Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blast From The Past

A long long time ago, in the days before the Weird World Web. In a time of BBS’s and modems. A time when viruses roamed every floppy disk and computers were IBM Compatible.
In that faraway past just before the last decade of the 20th century a game was created by Activision.

This game was far ahead of it’s time. So far in fact that since its creation it was never again duplicated. Many tried, none succeeded.

I am speaking of course about Death Track (cue insane laugh).

You may find yourself thinking: "Death Track?... Death... Track? Really? I mean Death and Track?? "
Yes. Really!

I know the name is pretty lame (lame is also pretty lame)* but the game is not. You see, Death Track had everything. It had cars with cool and exciting weapons, it had contract killing and it had upgrades.

Ok, let me explain:
Death Track was the first Racing+Shooting game i ever played. I have played all racing+shooting games i could get ever since. No game was ever like Death Track. It may just be the nostalgia talking but i really think that at least until this point in time, it has never been surpassed in it's genre.

Many games since added some element of weaponry or destruction, but no racing game i know was solely dedicated to killing off your opponents. To facilitate this the game offered a wide array of weapons:
Machine guns, Lasers, Mines, Missiles, Ram Spikes and more. All the weapon systems in the game were upgradable. This was a very important element in the gameplay. you always wanted more: better weapons, better armor, faster engine. There were plenty of things you wanted to upgrade. Some helped you make money by winning races while others helped you win races by killing off the competition.

Of course, the competition didn't wait around for your to kill it. They would go after you as well. The game also featured contract eliminations that won you large sums of money if you succeeded. These were substantial enough to focus on killing your target even if you didn't get 1'st prize from winning the race.

I think that the upgrade elements were an important part of what made it so addictive. The game managed to always keep you wanting more, and you got to feel a real sense of acheivement when you got that next upgrade. And it payed off too. There is nothing more satisfying than blowing up your nemesis with your new tracking missiles.

I wonder why this was never done since. There are plenty of racing games around, and plenty of racing game engines. Many of which feature arcade to ultra-realistic damage systems. I would really love to see an arcady Need For Speed based game combining weapons, upgrades and total destruction.

On that note i would like to say that many of the console racing games have this element of certain upgrades opening up only after you played part of the game. I think this is really the wrong way to keep players interested. Money is a great way to achieve this: Its clear and its a simple way to give you multiple alternatives. If you feel that the only thing stopping you from getting to that next upgrade is X amount of $ its a whole other thing then knowing you need to complete the next stage or circuit. The fact that you have to comparmise and think about what to upgrade adds certain elements longer term strategy.

In many games you don't even know what's available. Give me the option to buy things and make the purchase worth-while. Let me feel i get an edge, a sort of "cheating" advanted over my oponents that really makes a difference in the game. The best way to keep gamers interested is by dangling the possibility right in front of them, and allowing them to choose how they get it.
If i want to play that same level 10 times on an easier setting to get the money for the upgrade i want - give me that option.

Its now twenty years since Death Track came out, and it seems like i should maybe let go of my dream of playing a game like that again on modern hardware, engine and graphics. But if there ever was an industry that keeps recycling the classics its the gaming industry.

My only fear is that it comes out exclusively for PS3...


Mmmm....I have just been informed that i am an idiot. turns out that in the very link i added was the link to the New version of Death Track!
I am downloading the demo now. Thanks Dan, I Can't tell you how exciting it is to finally play Death track with modern graphics.

* - That's a triple lame sentence. This is the first time such a fete has been attempted. Do not try this at home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree.

If there were only some new, modernized version based on the same idea of "Death track"... oh, how happy we'd be...

Something like "Death track - resurrection".