IHRA Drag Racing: Sportsman Edition review

When you're the only car on the dragstrip, you can win with four flat tires

GamesRadar+ Verdict


  • +

    If you happen to be a fan

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    this is licensed

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    Rocket cars and pixellated bikini babes

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  • -

    Looks bad

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    Sounds bad

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    Plays bad

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If you've been to a live drag racing event, you knowthat the smell of tire rubber, the roar of engines, and the excitement of the crowdsimplydon't translate well to TV broadcasts. The small screen just can't do the spectacle justice. Likewise, the IHRA Drag Racing videogame series can't seem to capture anything but the most basic flavor of the spectacle.

Drag racing, for the uninitiated, is about more than strapping yourself to anengine and crossing the finish line first - a little more, at least. Racers enter a dial-in time, and then compete to get as close as possible to that time in a quarter-mile race without beating that time.

It’s a deceptively simple task, and in this sense drag racing is as much a battle between the driver and himself as anything else. Single events, tournaments, and entire seasons spew cash and "pro points," decorating your trophy room, but upgrading and tuning your vehicle's parts is as much about flexibility as it is about sheer performance enhancement.

The experience of racing these monsters is surprisingly ho-hum, and you'll need to switch to manual shifting and higher difficulties to feel like more than a chimp with an accelerator pedal. The sheer noise level of these beasts should be overpowering, and yet you'll never hear more than a hopelessly generic, muffled, and underwhelming grumble emit from your whip.

The essence of drag racing is speed and danger, riding on the edge of being out of control; the vehicles of IHRA Drag Racing: Sportsman Edition, by contrast, feel pokey and predictable, hiding in their lanes without more than an occasional nudge. (The Xbox version supports steering wheels - a nice touch, but it's hard to imagine why you would bother.)

Playing the full lead-in of each race is interesting at first, including as it does the staging and the preparatory burnout that pre-heats tires. But the latter is reduced to a simple meter, with no consideration of the "tire bunching" issues and such that real drivers face, and you wind up spending more time getting in position than you do actually racing.

More info

DescriptionThe very definition of a bargain bin game, but it gets enough of the mechanical basics right to appeal to hardcore dragsters with nowhere else to turn.
US censor rating"Everyone 10+","Everyone 10+","Everyone 10+"
UK censor rating"","",""
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)