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Hard Drivin': What Did Critics Say Back in 1991?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on September 15, 2014   |   Episode 95 (Show Archive)  


Hard Drivin' (Sega Genesis)
Ever wonder what Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro and other popular magazines thought of your favorite 8-, 16- and 32-bit games? Now you can find out, thanks to Review Crew! This is the only show on the internet that is willing to go back in time to find out what old school critics thought of retro games at the time. Did they pan your favorite game? Did they love something terrible? Find out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday as Defunct Games presents Review Crew!

Long before developers perfected the use of polygons, there was Hard Drivin'. This "realistic" arcade driving simulator won over players with its unique cabinet design and unusual look. Tengen quickly brought the game to the Genesis, a system lacking hardware scaling and rotating effects. Did critics enjoy this home conversion, or did Hard Drivin' crash and burn on consoles? We dig through old issues of GamePro, Mega Play, Sega Pro, Sega Force, Computer + Video Games, Raze, Mean Machines Sega and MegaTech for the answers.

(NOTE: Although we occasionally cut for length, no other edits are made to the review. Defunct Games does not change any of the wording, grammar or punctuation use. Also keep in mind that our score is the average of all critics at the time, not just the sample that is reprinted on this page. If you still have more questions, I recommend you check out the Review Crew FAQ, where we address the review guidelines, converting scores, magazine covers and more.)

Hard Drivin'
[ Company: Tengen | Console: Genesis ]

GAMEPRO (January 1991)
5 out of 5

"Have you ever had the urge to take a hot sports car to the limit? Now you can with Hard Drivin' by Tengen. This awesome driving simulator for the Genesis features a realistic three-dimensional view from the driver's seat of a high performance sports car. For once, you can forget everything you learned in Driver's Ed. Cut loose with this awesome Tengen title." -Doctor Dave

86% out of 100%

"At last you have the chance to play Tengen's smash arcade driving simulator in the comfort of your own home. The game has excellent solid 3-D graphics, a tremendous thundering sound tracks and enough playability to keep you hooked. My only gripe is the lack of extra courses. With the possibility of huge cartridges, and the Mega Drive's obvious potential, it seems a wasted opportunity. Games on the Mega Drive shouldn't simply be conversions."

81% out of 100%

"Hard Drivin' would be a superb game if it wasn't for the fact that there isn't much to see or do. Once the courses have been completed in unbeatable times, the novelty wears off. Even the challenge with the Phantom loses its sting when you can thrash him by ten seconds, and trying to beat yourself soon becomes a fruitless exercise. All I can say is, let's hope Race Drivin' will be converted soon -- more tracks, more stunts, more cars." -Damian "Metra 6R4" Butt

81% out of 100%

"An excellent conversion of the coin-on, but it's too close to the original for its own good. The limited number of tracks isn't a problem in the arcades, but it's very serious on a 40 pound-a-throw cartridge game. Hard Drivin' is one of the most exciting and original driving games ever, it's fast, the graphics are good, and the stunt tracks put a whole new perspective on the genre. With more track variation it would be an essential purchase." -Ian

MEGA PLAY (February 1991)
6 out of 10

"Although this is a relatively good translation of the smash hit coin-op, it fails to hit the mark. The game moves way too slow, and the control wasn't very precise." -Dave

52% out of 100%

"One game is all that's required to see everything that this game has to offer and after that all interest in the game vanishes with a spectacular suddenness. Also, the handling of the car is completely unrealistic, and that realism was the whole point of the arcade machine. If you're a racing fan spend some money on the coin-op version (or better still, Race Drivin') - this simply isn't value for money." -Richard Leadbetter

51% out of 100%

"The arcade game was fun, which is more than can be said for this conversion. Suspect handling, poor gameplay and unrealistic 3D update conspire together to make this a yawnsome experience. Add in the low, low difficult level and you've got a veritable Robin Reliant of a racing game."

50% out of 100%

"Maybe if it had been a race against other drivers rather than simply a race against time Hard Drivin' would have survived the conversion process. Without the realistic graphics and controls, the weaknesses in the gameplay are quickly revealed in the Megadrive game. Seeing as you can shove a couple of quid in the arcade game and get slightly more thrills I'd recommend the cheaper option." -Paul

MEGA PLAY (February 1991)
5 out of 10

"Disappointing, but expected, a lot is missing due to small cart size. An average driving game with neat features like ramps, loop-to-loop, and a cow, Super Monaco GP is the preferred choice for me." -Bart

MEGA PLAY (February 1991)
5 out of 10

"The Megadrive cannot offer the realistic steering and pedal controls of the arcade game nor can it recreate the smooth, realistic 3D effects, leaving a rather basic racing game. What's worse, the tracks are easily completed and once you've had your kicks beating your records a few times, there's not much to entice you back on the roads." -Rich
REVIEW CREW AVERAGE: 59% - Even at the time, I was never blown away by the arcade version of Hard Drivin'. It was visually boring and ran at a distractingly low frame rate. And with an inflated price tag ($1 per play at many arcades), it always felt like a rip-off. In that sense, Hard Drivin' on the Genesis is a lot like the arcade original -- a huge rip-off.

Surprisingly, some critics disagreed with me. GamePro gave Hard Drivin' a perfect score. No joke. Raze also enjoyed the game, gushing over the "excellent solid 3-D graphics, a tremendous thundering sound tracks and enough playability to keep you hooked." Sega Force and Sega Pro both gave the racing game a score of 81%, though they both complained there wasn't much lasting appeal.

That seemed to be the opinion of most critics that reviewed Hard Drivin' in 1991. Sure, it's a faithful conversion of an arcade game, but it's not like the original was overflowing with modes and tracks. Many critics felt this was worse than just a disappointing port, but a genuinely bad game. Mega Play complained about the"suspect handling, poor gameplay and unrealistic 3D." They then turned around and called Hard Drivin' a "yawnsome experience." It's hard to disagree with that.

The positive scores (including GamePro's perfect 5 out of 5) manage to bring the average up, but not by much. With most critics disliking the Genesis port, Hard Drivin' averages a lame 59%. Oh, and I have really bad news for the critics excited for Race Drivin'.

ON WEDNESDAY'S EPISODE: We're going to jump from one racing game to another. We're also going to slide, collect coins and throw turtle shells. That's right; it's finally time to talk about Super Mario Kart, one of Nintendo's earliest racing games. It's the game that started one of the longest-running racing franchises in video game history, and now you can see what critics thought of Super Mario Kart when you tune in on Wednesday. Make sure and check out the Review Crew archive for more old school reviews, and don't forget to tweet me @DefunctGames to let me know what games you want to see next!

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