This is an arcade release that really shouldn't have been. The code was originally supposed for a driving school simulation the year beforehand. It was packaged in a cockpit style driving seat with realistic gears and steering. But it was aborted. Atari bought it's code, reworked the code a little bit and threw in a stunt track and released it to the arcade scene. Around this time US Gold struck their deal with Capcom, while Tengen and Domark merged and they too signed a big contract with Atari and this was one of their big licences. Hard Drivin' is then unleashed onto the 8 and 16 bit market. A lot of speculation on this conversion and if this can be pulled off on the home micro version without the stick, wheel and pedals. Although the same speculation about Operation Wolf and it's lack of having the gun was quickly sqauashed as well. So lets see what Domark have prepared for us to digest then!
Transmission Selection screen.
Neary's ropey driving. Which direction?
Well it doesn't take rocket science to understand the nature of this beast. It's a racing simulation game, and it's one with a twist. You have to race against the clock to get the fastest lap. You have a choice of two tracks to do this on. One is a regular speed track with it's usual ramps and sharp turns. The other is a total whacky stunt track with higher ramps, long jumps and yes, ladies and gents, a loop de loop to time perfectly otherwise you'll be calling it a day as your car falls right off and crashes straight to the ground. Your finest moments will be on the stunt track as you get to go completely apeshit behind the wheel without a care in the world. Another beauty feature is the instant replay. You can be rest assured that you will find yourself on the in fits of laughter seeing exactly how you fell off the loop de loop in the first place. Get the best lap time and you get to face the "phantom photon", who is whoever got the last lap. So technicalfy speaking you could end up racing yourself!
So how well does it all work together then? Well graphically it's abysmal really. A shameful speccy port graces us. These resemble Joe Blade, the hero best forgotten as far as dire spectrum graphics are concerned. Sound really doesn't help save the day either as there none on the 464 version that I tested. Thankfully I didn't have to wait a hell of a long time to load all this up. Six minutes and we were pretty much ready fo action. As far as the game itself was concerned I couldn't really fault Tengen for doing their level best to replicate the arcade original. It may seem a little slow to start off, It was in the arcade as well so I guess we can let this one slide. It can get on your nerves after time though. But whatever it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in the sheer fun and comedy provided with the stunt track and the instant replays. The bad thing here is that there isn't a hell of a lot more going for it when there could have been.
Smashed up the car, the replay's always funny.
To it's credit, It's faults do not make this one a bad game. Far from it, especially if you happen to be a fan of the arcade. The game does have a an addicive appeal to it, The idea of racing your previous car to beat your personal best is a nice and novel idea but once you've done this a few times than the novelty does tend to wear off. Again, I go back to referring to the stunt track which has to be tried at least once. It's just such a shame that they had to resort to a speccy port, which being honest, we probably could have lived with if it had some sound to back the game up but the deafening sound of silence puts a few nails into the coffin but it's not enough to keep it shut. It's a game that you'll either get a good grip on or else you'll be disinterested from day one. Either way you shouldn't expect it to last a very long time unless you're an avid, die-hard fan of the arcade.
THE END RESULT:
Dull blue speccy port... Unimpressive.
Only sound is the tape screeching on loading.
Crazy stunt track and instant replays.
Can be fun racing your previous car.
THE BOTTOM LINE: 79%