Road Blasters (U. S. Gold) Review | Computer & Video Games - Everygamegoing


Road Blasters
By U. S. Gold
Spectrum 48K/128K/+2

Published in Computer & Video Games #83

Road Blasters

Road Blasters blends together the two most popular features of video gaming ever invented - driving fast and shooting things.

Just think of the dozens of shooting and driving games that have been launched over the years. They are far too numerous to list here.

What is strange is that it took until 1987 for some bright spark at Atari Games to put two and two together and come up with the hybrid 'racer-shooter' that is Road Blasters. The game was a smash hit in the arcades, a fact not missed by US Gold who wielded their mighty chequebook to snap up the rights to the home versions.

Set sometime in the future where the motorways have become a death-dealing nightmare. If you thought the M25 was hairy then forget it. With mines, layby-mounted machine gun installations, mad bikers, and other crazed roadsters, Road Blasters is a game where only the tough will survive.

The secret of Road Blasters is to make a successful rendezvous with the passing jet fighter that hovers above the road and drops extra weapons to soup up your vehicle.

Catching these weapons is not easy - you have to line you car up with the plane whilst keeping an eye on the twisting road.

Different types of weapons can be caught. There is a turbo charger that you use to accelerate at great speed enabling you to reach the end of the level more quickly. A bit of a mixed blessing this though as it makes steering more tricky and increases the chances of collisions with other vehicles or coming off the road.

My favourite weapon is the machine gun - which can be operated by pulling back on the joystick. This wastes the enemy like nobody's business - and does so to a splendid, loud 'n quick, machine gun sound. Sound effects are generally excellent in this C64 rendition of Road Blasters - especially the explosions when you take out one of the pill boxes. They are hard to hit and one your your most deadly hazards so the loud resounding boom when you take one out is particularly satisfying.

If the other cars don't get you then running out of fuel most definitely will unless you are careful to pick up the green and red fuel balls that are scattered around the road at various points.

The basic aim of Road Blasters is simply to drive and survive, and get as far as you can. There are fifty levels in total - though you don't have to start at the first every time as there is an option to start further in the game if you so wish.

The road leads through a series of countries with alternating checkpoints and rally points. The checkpoints are midway goals to aim for with the promise of extra fuel. Rally points are similar to the finish lines in ordinary races - a chequered section of road denoting the end of a level.

A control dash at the foot of the screen shows your fuel level, speed, warns of incoming mines and displays your multiplier status. The multiplier works by counting the number of yellow cars and bikers you blast.

The aim is to hit as many as possible without missing - this will give you a maximum multiplier of your score at the end of the level.

Road Blasters is very much a high score game. One to boast about once you get your performance at the top of the pile.

The C64 version reviewed here was coded by the same team that produced the Commodore version of OutRun - father and son team Amazing Productions. So just how amazing is Road Blasters?

The first thing you notice is the graphics, and it has to be said these are far from amazing.

The backdrops range from futuristic city scapes to the ubiquitous desert. All three resembled an early attempt at landscaping on the Atari VCS - rather than Commodore 64.

The cars and planes are also pretty basic - lacking in detail and moving very blockily towards you as the road scrolls.

The colours are very stark - completely lacking in shading which makes it difficult to take seriously.

By far the major fault with the game, however, is its lack of speed. The car just doesn't create a sensation of speed. Only when you pick up the turbo charger does it move convincingly. From a standing start you have to reach about 60mph before you can discern that the car is moving at all.

Steering also leaves a little to be desired. On some of the early levels the road actually moves for you. You simply stay in the centre of the road, don't touch your joystick at all, and you end up at the end of the level. All you have to do is blast the odd car that gets in your way.

Of course, there is no point whatever in doing this as you won't amass any significant number of points. But that is not the point - you shouldn't be able to get away with it. The coin-op certainly won't let you.

Graphics and animation gripes aside - the basic addictive element of Road Blasters is still here in this conversion. The strength of the original Atari game design shines through - and I did find the game very difficult to put down.

However, you can't help wishing that US Gold had entrusted the conversion of this excellent coin-op to a better programming team. The truth is that both OutRun and now Road Blasters have to be ranked as fairly average conversions.

Both games deserved a lot better.

Eugene Lacey

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