Long before I had the luxurious job of emptying out hot tubs and scrubbing them by hand on Paradise Island, I grew up in a small town. One of those one stoplight towns – the type of place you read about in Stephen King novels and such. But no killer clowns stalked us as children and we didn’t form some sort of killing cult in the cornfields surrounding the hamlet.
No, we did basically what all the other city kids did and still do. Be discontent, listen to punk rock, drink, do drugs and walk around at night like the little miscreants we were. But there were a few perks to rural life – at least in the absolutely forgotten (but not forgettable) Upstate New York.
Small race tracks permeate upstate – from the western frontier to the mountain ranges of central and north east New York. While never being thought of as anything more than “NYC” – the state of New York is gigantic. Sprawling woods, The Catskills and Adirondack mountain ranges. Even Appalachia runs up through the southern part of the state.
Weaving in between all of this ski country are little towns and villages and many of them have their own little hometown arena of sorts: A racetrack. Usually dirt, some times pavement. Growing up in rural New York the races are just sort of rite of the land. Even if you’re not into them you’re well aware of them.
While easy to dismiss as just a muddy oval with a bunch of hicks driving around in circles (which it is) I challenge the most disinterested to not feel the rise in heartbeat and rush of adrenaline when the roar of thirty cars greets a green flag. The tension and white knuckle competition of dozens of men and women just going for it. That drive is intoxicating and in a small way still apart of me.
FANCY INTRODUCTION VIDEO
Now don’t get me wrong. I am about as far away from a country boy as you can get. Immediately moving to a city weeks before barely stumbling across the high school graduation stage. Fifteen years ago you would have seen me vehemently deny any such upbringing. But times change.
And in the gaming world nothing has changed more than my feeling towards the Test Drive series. A series I loved growing up with, enjoyed immensely and played regularly.
A month or so ago I received a big bulk package of games I purchased from Goodwill. There were a few titles I was very excited about adding to my collection (X Files: Resist or Serve being one of them) As I was going through doing inventory of repeat games and checking discs I saw Test Drive. I was overjoyed with seeing an old favorite. Sure that it’d be an enjoyable arcade racer that I could waste hours on.
I was wrong
Now to explain why I have to take you back in time a little. You see in the 90’s there were plenty of racing titles, arcade or simulation that featured American muscle, British luxury, German engineering marvels and Japanese speed. Typically these games were set in a few iconic places around the world where you would race beautiful rare cars against one another on lush English back country roads. Occasionally dodging livestock or a police car. It was sort of like some unspoken millionaire racers club.
This was just kind of the way it was. No one even questioned it. You just sort of assumed that anyone driving a Jaguar XJ-220 around was probably just some rich dickhead.
Until 2001 rolled around and the first of two hundred Fast and Furious films came out. Once that happened – arcade racing games would be changed forever.
“The Fast and Furious effect of 2001” or “FAFE 01”(as I would refer to it years later in my college thesis at Yale University) not only changed the landscape of racing games dramatically but the entire world around us.
First off, men the world over shaved their heads. If shears weren’t an option then men and women rushed to their nearest skull cap store. Donning the new Diesel look. Vin Diesel mania had kicked off.
By the winter of 2001 not only was most of the world bald but they were pumping iron as well and even more damning for the Test Drive series – the globe was demanding less luxury and pomp in their racing games and simply more Diesel.
So video games developers had to respond to the rapidly changing market and fast and here is where Test Drive screwed up. Instead of doing any sort of research whatsoever on street racing culture, the long storied history of street racing in iconic locations like SoCal and Tokyo (“The Midnight Club”) or I don’t know, even just watching a movie about racing they said the hell with it. We’ll figure it out as we go and it’s pretty damn obvious.
The plot is pretty simple. You are some guy named Dennis Black and you are contacted by some guy named Donald Clark. Clark is a rich idiot that reminds me of Elon Musk. He’s rude and mean and apparently wheelchair bound. I give the writers credit here for making a handicapped character a total dick. That’s all the credit they’re getting from me, though.
Basically Donald is injured and wants you to race for him. Never mind the fact that we’re assuming at this point he is some sort of ridiculous millionaire that is wasting his time street racing – which the prize is a measly $1000 per victory. I just feel like a guy that could afford to own Dodge Vipers and a Hemi Cuda would be interested in higher stakes money wise.
But what do I know about being a millionaire street racer? The answer? Absolutely nothing. I’ve never been a street racer and I’ll never be a millionaire so maybe these people do exist. Who knows?
So the story sucks but that’s of little consequence. The game ultimately is just not fun. The cars take no damage whatsoever – I hit a semi truck going 210 miles per hour and the semi truck flew backwards. The racers on the track are supposed to be these characters from cutscenes but they don’t drive with any personality. It’s a very dull, repetitive and lonely experience.
It’s sad to see what once was such a strong racing series fall from grace at the turn of the century.
SHOP TIL YOU DROP
Are you kidding me?
DESERT ISLAND SONGS
The soundtrack is probably the best thing about the game. But it’s not great. It’s a strange mix of Saliva, Ja Rule, Moby and DMX. Being an old lame ass dude my favorite of these artists is Moby. So, alas the Moby banger, “Bodyrock” is my favorite song on the game.
PERIWINKLE’S LOW HANGING FRUIT PUNCH INGREDIENTS V. 2.0
1.) Vin Diesel Skull Cap (Test Drive)
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