used to particular advantage on the Bank.

The computer helps you master the steering and acceleration with a variety of on-screen prompts. Steer wildly out of control and you may find yourself driving down the road in the wrong direction - but the computer points this out to you. Because of the delicacy of the steering a directional arrow moves slightly to the left and right. Keep this centred and you will not go too far wrong.

Another feature there to help you is the action replay sequence. This gives an out of car view of the action (As opposed to your view of the road from the drivers seat, i.e. you are viewing the whole car). Particularly exciting viewing it makes too, especially if you come off the Loop the Loop track at high speed. But it is there for more than mere entertainment - it enables you to try things out and see how the car performs.

A choice of automatic and manual controlled gears are available. The automatic gears enable you to concentrate on the stunts and the race - but once you have become familiarised with the controls you may decide that real men use gears.

As you squeeze the accelerator the white lines in the middle of the road soon start to disappear quickly underneath your car as it roars forward. The feeling of speed is very convincing due to the very low perspective you have of the road.

The tracks are dotted with checkpoints which measure your progress against the game clock. If your speed is good enough you may get a crack at the Phantom Photon (computer controlled car) in a race around the Stunt Track.

The Phantom makes a tough adversary and accelerates away from the start at great speed. Taking him on is for the advanced Hard Driver - but is a challenge well worth building up to.

The appeal of Hard Drivin' is in the pure joy of racing along - overtaking other cars, and the sensation of speed that is created in the process. The stunts are the icing on the cake, but in the end it's the racing that remains as the main attraction.

Hard Drivin' appears to have an addictive hook that many of the current crop of racing coin-ops lack. Domark have captured the addictive spirit of the game for home consumption. Unputdownable and certain to be the Dom Dom's biggest hit to date - possibly even pipping all the other Christmas racers to the number one slot.

Reviewer: Eugene Lacey

RELEASE BOX
Atari ST, £19.99dk, Out Now
Amiga, £19.99dk, Imminent
Spectrum, £9.99cs, £14.99dk, Out Now
Amstrad, £9.99cs, £14.99dk, Imminent
C64/128, £9.99cs, £12.99dk, Imminent
IBM PC, £24.99dk, Imminent
Archimedes, Approx. £30.00dk, Jan 1990

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 60/100
1 hour: 80/100
1 day: 90/100
1 week: 85/100
1 month: 80/100
1 year: 75/100


Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 7/10
IQ Factor: 9/10
Fun Factor: 9/10
Ace Rating: 921/1000

Summary: Potentially timeless entertainment as Hard Drivin' is likely to become the favourite racer for many gamers - and thereby get many regular spins.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 26, January 1990   page(s) 25

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
Atari ST £19.99

Probably one of the most eagerly-awaited arcade conversions of the year. Hard Drivin', due to its size and sound, is one of those machines that everyone crowds around in the arcades. Because of this, it's bound to become one of the top Christmas games. Domark's computer version has all the features and appeal of its older brother.

Choose either manual or automatic gear box and just wait for the lights to turn green. As you progress down the road, you have two choices: turn right for the Stunt track, or continue cruising down the road for a swift trip around the Speed track. Both tracks must be completed within a time limit for you to qualify for the Championship Lap.

The Speed track, as you would imagine, is full of high-speed bends and long straights ending in hairpins. Corners, although not being a hazard, are the main problem. All have to be taken at an exact, high speed, with any deviation from the norm resulting in you either flying off the top of the corner or falling off the bottom. Further hassle is added by cars and lorries coming around the corner towards you - usually only in view when they hit your front fender.

For real professionals, there's the more challenging Stunt course. There are three major obstacles here: the Bridge Jump, the Loop, and the gut-wrenching Bend (complete with G-forces!). Take care to read all the signs displaying maximum speeds for obstacles - unlike other games, these are NOT flexible.

Both courses will eventually be completed, but not before you've seen the terrific Replay function a few times - each time you crash! The Replay shows from a bird's eye view just where you went wrong, complete with explosion.

When qualified for the Championship Lap, you find yourself up against the Phantom Photon. This guy's just the sort of reliable and consistent driver you could do without. The Phantom Photon never crashes and hardly ever leaves the track - in fact he's enough to make you sick! You, however, are disqualified after ten seconds on the grass or after one little spill. Beat this guy around the Stunt track and your racing line, technique and style will be recorded for use by the Photon next race. Effectively challenging yourself!

Originally designed as a professional driving simulator, Hard Drivin' is now fast and furious arcade action all the way. The conversion on all formats is top-notch. All speed freaks should have a copy of Hard Drivin' in their garage.


Overall: 90%

Summary: If you were worried about the speed of the Spectrum version, forget it! This is just the sort of action-packed game you could do with on Christmas Day. So the sprites are monochromatic, who cares, this version is so playable. Binary Design and Domark have achieved the impossible. They have managed to fit a Ferrari into a Fiesta.

Award: The Games Machine Star Player

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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