Top-view racing was fun back in the days when Off Road was just out in the arcades. But rewing Power Drive's little Euro-hatch-backs down country roads on the Game Gear just doesn't have the same thrill.
Miss Daisy Driving
Based on Europe's popular "rally" circuit racing, you progress through eight windy and often unpaved tracks. As expected, you snag power-ups as you round the track while racing to earn the cash that helps you maintain and upgrade your vehicle.
The cars and tracks are graphically well defined. Each course scrolls smoothly for a better-than-average Game Gear look. The sound isn't quite as good. The music is that familiar techno-static heard on many Game Gear titles, so stick with the other sound option -scratchy but reliable effects.
Unfortunately, these cars leak steering fluid all over the controls. The game's simple look suggests easy maneuvering, but be prepared for the opposite. Until you learn the tricky steering patterns, you'll be stuck in Frustration City on the first track.
Up to eight players can take turns racing, and variable weather conditions add options normally not seen in Game Gear titles. Even so, Power Drive is only for those who enjoy needling with hypersensitive controls on slippery tracks.
- Use the optional directional arrows until you know each course inside out.
- Remember that ultimately you're racing against the clock, so don't get distracted by the CPU car.
- After racing, repair your tires first, then your engine. The tires are more important for steady control.
Download Power Drive
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
- Game modes: Single game mode
- Up, Down, Left, Right - Arrow keys
- Start - Enter (Pause, Menu select, Skip intro, Inventory)
- "A" Gamepad button - Ctrl (usually Jump or Change weapon)
- "B" button - Space (Jump, Fire, Menu select)
- "C" button - Left Shift (Item select)
Use the F12 key to toggle mouse capture / release when using the mouse as a controller.
If you've ever watched any rally driving on the telly, or have even gone so far as pulling on your wellies to stand around on some windswept hillside just to watch a muddy car roar past you, you will know that rally driving is quite different from "normal" racing driving. For a start, to be allowed to enter you have to have a car with more lights on the front than a small Christmas tree, while the race itself normally takes place on some Godforsaken track, deep within a muddy forest and invariably includes more potentially life-threatening bends than a bunch of overripe bananas injected with arsenic. It's very fast, very muddy and very demanding for both the car and the driver, not to mention the poor co-driver who must sit there as cool as a cucumber reading out his pace notes as the car flies around hairpins at a seemingly impossible speed, shaving the bark from the trees as it fishtails down the track.
Third time lucky
Whereas there are more driving games available on the pc than you can shake a greasy back axle at, there have been only a couple of attempts to recreate all the speed and excitement of rally driving on the pc. Micro Machines was a step in the right direction, but, with its slick sprites and cutesy background tracks, it was aimed more at the console market, leaving little in the way of serious gameplay. Lombard RAC Rally from Europress, on the other hand, went for realism in a big way and also concentrated on the management side of things, and as a result the game was more of a rally simulation than a fast-paced driving game.
With this in mind, US Gold have plumped for a ( format that is, in truth, a bit of a halfway house; incorporating all the action of actually driving a rally car, with a bit of management detail thrown in for good measure. The result is a game that, when finished, will feature eight different cars, ranging from a Mini to a Celica, and a massive 64 different courses spanning eight countries, each with different types of terrain and weather. It also features special training courses.
The player starts the game at the beginning of the season and must work his/her way around the international circuit in a rally-prepared Group n car (either a Mini Cooper or Fiat Cinquecento) by successfully completing a number of stages in countries all over the world. The aim of the game is to complete each stage in the time required while maintaining a race-worthy car and, of course, win bundles of prize money in the process. If the player consistently finishes in the top five, he is given the opportunity to upgrade his car to the next competition class.
Mirror, signal - power slide!
