1993 was a funny time for gaming. We’d had some of the best years console gaming had ever produced, SEGA and Nintendo were at each other’s throats whilst Commodore’s Amiga machine was getting stronger and gaining ground. PC gaming was, arguably, on the periphery. SEGA were doing their best to get FMV into every Sega CD/Mega CD game possible, some with success, some without. One game that harnessed FMV and was considered impressive at the time was MegaRace, an on-rails shooter/racer set in the future. Our Adrian was a huge fan of the original PC release and suggested I check it out.
The MegaRace is a gameshow hosted by fictional character Lance Boyle (played by Christian Erickson) who gleefully refers to you as the “enforcer” whilst geeing you up before races/battles and also reporting back on your progress afterwards. A quick scout on the internet indicates that Lance divides opinion but I loved it, it’s very Running Man (the Arnie film) and links up the action nicely. There are 14 tracks, where you as the “enforcer” must take out all of your foe with limited ammo before the end of each race (which are timed). Fail to do so and you’ll have to go again.
There are a few different cars to choose from but I couldn’t see any noticeable difference other than the what they look like. Pace is gained by hitting certain symbols on the track, which can also have adverse effects (don’t want give too much away!). Enemies can be taken out either through shooting/blowing them up (with limited ammo), ramming them, or staying ahead of them for a given amount of time, at which point they will self-destruct (way to sulk guys). It feels a lot like a next generation Out Run Europa, Chase HQ etc. and also reminds me of the Atari arcade game RoadBlasters which also ended up on the Mega Drive/Genesis (and the Lynx I think – Ed).
Graphically, it looks great although some parts haven’t aged well. The tracks have a wonderful Cyberpunk look as they wind around the city and the FMV-esque backdrops bring back great memories of the time. Retro gamers will have a ball with this. The cars and the dashboard however, look blurry when the screen resolution is increased, which is the downside to an exact port of the original which was built for VGA/SVGA monitors. Lance looks as vibrant as ever, but as with FMV cut scenes that haven’t been remastered, they do show their age. And I guess that’s the point, this is a time capsule and also a hugely enjoyable game to boot.
The game is fun to play. It’s fast and uncomplicated. The on-rails delivery makes it feel a bit like Space Harrier, especially when you’re shooting the “bad guys”. I use quotation marks as it could be said that the enforcer is actually the bad guy. So if you’re wanting a driving game that handles realistically, MegaRace is not for you.
I love the soundtrack. I don’t think the guys at ZOOM Platform would approve but I’d quite happily rip all of it to mp3 and chill out to it. It really adds to the futuristic feel of the game and balances out the quite violent gameplay (according to ZOOM’s website you get get it on iTunes! – Ed).
There are a couple of versions available out there. The ZOOM version is distinctly smoother than the GOG one and the mid-race glitches are a thing of the past. Linux and Mac users can also now play the game for a pittance which is excellent news.
Difficulty-wise the game is solid. The tracks are short, so you’ll get to know them very well, and working out which symbols to use where adds to the strategic element of the game. It’s probably left to a better gamer than me because I only got up to track five on the lowest difficulty setting and Adrian tells me you need to complete the game on Hard to see the end sequence. The time/lap limit is a real challenge and you’ll want to throw your keyboard/gamepad out of the window when you fail to take out the gang leader just as the race finishes. And that is MegaRace. Given it’s the first of the three game series I’ll forgive it for the lack of other game modes and it’s definitely done enough to ensure I play the other two.