Review: Stunt Car Racer, one of the first racing games using physics
Stunt Car Racer was released in 1989 and was on the first games to make full use of physics, unseen for any racing game back in the eighties. The title came with one car capable of nitro boost and eight tracks of varying difficulty. The tracks were split two in each division. You raced 11 opponents and scored points. If you beat your opponents by the end of the season you could move up a division and the difficulty increased with it. The races themselves were quite an experience. You were lifted by chains and dropped onto the starting grid beside your opponent, then were able to race. Any time that you crashed, those chains would lift you back onto the track, unless you had sustained enough damage to be unable to continue. Each track varied enough that you would often have a minimum and maximum speed that you had to hit a ramp to do it right, or you risk losing time in the air, or plummeting to your doom. The physics seen in Stunt Car Racer are weirdly believable. Like all Geoff Crammond titles it feels to me as if there is a driver aid which keeps you on the road, and while it’s certainly possible to crash off at any time, it’s also a little bit easier than it should be. This could be because it was designed for keyboard control, or it could simply be because this is how they believed gameplay needed to be for commercial success. The best thing I could say about the physics are that being on two wheels, flying through the air or smashing into surfaces all have believable physics which are amazing for the time. Infact it could be argued that if someone improved the graphics, these physics could still sell to this day as a modern title. 3D tracks and cars, realistically built to give a proper sensation of distance and speed. Easily one of the first titles I tried which gave me a proper feeling of immersion in a 3D world. It’s a retro style which I feel I would still accept today if available at higher resolution, and it’s actually interesting when you do play it to see just how effective this was 23 years ago on period hardware. The deep and growling sounds of the engine in Stunt Car Racer were incredible for the time, and are still acceptable to this day when the hardware it was designed for is taken into consideration. The differing sounds of the engine ticking over, scraping metal and crashing are also fantastic. In the sound department, Stunt Car Racer gave you every piece of information you needed to be able to drive effectively. Stutn Cart Racer is without doubt a legendary racing game and is the starting point of a gaming genre played by millions today.