The most impressive thing about the game so far is not the different cars, the number of different courses, the diversity of terrains, weather or the options, but the way in which the cars handle - it really is the closest thing you will get to stepping inside a real rally car on the pc. You can, of course, attempt to complete each stage by driving sedately around the course just as you could in a real competition, but this will most likely have you crawling along the track at a snail's pace and ending up with a lousy finishing time. A better tactic is to thrash the hell out of the car, take the corners at speed, use your handbrake and let the car fly out on the bends, just like the pros do - pushing the car and yourself to the limit. That's what rally driving is really all about, and that's the way to play Power Drive - hard and fast.
Each of the eight cars in PowerDrive handle differently, depending on whether it's front- or rear-wheel drive, the length of the wheel base, brake horse power etc., and each car needs to be mastered if you are to get the best time on each stage. You must also try to get to grips with the different techniques used in rally driving, such as the handbrake turn (for taking hairpin bends at speed), the pendulum swing (for taking fast left/right bends) and the power drive (for sliding through tight chicanes) in order to make up essential time. It is only then that you will qualify for the next round and be allowed to progress onto the next stage and country.
Controlling your car is best done with a joypad like the Gravis, although joystick and keyboard options are available, but, either way, quick reactions are needed to keep the car on the track and in one piece. Your car will automatically follow a line through the course to help you, leaving you to concentrate on the speed and handling. The controls are a simple left and right affair along with accelerate and handbrake, which must be used if you are to take the fastest line through the course. The gears are automatic and shown on the screen in the form of an "h" just to let you know where you are, and you can basically leave those alone, unless you need to reverse in order to get yourself out of a tight spot. This can be engaged by a simple push of the third button on the joypad.
Smash it up - I'll take it
You start the game either with a humble, little Mini Cooper or a Fiat Cinquecento and a couple of grand in your pocket to help you on your way. It costs about Siooo dollars to enter each race and, depending on how well you do, you can expect a tidy sum if you win a stage outright or just come top within your class. Every time you race, your car inevitably sustains a certain degree of damage, depending on how you drove. If you went around the stage hitting every large brown thing with a leaf on it, the chances are your car won't be able to enter the next stage without a lot of work and expense, and it would be serious decision-making time.
At the end of each race you are given a damage report on your car and you then have to decide which bits to repair and which to leave until later. This introduces an element of strategy into the game as you attempt to juggle your finances while trying to keep your car in a race-worthy condition so that it will be allowed to remain in the competition. Should you blow all of your money on new tyres and spots because the next stage is on gravel at night? Or will you take a chance and rely on your driving skills to see you through and save your money towards a better car? If you don't make the stage you could be out of the competition altogether, but hey, look at that shiny new Celica over there, you sure could lead the pack with that baby on your trailer. Dare you risk entering a stage with a car that even Arthur Daley wouldn't sell on, or do you put your money back into the car you've got?
You're out of the competition when your car is so damaged that it is beyond repair, or when you just can't afford to keep it race-worthy. You need enough dosh to enter each stage of the competition. If you spend all of your money on kitting out your car you won't be able to enter any races, so keep an eye on that cheque book.
If you win a race, you get prize money (the sum depending on how prestigious the race) and you can either put this back into maintaining your current car in top condition or save it in order to buy another car in the next class where the stakes and rewards are much higher.
As the game progresses, you travel across the globe entering different competitions, each boasting different climates, terrains and surfaces, until you finally end up in good ole Blighty once more, where you have to enter the final and most difficult stage. If you manage to complete this you can then opt to start all over again, although this time you will have a top-class car with which to roar round the easier stages, though as the weather is random you won't always be racing in exactly the same environment.
You can also opt to keep the car you chose at the start of the game and put all of your money into keeping it totally raceworthy, only selling it once you have completed the whole competition. This allows you to race every stage with every car for even more diversity, though as it would take around seven hours to complete the competition (and that's when you know exactly what you're doing) this is a feature of the game that most will probably fail to appreciate.
