Saturday, July 28, 2012

GRID, Dead Heat, H2Overdrive: Three Arcade Reviews

Ok guys, while on July 9th's exciting Dave & Buster's expedition (complete with Daytona USA footage), I also had the chance to play some other racing games.  And at this D&B's, there was a TON of racing games. Unfortunately, only Daytona USA and Club Kart (which I've never really talked's Chuck E Cheese fodder (so is Scud Race) ) in terms of Sega racers.  So I decided to play some other racing games.  Bear in mind that each of these following games cost slightly more than Daytona USA so every time I played one of these games, that meant one less run at Daytona USA so these better damn well be worth it.  These brief reviews are only based off of one play session so take 'em with a grain of salt.


This is the arcade version of Codemasters' racing "classic," GRID.  Surprisingly, this arcade version was distributed by "Sega Amusements" as you see the Sega logo plastered all over the thing.   Now, this game is off to a bad start for me because the game's dingy "realistic" hues still turn me off.  I mean, look at the box art of the game for gosh darn's sakes:

When the Xbox 360 logo is more colorful than the rest of the game then we have a problem.  The game's format is similar to Scud Race--four cars. four tracks.  IMO, that's disappointing.  In 1996, four tracks/cars would've been okay but it's 2010 (when the game was released) and based on an existing console game so cut me some slack.  Not only that, but three of the cars are American (Mustang, Viper, Challenger) and one is Japanese (Supra) so that's a great mix there (compare to the four nationalities of Scud Race cars).  There's only six cars on the track, not eight, not twelve, which is another disappointment, seeing as this isn't some PS1 racing sim people, it's 2012, remember?

Putting all that aside, I admit the gameplay itself is not that bad.  I picked the San Francisco track and some medium-level car, I forgot which one.  Indeed I picked manual transmission--the gear stick is like that of OutRun 2 & Crazy Taxi--shift up and shift down only.  It reminds me of Project Gotham Racing but with dingier hues.  Handling is a bit drifty and I had no idea how to drift so I just cornered hard on every turn and hoped for the best.  That seemed to fair well as I moved up from 6th to 3rd just before the finish line.  Only problem is you never seem to reach OutRun/Daytona speeds of 180+ mph which is kind of a bummer.  There's also a bit of car damage (including car doors flinging wide open mid-race) so that's kind of gnarly without being Burnout-ridiculous.

Overall, you could put some time into this game since it's not shoddily made but with only four cars & tracks and limited top speeds, I only see so much worth in this game.  Better off buying the console version for cheap I suppose.  LAZY REVIEW SCORE: 7.4

Dead Heat

Ah, Namco, we meet again.  I heard about Dead Heat a couple of times and I wanted to know what all the fuss is about.  It looks like a crap Fast & Furious clone with loose Ridge Racer elements plus photo booth in one slick cabinet.  And we all know that in this Facebook/Twitter/awesome Blogspot era, everyone wants to slap their mug shot all over the place so what's not to love about this game???  Well, I'll tell you...

While writing this review, I have my conflicts on whether or not I'm factually correct.  For instance, this four-player Dead Heat setup DID NOT have gear shifters available on any of the dashboards.  I don't believe I was asked at all to choose Automatic or Manual Transmission.  But the pictures/footage I looked up online show that the game does, in fact, have a four-gear stick shifter.  But in my recollection of my game, there was no stick.  I'm serious folks--I could've sworn that this version of Dead Heat didn't have Manual Transmission.  If for some reason the game did have manual, then I was never made aware of it at any time during the game. EDIT: I recall seeing a couple of Fast & Furious cabinets that didn't have a manual stick at all so I believe there may be Dead Heat cabinets without the stick too.

As an aside, I'll say this.  Aside from a few exceptions such as Mario Kart and non-traditional racers (like Super Sprint or Bang Bang Racing), if your racing game does not have manual transmission (not even a simple hi/low gear like OutRun/Crazy Taxi) then it sucks, period.  I don't care if it's a "crap" racer like Cruis'n World, you get that gear shift working or else my interest drops rapidly.  Another reason why we need to round up all copies of Burnout & Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and have a bonfire Fahrenheit 451-style.  EDIT: The way I see it, if you program different gears into to the game (to resemble an actual car, not just one long gear), then I'd better damn well be able to switch through them.  How hard is it to implement manual?  Press a button and the gear switches instead of automatically.  Wow, that was hard.

