Yeah, yeah. Everybody loves Robotron.
But E. Jarvis didn't stop making good stuff in 1982, y'know. Give
the guy a break from your nostalgist fantasies, whydontcha?
Out Run is a loveable
game in a lot of ways, but it started a hideous rot in racing
titles. Until Out Run, motoring-based videogaming had been about
high-speed obstacle-dodging action – i.e. going faster than
everyone else without hitting them. Before Out Run, the sides
of the road only existed as something to crash into if you veered
over too far while trying to overtake. Starting with Out Run,
car games began to be about driving.
”When I tap the dashboard,
you will veer into that little blue fucker
and ram the bastard off the road”.
This is, of course, a
bad thing. If you want to struggle just to keep a vehicle on the
road and going in a straight line, go run around Sainsbury's car
park with a shopping trolley on a wet day. The day racing games
started to get boring (culminating in the shattering, knuckle-chewing
triumvirate of tedium that is Gran Turismo, Ferrari F355 and R:
Racing Evolution) was the day you had to spend more time fighting
to stop your car skidding clean off the track and crunching to
a dead stop than you did burning up your opponents. And who could
we count on to try to turn that tiresome tide back in the direction
of honest, simple-minded, high-octane fun? Why, our old buddy
Mister J, of course.
Cruis'n USA, and its
short line of descendants, was a heroic but ultimately doomed
attempt to wrestle the racing game away from the beardy Tomorrow's
World nerds and give it back to the cool, slim, attractive kids
who used to queue out of the door of glamorous neon-lit arcades
for a chance to play Monaco GP or Night Driver or Turbo or Road
Fighter. In the Cruis'n games, it's almost impossible to go off
the track accidentally, and if you do leave the road (in search
of a shortcut, say) you don't grind to a halt and have to spend
half a minute reversing round, facing the right way and ploughing
through grass, mud or gravel just to get back up to a halfway-decent
speed - there's a momentary pause and then you're off again.
”Okay. I have to say, I
feel you’re executing this turn-in-the-road
procedure with a little too much… drama”.
In Cruis'n, your enemy isn't a slab of grey
tarmac, it's a bunch of other drivers who are haring around just
as fast and recklessly as you are, to the extent that they even
find themselves entangled in massive multi-car pile-ups now and
again, or misjudging a jump, spinning through the sky and smashing
upside-down into the ground from 100 feet in the air. (Of course,
they recover from this sort of minor catastrophe just as quickly
as you do.)
This is a race,
not a driving test. It feels like you're actually racing to
somewhere - rather than just slogging around some featureless
test circuit over and over again. The Cruis'n games take you to
fun places, whether it's Grand Canyon-style deserts, the streets
of London (complete with red phone boxes, double-decker buses
and Beefeaters), leaping across bullet-train tracks outside Tokyo,
or picking exactly the wrong time to visit Stonehenge. You can't
race for ten seconds without encountering something new and cool
to see, rendered in ultra-crisp, super-bright, richly-coloured
graphics that leave dull old reality gazing on in envy.
Part of the reason that Cruis'n USA/World/Exotica
- unlike Jarvis's older games - are almost never afforded the
critical respect and adoration they deserve may be the fact that
it's not too easy to play any of them these days. Coin-op machines
are few and far between, the MAME emulation is still primitive
and slow, and the N64 ports are imperfect and really need a proper
N64 joypad to get the most out of them. But this reporter looks
forward to the day when we're all running lovely 5GHz PCs which
can effortlessly recreate these incomparably joyful arcade racers
in all their glory, and dear old Uncle Eugene will finally bask
in the acclaim properly merited for something he did less
than 20 years ago.
, February 2004.
Here. (Its working again).
Things to 'Make' and 'Do'.
Driving around the USA. Quite literally.
Take a Wander around the Rev.'s own World.