As well as having the player compete against the clock on a number of stages, each country will also have a skills stage where the player must successfully manoeuvre his car around a purpose-built course, which includes controlled skids, slides, handbrake turns and reversing into tight spots for extra points. This is to serve as a kind of practice level to prepare the driver for the challenges on the next stage and to give the player a chance to put some of his skills into practice without damaging his car too much. Before you enter the competition there is also a practice area provided, which will allow you to have a go in your car in order to become familiar with the controls and the way that the vehicle handles.
Slippin' and a slidin'
Once you have mastered the basic controls you can start to experiment with the "feel" of the car and throw it around the bends using the accelerator and brake to make the car go into a controlled slide. At first this isn't as easy as it looks, but as your skill and confidence grow it soon becomes second nature as you start to automatically weigh up the quickest way in and out of a bend. Each track throws up a new challenge for the driver who will have to cope with ice, sand, gravel, tarmac, wind and rain as he progresses across the international rally circuit.
Weather is random for added realism and there are even night runs to complete at various stages in the game to test your skills that bit further.
The angle of view is a sort of isometric 45 degrees which leaves you looking down on the car from above and to the side. This sounds a bit unusual, but is actually quite intelligent as you can see a large part of the track in front of you with the car roughly in the middle of the screen at all times.
However, when you accelerate hard, the screen moves slightly ahead to allow you to see more of the track. A large arrow indicating the direction and severity of the next bend flashes up in front of the car to warn you of what to expect (acting in the place of the co-driver's pace notes) as you are required to drive each track blind with no warm up - just like the real thing.
The actual look and feel of the game is already very polished, despite it being far from complete. The programmers have all done a spot of rally driving themselves to get a feel of what it's really like to drive through a course at high speed, and this is reflected in the programming - particularly in the way in which the cars handle on screen. The sprites are large and colourful, and each of the eight cars were drawn and then shrunk to size using powerful graphics software for added detail. The various backgrounds and terrains are also detailed and quite varied, and the effects of the rain and sleet change the way they look and handle - even the rain looks pretty impressive.
There was no sound to speak of, suffice to say that the guys at Rage, who are programming the game for US Gold, are looking to include a thumping soundtrack and sampled sounds for extra realism. The game looks absolutely stunning on the snes and, although the pctends to have trouble handling this sort of high-speed scrolling, the game (which is being converted onto the pc by Denton Designs) looks as though it will be able to hold its own when compared to other driving games in the pc arena. At present the game is being designed to allow four players to compete against each other, though sadly they will not be able to actually race against each other, but rather race against the clock, just like real rally competitions. However, there will be a computer-controlled car to race against, which is one mean opponent. This car will constantly fight to take the best line through the course, nudge you out of the way and generally make your race as difficult as possible. However, because they're such softies at Rage, the designers are considering giving the player the option to race alone, just to make things that little bit easier.
There is also talk of releasing a network version that will allow players to play head to head without the compromise of a split screen, though this is still very much in the "Can we/shall we?" stage of development. So we'll just have to wait and see.
Power Drive will run on a 386 (although the faster your machine the better) and is best played with a joypad, such as the Gravis. It will be soon be released on floppy and cd-rom simultaneously and at the same price. The cd version will feature an enhanced introduction.
I cant drive. I havent sat behind the wheel of a (real) car for about six years. Six years ago, I had 33 (yes 33) driving lessons, followed by a nightmarish test in which I nearly had a head-on crash... on a roundabout (dont ask). When it comes to driving. Im as much use as a Neighbourhood Watch scheme run by Dennis Nielsen. Im only telling you this so that if, at any time, during this review, you find me saying things like: the cars handle just like the real thing, youll know that Im a lying little fib-face. Okay? Good.
