Classic game compilations are apparently this year’s “hot button”. Everyone from Tecmo to Taito have one on the shelves or on the way. The best part about all these is that we as gamers get an abundance of games for a budget price. Midway has been one of the more generous companies with compilations. With last year’s stellar MAT2 which featured arcade perfect renditions of Mortal Kombat 2 & 3, they have released some of the best collections in recent memory. This year they have decided to go with a racing theme. Packing in eight of their best racing titles onto one sexy DVD for less than 20 bones, where do I sign up?
The first game we are going to discuss, and probably the true highlight of the compilation, is Rush 2049. I am sure all the arcade buffs remember the San Francisco Rush series back in the glory days of arcades. Midway has opted to go the easier route on this one and simply port the absolutely stellar Dreamcast version for this collection. While some purists will probably throw a fit I find it an extremely intelligent move for one simple reason, multi-player. The DC version had support for up to four player action plus an addictive battle mode in the vein of Twisted Metal.
The port has also been polished to take advantage of the faster hardware. Lightning quick load times and smoother frame rates are certainly appreciated, not to mention that this game has aged extremely well over the past five years. The tracks are still fun and the over-the-top handling and crashes make this game a blast to play for anyone who loves old-school arcade racers.
Also included in this “arcade” collection is the DC version of Hydro Thunder. Once again Midway chose this version simply because of the split screen play. Taking Hydro Thunder from the arcade to home loses a little in translation because of giant seat used in the coin-op version. Regardless HT still satisfies your primal hunger for fast paced racing action with gigantic drops and killer whales. This port has also been sped up thanks to the faster processing power of the newer consoles and is just as much fun to play today as it was on the DC and arcades back in the 90’s.
To compliment the Rush 2049 Midway also opted to add in the follow up to the smash arcade hit that started the Rush craze, San Francisco Rush: The Rock. This was basically an expanded version of Rush with added tracks. This port is directly from the arcade so no multi-player was added into the mix. The game does however run at a blistering 60 frames per second with only minor hiccups in intense situations.
MAT 3 also includes the multi-player-less Off-Road Thunder. This was a lesser known arcade racer in the same style as Hydro Thunder only with Monster Trucks. This game seems to have received less attention from the developers showcasing the same lacking textures and poor frame rate of its arcade cousin. The tracks are fun the first or second go-around, but after a while you begin to crave the competition of human opponents. Support for Xbox LAN or online would have been greatly appreciated and prolonged the life of all of these titles, but it hurts the single player ones the most.
Now we take a trip back into truly old school with Super Off-Road and Badlands, the two only 2D racers in this compilation. The best part about these two games is that multi-player support is not limited because it all takes place on a single screen. Tearing up some Super Off-Road with three of your buddies is certainly a trip back to the glory days of arcade domination, when home versions were actually inferior to their arcade counterparts. The one downside to both titles is that they used the spinning wheel in the arcade, sure it’s not as much fun as it was then, but who are you to argue for only $20 in this day and age?
Now for the bottom of the barrel, Midway opted to add in two of their first 3D racers, Race Drivin’ and Stun Runner. Both titles haven’t aged as well as the rest of the pack, but do contain a certain charm for those of us old enough to remember their arcade brethren. Race Drivin’ is a follow-up to MAT 2’s Hard Drivin’ and contains the same slow paced action and stale visuals. Stun Runner is more of a twitch based action racer, both of these games do suffer frame rate problems and really feel like they deserve the title of old-school.
What all of this boils down to is, if you are a fan of old-school arcade racers than this compilation is a blessing. If you despise racing games than simply do not purchase this collection, you will not find anything here to your liking. Midway continues to deliver great games at a great value with these compilations and here is to hoping they continue the trend into the next generation of hardware. I am still waiting on my collection that includes arcade version of MK 4 and of course the Saturn only release, Ultimate MK 3. A great purchase for the price, especially for those of us with a sweet tooth for arcade racers.