Since I started this blog, I have shamefully neglected perhaps my favourite PC Game genre: racing and all manner of ‘car games.’ Today, I shall rectify that.
My love affair with car games (and cars in general) began with a little game for the Amiga 500 called The Duel: Test Drive II, released in 1989 by Accolade. The basic premise of the game was this: pit the world’s two fastest production cars in a race to the death over various stages or environments. The contenders, the Ferrari F40 and the Porsche 959, have since achieved legendary status among gearheads and car fans alike, and for good reason. I know that the word legendary is used all too often these days, but when I say legendary when speaking of these two pieces of automotive genius, I really mean it.
First up: the Porsche 959. Initially produced in 1986 as a street legal version of the Group B Rally car, the 959 held the title of the world’s fastest street-legal production car with a top speed of nearly 200 mph. A technological showcase for Porsche, the 959 boasted an advanced all-wheel drive system for superior traction and lightning quick acceleration, even on wet tarmac. It is now widely considered the technological forebear of all modern supercars, including Porsche’s current line of uber-quick 911s.
Above: Porsche 959: Techno-cool.
Next: the Ferrari F40. Built to celebrate Ferrari’s 40th anniversary and the last project that Enzo Ferrari (il Commendatore) supervised before his death, the F40, although not as technological advanced as the 959, more than made up for it with raw power and passion. Stealing the 959s crown as world fastest production car in 1987, the F40 became the first street legal car to break the 200 mph barrier (201 mph).
Above: Ferrari F40: classic 80s lines. Gorgeous.
And so, the stage is set for the perfect car game. Two fabulous cars pitted against each other for road going supremacy. I think this is one of the things that made The Duel so great: it concentrated on two cars to see which one was best. Nowadays, racing games can have hundreds of different models, but usually they are only variants of a particular model and not really ‘new’ per se. Another thing that The Duel introduced (to me, anyway) was the concept of the ‘cockpit view’ rather than the standard ‘tail cam’ that was made popular by games like Outrun. I really liked the cockpit view because it made me feel like I was really ‘inside’ and in control of my dream car, rather than outside and detached. It was because of The Duel that I came to expect a cockpit view from every subsequent car game from here on in. Sadly, that was not always the case, but I guess that is why I now tend to associate more with the ‘simulation’ type car games rather than the ‘arcade’ type car games.
Even though Accolade introduced several add-on packs to The Duel in later years, including my favourites The Supercars and California Challenge, the idea of these two heavyweights fighting it out was what made the game special for me. Although marginally slower than the Ferrari F40, the Porsche 959 was always my favourite ‘go-to’ car if I wanted to win a race. I found that the 959 had better control, which makes sense considering the all-wheel drive system, and the cockpit was more appealing to the eye. I think the 959s cockpit style had a big influence on me, and that is why I am a sucker for finely rendered cockpits in modern games, complete with analog speedo, tach, and gear shift. Digital readouts and paddle-shifters just don’t do anything for me, which is why I find modern Ferraris to be not as appealing as the older analog ones.
Anyways, this is the game that got me interested in car games and cars, and for that I owe a debt of gratitude to Accolade. Thank-you.
In the second part, I am going to talk about the next big automotive influence in my life: The Need for Speed.