So what else is there?  Well, when choosing my car out of a lineup of generic street racers like the Corvette, Skyline, Viper, Supra, etc. I only had like, what, 9 seconds to choose a car?  So I scrolled through the cars then all of a sudden--BOOM, I was locked into the Dodge Viper.  Once again, I have a feeling that I'm inaccurate again because upon consulting other gameplay footage, they had more time with the car select.  But once again, I swear that I only had 9 seconds.  I just don't get it.  Nine seconds isn't enough time to pick a car when you offer so many cars as it is.

Then the best part of all, smile for the camera!  Now, the last thing I want the game to do is to take a picture of me and make me stare at it for 3 minutes!  God Forbid the game actually "stored" the photo in memory and used it as an AI photo for people who play the game after me!  That's probably not true but there's way too many mysterious faces in the game as it is so I don't know if they're recycling or not.  Either way, I just got up out of the seat and boom--game now has a picture of an empty seat.  Haw haw.  You can also tie your photo to your own account and come back and earn extra miles for paint jobs and stuff (remember, flame decals add 50% more horsepower) but the last thing I planned on in this moment was playing the game ever again.

Look at these people, they're demented.

Holy cow, how about the gameplay?  Well, there's for tracks--New York, San Francisco (dayum, this city is in every racing game these days), Chicago, and London.  I picked London cause...I really don't know why.  The tracks are supposedly based off of real city layouts (you mean like Project Gotham Racing???) but that doesn't excuse the fact that just four tracks is crap, I'm sorry.

Your car starts out with three NOS boosts.  Okay, nitrous in a racing game, never seen that in a racing game before so w/e, sounds neat.  Press the NOS boosts within the first 15 seconds of the race only to find out that the NOS doesn't come back.  It doesn't recharge like in other racing games so that's a bummer.

Car handling...well, it's loose in that you have to be careful while turning lest your car rubs the outside wall.  Either way, nothing about the game felt taxing at all.  The AI cars always stayed on your ass because of rubber-banding, that I know.  The landscapes were at least colorful and the sense of speed wasn't that bad (180+ mph) but that's all I got out of the main gameplay itself.  It was just mundane for me.  Taking a photo of myself wouldn't have sweetened the deal at all.

Then, as abruptly as you can imagine, the race ends.  I literally only played for 80 seconds.  Once again, this is my personal recollection and may not be accurate for other Dead Heat cabinets but I truly do remember saying, "Holy cow, that's it?"  I'm stunned that such a racing game could be so short.  I thought we moved on from crap short races like Cruis'n USA but no, nothing's changed over the last 20 years.  What a huge letdown.

This game's garbage.  Aside from the photo gimmick, nothing about this game is really any better than Fast & the Furious.  And since F&F is already terrible enough as it is, this game is truly mediocre.  Your money's better spent playing a Sega racer.  LAZY REVIEW SCORE: 4.4


Oh God, another Raw Thrills racer.  This can only turn out badly.  So there was a twin cabinet setup at D&B's and I decided to give it a shot since I hate myself and want to take the hit so that the rest of you don't think about playing this lousy ass game.  EDIT: Thanks to the anonymous poster who said that this game was just published my Raw Thrills and actually not made by them.  Bonus point on the review score!

I'm just kidding with this game sucking so bad.  Anyway, I heard that NBA superstar Rajon Rondo owns his own personal H2Overdrive machine.  How do we know this?  Check it out.

Good for Rajon!  However, I have different opinions.  The game has seven tracks and nine boats.  It plays pretty much the same as Hydro Thunder.  Pick a boat, pick a track, use the handle to speed up, collect the little blue/red boost thingies, and race to the finish.

