Road Fighter review - Nintendo Entertainment System
If you asked most people what their idea of a steady job was, you'd be likely to hear answers such as "working in a bank" or "being an accountant". Not so the dangerous road racers of the world. Their idea of a steady job is racing their fast cars all around the freeways of the world in a rather dangerous fashion. The winners get a fat pile o' cash, and the losers get horribly mangled as they crash into road barriers, off cliffs and into each other.
If this is the sort of thing that appeals to you, Road Fighter is your chance to put yourself in the hot seat and take on the best racers around in a horizontally scrolling viewed-from-above drive 'em up. To win each race you must cross the finishing line before your meagre amount of fuel runs out, dodging oil slicks, other cars and incidental traffic such as huge lorries. Many tortuous courses await your vehicle. Win them all and a fortune is yours.
What the Mean Machines staff thought
Although I was warned that Road Fighter was bad, I wasn't quite prepared for the grotesque malformation of a game that assaulted my senses. Right from the cheap title screen and lack of options, Road Fighter just screams "low quality". Press the accelerate button and the speedo leaps up to several hundred kph, but your car doesn't move until the other racers are out of sight. The fuel allowance is horrendously imbalanced - you're not given enough fuel to complete the race to start with. The opposition are another flaw of Road Fighter. Half of them don't move at all, and the other half almost teleport into you as soon as they sense your presence, sending your car spinning off the road. Likewise, the hazards (namely poorly-defined oil spills) are similarly unavoidable and tend to bring about a certain death without exception. Perhaps this would be more tolerable if your fuel didn't keep counting down even when you're stationary. Control of the car is totally unrealistic, you seem to be on castors or some kind of four-wheel steering, as your car doesn't turn, it just slides across the road. Speaking of which, the courses must be the most feeble ever. Each track features about three shallow bends which a blind person could negotiate with their hands tied behind their back. Road Fighter is a game which induces sheer hatred within minutes of play. I know it's easy to put the boot in, but Road Fighter really does justify it.
Appalling, ruinous, awful, dire, hideous, tragic, frightful and ghastly are just some of the words you could use to accurately describe this festering catastrophe of a shambling mockery of a sick parody of a game cartridge. I quite honestly haven't seen a game so fantastically bad for many, many years, and the only ones I recollect being as disgustingly rubbish as this were old computer budget games that cost £1.99 each. This pustulent title costs ten times more! What's wrong with it? Well, apart from the game being unbelievably simple - there were better and more complex race games than this on the VCS in 1979 - it's also very badly designed and incredibly frustrating. The fuel limit is extremely tight, and one mistake is all you need to bring up the game over message! This is irksome enough on the early levels, but later on it's so annoying it makes you want to smash the cartridge up with anger! Heaping several more generous helpings of irritation is a totally rubbish control method. There's no inertia on the car, the brakes are hopeless and unless you've got astonishingly amazing mega-reflexes, it's almost impossible to avoid crashing into a blue car if it's on your side of the road when it comes onto the screen. Even if you remove the gameplay, there are no redeeming features. As you can see from the screenshots, the graphics are a woeful joke, with infantile sprites, brain-dead backdrops and no animation on the cars. And if you think it looks bad, wait until your hear the sad, booming cacophony of naff effects and chronic, wheezing, inept tunes. Ugh! It's definitely Black Armband day for Nintendo owners everywhere.
Dan - 31 Mar 2009, 09:35 GMT
I've still yet to play this, a legend of a game for all the wrong reasons.
TomHarte - 28 Jun 2009, 02:01 GMT
This is one of my favourite games. No, really.
Steve - 23 Nov 2009, 23:57 GMT
I actually quite like this game. Admittedly, I picked it up for a couple of quid, if I'd paid £19.99 for it at the time I'd be very annoyed but it's fun to pick up and play for ten minutes at a time. I actually only bought it as I remember this review first time round and wanted to see if it's that bad - if you've still got a NES pick up a copy of this game on eBay and see what you make of it.
Scott - 31 Dec 2011, 18:58 GMT
Taking Steves advice, I tried it and it isn't nearly as bad as they have stated. hm.
trip2themoon - 12 Jan 2013, 18:18 GMT
@Steve: That's easy to say 20 years after the review was written.