For all my gaming history, I’ve never really given a lick about straightforward racing games. You know, the kind where you pick a realistic car, drive around on a realistic track, and make realistic turns, doing all of this for a set number of laps and aiming for first place. I think the closest I came to owning something of this ilk was Midnight Club: Street Racing. Though a fuzzy part of my brain also remembers a Need for Speed title in the stack next to my consoles, but don’t make me figure out which one. Other than that, I pretty much stuck to car combat-style racers, like Vigilante 8, or free-roaming hijinks in Smuggler’s Run. Before those though, there was Impact Racing.
I absolutely know why I bought Impact Racing, way back in the summer of 1996–its cover. I mean, just look at the thing. It has explosions and speed and frickin’ laser beams coming right at you. It certainly stood out against other car-laden covers at the time, and yes, yes, yes, I know. One should never judge anything by its cover alone, but I was a doe-eyed teenager with illusions of grandeur, and so this just screamed stellar at me from the shelf. Alas, I don’t remember it being extremely amazing, suffering from trying to be two very different styles of games compacted into one offering. Still, I should’ve never traded it in.
Developed by Funcom Dublin, who also worked on the colorfully cartoonish Speed Punks, Impact Racing gave players more objectives than simply coming in first place. Each race boiled down to doing the following two tasks: complete laps before the allotted time expires and destroy a specific number of enemy cars. This made each go nerve-wrecking, and if you ended up focusing more on one goal than the other, chances are you’d fail by either a few seconds or exploded vehicles.
Since there are no pit stops or excursions off the course, the best plan of action is to floor the gas, obliterate every and any car drifting into your path, and make it back to the finish line before time runs out. Power-ups can be picked up for bonuses, like extra time, energy, or new weapons, though there’s also a nasty, almost Mario Kart-like pick-up called “flipview,” which, to no one’s surprise, turns your entire screen upside-down, as well as reverses the controls for steering. Avoid at all cost if you’re out to win. Either way, with this power-ups and the two somewhat contradictory goals, driving in Impact Racing is high-tension, all the time.
There are a total of twelve racing variations in Impact Racing via three different main tracks (city, mountain, and frickin’ laser beam-inspired space), and then mixed up through various modes, like mirror, night, or the dreaded night-mirror. At the time of its release, I have to believe this looked amazing. I have to. Unfortunately, now that I spent some time looking up screenshots and gameplay videos for this post, it just looks like a muddy mess, with strange, garbled textures and a less-than-pleasing user interface. Plus, we’ve all seen better sky-boxes. I’m sure as a teenager I looked past that and only saw launching missiles at cars, but it can’t be ignored nowadays. That said, considering you were driving armored cars at upwards of 200 mph, the sense of speed was nicely delivered, and a robotic man-voice gives you updates as you go. If there was a soundtrack, I recall nothing.
Has there ever been a game like Impact Racing in the eighteen years since it came out of the auto shop? Sure, there’s been plenty of racing games and a couple car combat games not called Twisted Metal, but I can’t seem to find many examples where someone tried to fuse both elements together again. Maybe it’s for the best. I guess the best I can do for now is to load up some Crash Team Racing, create a custom battle round, and blow up as many karts with missiles and mines while timing myself on the side. So it goes.
GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.