Top Gear Downforce - Hands-on

Oct 5, 2007

You might remember the Top Gear name from back in the days of the Super Nintendo, but even if you don't, here's all you really need to know: arcade racing for up to four players, and power-ups are replaced by natural disasters like volcanoes and earthquakes and tornados and avalanches.

Yeah, you read that correctly. You might have seen racing like this before - it's pure arcade mayhem viewed from the top down, like RC Pro Am or a Micro Machines game or basically any other slot car-style combat racer. But outside of the obscure Dreamcast flub Speed Devils, you've probably never seen power-ups like this. Each track harbors two types of disaster event, from typical stuff like strong winds or road-obscuring fog to volcanic eruptions, twisters and UFO activity.

Many instances of these disasters will occur naturally in each level, but every player also gets to place one somewhere on the track, choosing the location (from a range of sites the game suggests) and timing of the event (during which lap it'll happen). Thus, you start out with normal racing, but things quickly escalate into action movie territory. If movie stuntmen raced for fun, this would be what it looked like.

The 24 tracks (each of which can be raced forward and backward) each change as the race wears on as well. A track modeled after a post-earthquake San Francisco starts with a small crack in a long straightaway. The second lap, it's wider and magma can be seen flowing inside. By the third lap, it's swallowed most of the asphalt and wants your car next. Another level features an ice patch that starts out solid and slick and melts over the course of the race.