When a racing game goes back to its retro roots, they often can be placed into two camps. One camp will be a purist, offering a pure nostalgia kick without any quality of life improvements. The other will add in some modern-day twists to ease players back into the hardcore world of retro games. 80’s Overdrive is in the former camp and that offers a mixed bag of results.
Taking huge inspiration from Outrun and Chase HQ, 80’s Overdrive is a wonderfully vibrant throwback to driving down a giant motorway whilst avoiding traffic. In many ways, this gameplay loop is still as enchanting and addictive as its always been so long as there is plenty to keep you on your toes. 80’s Overdrive does this by placing you against 9 AI drivers as you race across an island broken into lots of different races. These vary in location theme, size and traffic density and all costs money to enter. You earn cash based on your results which you’ll then use to improve your car, repair the damage you may (will) have received from other cars or hitting the scenery and you’ll need to pay for fuel. As you improve, you’ll do better and open up tougher, longer, more densely packed races.
Adding in an extra variant, police will also chase you down. Taking from Road Rage, these cops charge at you from behind and then slam on the breaks to try to crash you out. You’ll need to swerve to avoid them but in doing so miss the ongoing traffic. It takes a while to get the knack of cop avoidance but after a few goes it clicks. Doing this alongside a decent synthwave soundtrack and beautifully vibrant visuals adds to the spectacle.
The purest area of the game is the handling though and this is where my personal grievances with the game are. The steering is either full lock or nothing at all. There is no in-between or modulation that you have in modern arcade racers. This places you right back at the early days of racers where you’d hug the inside curb and hope the corner was short enough not to spit you out at the end as you turned. This makes a lot of the precise movement required late in the game to feel especially clunky and not in a good way half of the time. Where it really comes to light is in the time trial mode – which is basically Outrun mode. Here, instead of racing AI, you race the clock. You can gain seconds back on the timer by nearly missing traffic which shows up on your radar but it is difficult to do in the corners. You have to weirdly triangulate your cut across them instead of being able to drive lane by lane next to them and it doesn’t feel nearly as satisfying or precise. Purists will still enjoy this, I have no doubt, but I personally would have preferred some nuance to the steering and braking.
Where the game does modernise is in its track creation. Using various sliders for corners, bumps, traffic, police and length, you can generate tracks with ease. They come with a code that you can share with others although there are no leaderboards online – just locally.
I enjoyed my time with 80’s Overdrive but also felt it was slightly hampered by its lack of evolution with the steering itself. Considering that is a huge, if not the main part of a racing game, that may sway your judgement if the all or nothing approach doesn’t appeal to you. As such, move the score up or down one to suit.
PC Version played and tested, 3DS version also available.
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