Two new race-car games will satisfy the would-be speed-demon

Personal computers

October 23, 1990|By Michael Himowitz | Michael Himowitz,Evening Sun Staff

Scratch the surface of the average commuter, wrestling the family wagon through another traffic jam, and you'll find a 17-year-old juvenile delinquent who wishes that once, just once, he could really put the pedal to the metal and challenge old Smokey to catch him.

If this is your kind of fantasy, you can live it out vicariously with a couple of new software releases -- provided you have enough computing horsepower to make them run.

Test Drive III from Accolade and Stunt Driver from Spectrum HoloByte are two quite different racing simulations aimed squarely at the Walter Mittys who keep copies of Road and Track stuffed in the bottom drawer of the desk.

While they'll run on older IBM compatibles, they're both designed to take advantage of newer computers with 80286 or 80386 processors and high-resolution color monitors.

Test Drive III, as its name implies, is the third release in this series from Accolade, which tapped a rich vein a few years ago when it decided the average game player would like to strap himself behind the wheel of something really hot and drive from Point A to Point B as fast as he can.

The new release offers the choice of a 485-horsepower Lamborghini Diablo, a sleek 12-cylinder Pininfarina Mythos, or the Chevrolet CERV III, an experimental version of the legendary Corvette than can turn zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds. In other words, muscle.

The course hugs the coast of California from Pasco Robles through Monterey to Tioga Pass, in five sections. You have your choice of routes, and figuring out the fastest way (you have a map, but the quickest shortcuts may not be on it) is half the fun.

This, by the way, is what distinguishes the Test Drive series from other racing games. Instead of driving on a track, you drive the actual route, with beautifully detailed scenery.

The level of detail depends on your graphics card and the speed of your computer. If you have a fast 80286 or 80386 machine with a VGA monitor, you're in for a real treat.

Accolade has improved its graphics with each release. This version offers the option of an aerial to help you spot where you are if you get lost, and a competition mode that pits you against two computer opponents trying to beat you to the destination. Like most new games, it also supports a variety of add-on sound boards.

Fans of the Test Drive series will undoubtedly love this release, and Accolade promises the usual add-on disks with new courses and even hotter cars.

If rocketing along the California coast road at 150 miles an hour seems little tame to you, Stunt Driver may be up your alley.

Where Test Drive caters to yuppie fantasies and champagne tastes, Stunt Driver is Pabst Blue Ribbon -- a game for real men and real computers.

You sit behind the wheel of a 1966 Shelby GT and navigate a race track from a sadomasochist's nightmare. Pitted against a trio of nasty opponents who think banging fenders is as much fun as banging heads, you'll face oil slicks, drawbridges, 360-degree loops, hairpin turns and assorted other obstacles.

This is terrific entertainment software. The action is frenetic, and the graphics are superb -- the best I've seen outside of flight simulators.

Besides the normal view out the front window, you can get side and rear views (you'll need these at crossovers). Like the TV networks, Stunt Driver mounts cameras all around the track, so you can see the action from various perspectives.

The most spectacular is the moving helicopter view, which shows you the race exactly as you'd see it from a helicopter. It's the best real-time, three-dimensional display I've seen. You'll love it when you replay your more spectacular crashes.

Stunt Driver shows meticulous attention to detail, right down to the satisfying grunt you hear when you inadvertently flatten a mechanic who wanders too far onto the course.

When you get tired of the five standard race courses, you can design your own, and a communications option lets you play against a friend via a modem.

If you're looking for unusual action, Stunt Driver is great investment.

For Test Drive III information, contact Accolade, 550 S. Winchester Blvd., Suite 200, San Jose, Calif. 95128. For Stunt Driver, contact Spectrum HoloByte, 2061 Challenger Dr., Alameda, Calif. 94501.

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