Genre: Action Developer: Mcom Publisher: Accolade Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
Lost in the shifting sands of the time there’s a little game called Combat Cars. It’s often referred to (if referred to at all) as a Micro Machines clone. Having never played Micro Machines, I don’t know whether that’s true or not. What I do know is that Combat Cars is a very nice arcade racer that’s worth being played and referred to without MM‘s shadow looming over the conversation. Let’s take a look at it, eh? As you can assume from the introduction, Combat Cars is, first and foremost, a racing game. And every race needs something to liven up the action, right?
Enter the weapons.
Each racer has a different weapon that he/she totes to the starting line and can use to make all sorts of mischief. Their are eight racers to pick from, each having a unique weapon and car stats. One has a homing missile, another a machine gun, and still others have oil slicks, glue globs, land mines, smoke clouds and even boosters which hurtle you down the track at an outrageous speed.
As with most racers, you can upgrade your car at the end of every race in the trackside shop. You can amp up your acceleration, brakes, top speed, and even the uses of your weapon. All of this costs money, of course. Money that can be earned in quite a few ways. There are 4 laps to every race, and every time you complete a lap you earn a certain amount of money depending on your ranking. You also get money for the time left on the clock at the end of the race and for the number of uses left on your weapon. About the time – when you finish a lap you gain some time on the clock, which is always counting down. (duh) If you run out of time you’re fried.
Speaking of fried, I think it’s time to address a problem with Combat Cars: The difficulty. This game is HARD! It’s really not even an option to try to complete all of the 28 tracks…ever. All it takes to get a “game over” is to not place in the top three. That’s right, if you’re on level 10 and place 4th by a half second, it’s “game over” for you and you start at the beginning. No money. Nothing. Might as well turn it off and back on and it’d be the same thing. The lack of second chances is appalling.
Time to talk about the track design. The tracks start out rather bland, with only a few twists and turns, but as you keep going they get cooler. Combat Cars is not a stunt racer, so don’t expect any ramps, etc. And it isn’t a death match game, so don’t expect wide open spaces in which to waste others. Just lots of narrow pathways in which to powerslide and commit other racing trickiness. In summary, the first tracks are just linear deals with twists and turns, but as you get deeper into the game there are some interesting developments, like multiple pathways.
The graphics of Combat Cars do the job. The backgrounds are all hand-drawn (no stupid digitized stuff here) and fit the game well. They’re colorful, nicely drawn, and all that. One beef of mine is that there are literally no moving objects in the backgrounds, but considering the fact that you’re blazing through the courses at over 200 miles an hour with your gaze riveted on your car and the track in front of you, I don’t think you’d notice them anyway. The game is played from a top down viewpoint, which is a nice change from scaling-plagued first person racers.
Sound – not so good. The library of sound effects consists of really only one effect that you can actually notice – the squealing of your tires…
…which you will hear for almost every second of every race.
And it gets kind of annoying…but not too annoying. Other than the squealing there are just a few thuds when you get hit by a weapon or something. Interestingly though, I can’t think of any sound effects I would add to the game if I could. Why? Well, for one thing, the music pretty much drowns out any sound effects and that’s a good thing.
The music in Combat Cars consists of that familiar techno sound so common in Genesis games. Fast beats, driving bass, etc, and it’s cool music. Sometimes I found myself nodding in beat to the tunes…something I never do. I’d have to say that music is a high point of Combat Cars. Each track has a different piece of music, so there isn’t a ton of repetition.
It’s time for any last objections to the game. My biggest one (aside from the one-chance-and-you’re-dead
thing) is probably the lopsidedness of the weapons. One of the characters (Andrew) has a homing missile, for crying out loud! Which would you pick, a weapon that can take out anyone within a mile without even aiming, or a glue glob that supposedly messes up the enemy’s steering for a few seconds? The homing missile, of course. And so people get bored with the game because they feel compelled to select only one character over and over and over…But actually I have more fun with the other characters. It feels like more of an accomplishment to win a race toting an anti-auto mine than to win a race toting a rack of seeker missiles.
In summary, Combat Cars is a great little arcade racer that will keep you happy for a while. It’s satisfied my ‘racer craving’ many times, and this is one little cart I’m glad to own. (On a side note, Combat Cars is the second game in a two game series – the first is Fun Car Rally, which doesn’t have weapons…) Anyway, Combat Cars is cheap, it’s rather common, and it’s a whole lotta fun. Go for it.