I picked the hard track "London Underground" as well as some other hard difficulty boat.  Anyway...there's really not much to say about this game.  It's practically Hydro Thunder but with different stuff.  Problem is the game didn't seem as "exciting" as Hydro Thunder was.  This H2Overdrive version felt washed up.  Hence while I was playing the London Underground level, I was driving through these dark alleyways, dodging police boats and buoys while bouncing off the walls.  I tried doing the jump trick to reach the high boosts\ but failed because they must've changed how to do it or I'm just an idiot.

The London Underground level wasn't that great.  After plowing through dreary canals and sewers for a minute, I had a sneaking suspicion that I would fall through the ground into a vat of lava/radioactive waste.  Instead, I hit a ramp and flew into a happy forest setting with a sign that reads "Ye Olde Finish Line."  That's great, Raw Thrills, after fumbling around the most depressing level ever, I finally see blue skies and a few hints at something pertaining to Renaissance England and the race is over.  It only lasted about 90 seconds which, like in Dead Heat's case, isn't great.

Like in Dead Heat and every other Raw Thrills racer, you can save your progress with a password.  I really don't know what for but it seems like another gimmick to get people to play more than once.  Overall, this game is just "meh" to me so that's what score I give it.  I'd probably take Hydro Thunder over this.  LAZY REVIEW SCORE: 6.0


There were a couple more racing games at D&B's such as Fast & Furious Super Cars, Fast & Furious Bikes, Dirty Drivin', Need for Speed: Carbon, Tokyo Police Cop (wtf indeed)...I mean, what's the point of playing any of these games?  Playing any of these games meant one less play at Daytona USA so why waste my time with that dreck?  It also meant I had to wrack my brain even more writing more details about these non-Sega racers.  So I went to play Daytona USA and that was the end of it.  BTW, yay Olympics.  So that began today?  Cool, back to watchin NASCAR races...


  1. I do agree that racing games that lack manual transmission will turn a lot of people off, and this is coming from someone who has been playing with automatic almost all the time. I know it's weird, but I do practice with manual for some of the games that I have though. I'm just thinking about other hardcore racing game fans here.

    I'm used to seeing the manual transmission option in nearly every racing game that I owned. Without it, it just didn't seem complete. I do have some games that I like that don't have the option, I just think it'd be better if they had it anyways for people who love to drive in manual or want to practice with it.

    Well, I guess that's all for now. Good luck to you Eric!

  2. our local mall arcade had dead heat for all of two weeks before it got replaced with a REALLY REALLY beaten up initial d v3. i remember the cabinet had a shifter on it.

    i actually really enjoyed h2overdrive. raw thrills/play mechanix have a track record of making really crappy arcade games, so when i heard that this was created by an outside company which includes some of the original midway developers (specular interactive), i was relieved. i thought it was a worthy followup to hydro thunder. the controls feel right, the pacing is just about there, and visually it looks great and fits the "thunder" style. the tracks are a little short and the pacing is close, but not perfect--but that said i still think it's one of the only good american arcade releases in a long time. you can't beat the original but i'd give it another shot!

    needless to say, so far h2overdrive has been the only game put out by raw thrills that i've legitimately enjoyed, so i'd love to try specular interactive's new game called dirty drivin. raw thrills should continue to work with outside developers and STOP TRYING TO MAKE GAMES THEMSELVES. those FNF games are trash!

  3. Batfan: I just came to a realization earlier. If the gears themselves are programmed into the game to apply torque differently (as opposed to just one gear like a go-kart), then why bother leaving it automatic only? If you go out of your way to make a car with multiple gears, well, let's use 'em. And good luck to you too.

    Anon: That makes sense. H2Overdrive is great if you're a Hydro Thunder fan. Raw Thrills is garbage :)

  4. As much as I like your blog eric, i'll have to disagree with you on the H2overdrive review, Hydro Thunder was a classic of a game and one of my favorites, and H2overdrive is an outstanding follow up to the original, Specular made the game and raw thrills published it.

    To say the least, Specular interactive should be thanked completely, god bless them!

    1. I totally agree with you ken, HT is fantastic and also one of my favorites, h2overdrive is amazing and is just as great as hydro thunder, and god bless Specular? HELLS YEAH!