Film & Screens » Games

Fast fun

If you’re the type who leaves the Auto Show with a head full of unfulfilled driving fantasies, a bagful of promotional pamphlets and trinkets, and a fairly empty wallet, perhaps you should check out the latest in car-related video games.

Forget about loans and insurance. These games bring open roads and luxury vehicles right into your living room for a fraction of the cost of the real thing.

Bypass the car salespeople and the secretary of state, as all your automotive dreams can be played out hassle-free on your television screen. All of the following games were tested with the Sony PlayStation versions; stars (out of five) have been awarded for accurate drivability, realistic graphics and the ability to provide a good time.

Driver: You are the Wheelman
(GT Interactive 1999) ****

A good video game will entertain both 12-year-old math whizzes and 40-year-old stoners. Driver is such a game because it offers the complexity and challenges that the 12-year-old needs to fill his / her hours of spare time. At the same time, it allows the 40-year-old to start drivin’ around the city and make pedestrians scurry in fear within five minutes.

In a car that suspiciously resembles the Blues Brothers’ ride, you can zoom through the streets of San Francisco, Miami, New York and Los Angeles as Tanner, an undercover cop / former stock car driver who must complete missions for the Mob. Driver is the game for the angry white males buried within all of us.

Test Drive 5
(Accolade 1998) ****

The best part about this game is you get to drive real cars. There are no lame, vague cars named "red racer" or "European tourer." No sir, in Test Drive you can select the latest Corvette or Jaguar. Or, even better, you can take a ride in some real Detroit steel. Take your pick: 1967 Pontiac GTO, 1969 Dodge Charger or 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454.

If you play the game with the dual shock vibrating controller, you can feel the power of the engine idling in your hands. Whether you choose something new and glitzy or something old and muscular, this game offers a variety of settings (from Newcastle, England, to Moscow) to drive through in either on- or off-road conditions. Two-player action guarantees a good time for all.

Pole Position II
(Namco 1982 / 1996) **

For Generation X, Pole Position serves the same nostalgic purpose as the Woodward Dream Cruise does for aging baby boomers. Those of us who came of age after emissions laws and the gas crisis of the 1970s never got the chance to drive real muscle cars. The closest we got to four on the floor was having both arms and legs on the shag carpet in front of the Atari game system as we navigated our way around the cut-rate race courses of Pole Position.

While Pole Position may spark fond memories, the game itself really sucks – then and now. After five minutes, repeatedly hitting the billboards and blowing up the car gets real old. Therefore, like the Dream Cruisers, this game should be pulled out of the closet no more than once a year.

Ridge Racer 4
(Namco 1999) ****

The title of this one is deceptive because there is no ridge. The "racer" part, however, is accurate because this is a good Grand Prix-style racing game. It may not be the Detroit Grand Prix, but it does offer a manageable yet challenging spin around deceptively lifelike cityscapes at high speeds with a pleasant techno sound track.

If, after leaving the Auto Show, the first thing you want to do is hop in your Ford Taurus and race down the loops of the Cobo Roof parking ramp, get this game. It’s as close as you can legally get to navigating Jefferson Avenue, solo, at insane speeds. Or select the two-player mode and pretend you and your pal are like those maniacs on the Lodge.

The Dukes of Hazzard: Racing for Home (Southpeak 1999) *****

Nearly 20 years after the show’s heyday, the pop culture gods finally released this treasure. Maybe it was the Daisy Duke short-shorts fad of a few years ago that reminded someone that the "Dukes of Hazzard" television show would make a damn fine video game. It doesn’t matter if you were too old, or even too young, to be enthralled by the adventures of the Duke family in the early 1980s; this game will please anyone with a pulse.

In addition to the first-rate realistic graphics – it is hard to compete with TV, after all – the General Lee handles as smoothly as you always dreamed it would.

Now, if only they’d come up with a Smokey and the Bandit game. ...

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