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History of dangerous driving in videogames

MotorStorm Apocalypse is coming. In fact, put your ear to the ground and you can probably hear the thunderous sound of cities falling as apocalyptic earthquakes shake the foundations from the skies. But while the new Motorstorm goes to the extremes by letting you drive down the side of skyscrapers as they collapse, it’s by no means the first game to reward you for driving like a maniac. History is full of ’em. Let me show you...

 

Death Race - 1976

It all started with a little game called Death Race. There can’t be very many single-screen driving games, but this is one of them. The arcade cabinet shows pictures of zombies - something that a lot of games have since used to justify their shocking violence. The aim of the game is to run people over - more people than your opponent, in fact. But because they’re already dead, you’re not killing them! See? In fact, you end up leaving a solid gravestone in their wake, complete with a cross. So, if anything, you’re giving them a proper burial. Yessir.



To be honest, the idea of a competitive dash to run over as many zombies as possible within a strict time limit still sounds like a freakin’ awesome concept for a game. The petition for an XBLA remake starts here.

 

3D Deathchase - 1983

What do you mean, ‘Death Race’ has already been used up as a name? It’s only 1983! Oh, alright - fine. We’ll have '3D Deathchase', OK? Sheesh.

And so 3D Deathchase it was. But what a game. If ever you needed an example of an old game that was way ahead of its time, this is it. Marvel at the ZX Spectrum’s masterful use of first-person vehicular action. The game saw you trying to shoot enemy riders, tanks and a helicopter as you drove through a forest of trees that scaled as you drove towards them. Incredible stuff - check it out:



In comparison, look what Gamecube did to much acclaim some 20 years later:



Basically the same gameplay, just dressed up a little from those amazing Speccy graphics. Of course, the primitive 3D Deathchase wasn't perfect. I remember as a child my confusion as the subroutine for the random tree generation got stuck - and I found myself driving forever ‘left’ inside a circle of trees. Unable to stop or turn round, I continued to avoid every trunk by the skin of my teeth for a good three or four minutes, before finally resigning to the fact that I’d have to die if I was ever to escape the nightmare.

Despite the game's incredible first-person perspective and killer graphics, as was so often the case, you did have to turn off the sound on the TV if you wanted to preserve your sanity. Man, that was dire.

 

Road Rash - 1991

OK, so you’re not driving cars, but you’re piloting an automobile along country roads while civvy roadusers act as mobile chicanes. That's dangerous driving in my book. Ducking, diving and (accidentally) high-siding in between them was a blast in '91, as games started to get genuinely 'good'. As if the rampant law-breaking wasn’t enough, there were also weapons for you to snatch from your fellow rashers, to use against them.

Of course, it was all just hand-drawn sprites and flat-shaded energy bars that were taking a beating, but it was devilishly realistic.


Above: As you progressed through the game, more traffic filled the roads. Where do you go in this situation?

So much so, in fact, I was once watching an episode of Baywatch with my parents (I was 10, it was on at 6pm... that's not weird. Right?) when someone was knocked from their motorbike during an illegal street race. My dad turned to me in a very serious manner and said “See - that’s what happens when the stuff in your game happens for real”. It taught me a very valuable lesson: Never watch Baywatch with your parents.

30 comments

  • philipshaw - February 24, 2011 5:48 p.m.

    Great article and you got most of my favorites,but I would say Burnout 3 was more important than Burnout 2 was
  • Fr00b - February 24, 2011 2:29 p.m.

    MOTORSTOR FTW!
  • samirbvr - February 24, 2011 4:49 a.m.

    "every MotorStorm racer knows you HAVE to cross the line while halfway through exploding yourself" Nailed it!!!
  • MadMan - February 23, 2011 10:51 p.m.

    This article is obsolete because its about dangerous driving and never mentions Grand Theft Auto.... WTF?????
  • AleeR - February 23, 2011 10:30 p.m.

    Also Quarentine for DOS.
  • NightCrawler_358 - February 23, 2011 9:47 p.m.

    Nice entries, Death Race made me laugh. I would've recommended Twisted Metal somewhere in there though.
  • revrock - February 23, 2011 8:58 p.m.

    Blast Corps?
  • tacehtselrahc - February 23, 2011 7:16 p.m.

    No Destruction Derby? or the original Grand Theft Auto?
  • El72125 - February 23, 2011 6:41 p.m.

    You forgot Stuntman
  • TheWebSwinger - February 23, 2011 6:22 p.m.

    This article...this article isn't inspired by that Nic Cage Drive Angry movie is it?
  • bass88 - February 23, 2011 6:12 p.m.

    Twisted Metal? Dangerous driving was encouraged. Even the manual told you not to feel discouraged when running down pedestrians. Nice list however.
  • BurntToShreds - February 23, 2011 4:56 p.m.

    What does .06 pounds mean? Do you guys still use pences?
  • gazdog9 - February 23, 2011 4:02 p.m.

    Ha ! I'd almost forgotten Deathchase on my old 16K Spectrum. That's right kids , back in the old days this was considered cutting edge . I remember that game giving me a blinding headache. The colours man, so many colours
  • Sy87 - February 23, 2011 3:50 p.m.

    They do need to make a new Carmageddon. Whats funner than running people over? Can you blame me for wanting to destroy stuff most of the drivers to day are annoying. They either want to drive too fast or go to slow under the limit. Or they rush for a queque stop in front of you that they could have just taken behind you it saves them like no time. Anyway car destroying game is needed. Something cool like driver mix with twisted metal and gta(without the whole criminal activity stuff and all just road rage relief).
  • Japanaman - February 23, 2011 3:28 p.m.

    Of course, I totally failed to mention Vigilante 8 and Rogue Trip.
  • Japanaman - February 23, 2011 3:27 p.m.

    Seriously? You guys TOTALLY FAIL to mention Twisted Metal, Super Runabout (AKA Felony 11-79), Auto Destruct, Full Auto, Saints Row, GTA, Mario Kart, Crash Nitro Kart, Speed Punks, Mod Nation Racers, Street Racers, Hard Drivin', Race Drivin', Chase HQ, Spy Hunter, Bump N Jump, Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer, Motorcross Mania, Dirt, Fuel, Rush 2049, Outrun, Roadblasters, Star Wars Racing (or whatever it was called), Narc (the Arcade game), Mach Rider, MechWarrior/Assault, and every vehicle based military game ever made.
  • YuGiOhisbetterthanMagic - February 23, 2011 2:45 p.m.

    I loved rouge squadron. even the on foot parts were epic. I really with they would make another one.
  • BeerBaron - February 23, 2011 2:33 p.m.

    Would love to see a remake of the old C64 Racing Destruction Set.
  • willheuer - February 23, 2011 12:59 p.m.

    Im a little surprised Bump 'n Jump was left out, i realize its for the Intelivision but its like the first Burnout.
  • yonderTheGreat - February 23, 2011 12:40 p.m.

    STUNNING CUNT BONUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (for those not in the know, that's what the "cunning stunt bonus" in Carmageddon was referred to as... I'm assuming I won't get put in a time-out for that?)

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