All right then. Power Drive is a top-down view motor rallying game from US Gold, and it presents you with the opportunity to enter a World Rallying Championship, taking place in eight different nations. There are a total of 48 courses, with a variety of terrains and climates - sand and sun in Kenya, for instance, and ice and snow in Sweden. Furthermore, each of these courses falls into one of three categories - Time Trials (fairly self-explanatory, that), Rally Cross (basically another Time Trial, only this time theres a computer-controlled snotrag getting in your way all the time) and Special Stages (in which you have to perform a series of different manoeuvres, such as zig-zagging through a load of red cones without knocking any over - also against the clock). As youd expect, the courses get increasingly harder as you near the end of the championships, until youll find yourself doing a Marc Bolan every three seconds on the British forest trails.
Super sprint with knobs on
When you start the game, you're given some cash to spend: youve got to buy yourself a car, of course, and entering each course costs you money have to shell out for any damage you incur during a race, and if you havent got enough then youll just have to put up with driving your knackered old jalopy around until you can scrape together enough prize money to pay for the repairs - which is a bit of a downer if youve smashed your headlights into a zillion bits just before undertaking a night time stage, meaning that you end up having to use the force to navigate your way along the track as perilous corners zoom toward you in the inky darkness.
The controls are fairly simple - there's no manual gear option, although you do have to toggle between forward and reverse gears yourself (I'd have preferred the hold down the brake button method of reversing) - and lend themselves perfectly to a PC gamepad; not surprising when you consider that Power Drive is also being released in SNES and Megadrive formats.
And therein lies the problem. Power Drive is a bit of an anomaly; it strives to convey sense of realism, with the rendered car graphics, the repairs, the different terrain and the realistic (or so Im told) manner ii which the cars handle comers, and so on. and then it goes and bungs a load of Turbo" power-ups onto the track throwing, nay, hurling all aspirations of realism straight out of the nearest window and into the skip on the pavement outside: the one with Void Concept Disposal Unit spray-painted up its side in three-foot high Helvetica. For a Megadrive game, its fairly realistic; for a PC game, its unusually arcade-y.
However, thats more of a curiousity than a drawback, really. Theres nowt wrong with an odd blend of realism and video game lore, as long as its fun to play, say I. But the big problem, the one that killed Power Drive stone dead as far as I was concerned, the one that pulled out a crossbow and shot it right in the forehead with a shiny steel bolt, the one that pulled off a special finishing move, ripping the opponents arms off and beating them about the face and neck with them, was the lack of a simultaneous two-player mode. Its just not enough fun on your own. Most of the time yours is the only car on the track, racing against the clock, and when you do have some direct opposition, its only a solitary CPU driver who seems to have graduated from the James Dean school of motoring, and demonstrates his prowess by repeatedly slamming into the sides like a total arsewit. There is a multiplayer mode of sorts, in which up to eight would-be rally drivers can hold their own championship - but its a case of waiting your turn unfortunately. Boo.
Must try harder
So, as a one-player title, there just isnt enough game for me. Im sorry, okay. The graphics are fine, the sounds decent enough, the presentations all right, the night time stages look cool... but thats about it. Nothing special. You drive round and round ad nauseum, with the occasional driving test interlude. If you v drive round and round well enough, you might win enough cash to buy a slightly faster car, so you can drive round and round that little bit faster. The addition of a split-screen two-player mode would have ensured thrills and spills aplenty, not to mention at least an extra 30 points on the score Ive given it. As it stands youll be stifling a yawn after about an hour of play. If you want a great top-down racing game thatll give you a decent one-player mode, with a brilliant two-player mode chucked in as well, buy Micro Machines. If you want to drive around a track on your own 48 times in a row, buy this.
Power Drive is an arcade racing game based around rally driving. Handbrake turns and lurid powerslides are both possible, and the steering is suitably loose.
There are 3 types of stages - individual time-trials, head-to-head races against the computer, and some skill tests. There are 8 rounds of gameplay, set across countries ranging from Sweden to Kenya. You get prize money for winning races, and it costs money to repair damage.
Power Drive is an off-road racing sim in the traditional European vein - which means compact cars, not monster trucks.
Snapshots and Media
Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Screenshots
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