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I remember being obsessed with RC cars back in my more formative years. At least 3 Christmases that I can remember were spent in a freezing back yard, remotely guiding a shiny new vehicle around a variety of hastily knocked together circuits where discarded bricks and piles of old twigs were quickly refashioned into crash barriers, bustling pit lanes and towering grandstands full of roaring race-goers. Halcyon days indeed...apart from the one Christmas when I got a Tyco Traxx that broke after about 10 minutes of rallying it over some mud. Or the time my brother drove another car off a ramp on the edge of kitchen table at full speed with every intention of inflicting maximum damage. A mission which was completed with IMF-style efficiency, I hasten to add. Over time though, the fascination slowly dwindled and the batteries that were once gobbled up by said plastic vehicles were snatched by a plethora of power-hungry handheld gaming devices...and the rest is history.

Moving swiftly on (but getting slower and slower as the batteries drain), racing games and the Dreamcast go hand in hand. Or should that be controller/race wheel in hand? Probably - nay, most definitely - an irrelevance when we're dealing with multiple impenetrable layers of metaphor, but the fact of the matter remains: the Dreamcast has some absolutely stonking racing titles. As I mentioned in the not-too-distant past, pretty much every genre is catered for on Sega's little beige/yellow lozenge of joy. There are arcade racers aplenty; more serious simulations; cartoony kart 'em ups (quite literally when you consider Wacky Races and Looney Tunes Space Race); and even a couple of lovely Formula 1 games if that's your particular bag of choice.

But what if you're after a link to the past (heh) as I am? What if you want to re-live those bygone days (aka last Wednesday) standing wellington-clad in a puddle and whizzing your little toy car around? What are your options other than going to Argos and y'know, just buying an actual RC car? Well, while it's not strictly true that the RC racer has completely vanished from our consoles and PC monitors - just look at Motor Storm RC and Table Top Racing on the PS Vita, the Choro Q series, and RC Mini Racers on iPad/Mac - the RC racer is not a genre that has been very prominent on the modern systems. Any by modern systems, I mean the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and their respective successors. The Dreamcast though, has no less than three of the little blighters. How do they compare to playing with the real thing? And more importantly, how do they compare to each other? Read on to find out, Mon'Amie...

Toy Racer
This is by far the easiest of the three games to investigate, simply because there is so little to actually investigate. Toy Racer was a spin-off from Toy Commander that utilised many of the aforementioned game's assets to create an online-only, four player racer that was designed to pique interest in the Dreamcast's internet functionality. It may be a little unfair to include Toy Racer in this little list as it isn't a full blown game - playing it today is an unsatisfying experience to say the least, especially as there are only four tracks and no AI competitors in races. Naturally, back when the Dreamcast was still in the picture, Toy Racer's complement of adversaries would have comprised other human beings logged in through Dream Arena (all six billion of them) and the main premise was to beat the other humans playing on their Dreamcasts around Europe.
Alas, today it is a rather singular experience as No Cliche decided, no doubt at Sega's behest, to include exactly zero in the way of a single player experience. All you can do nowadays is race around the 4 oddly-designed tracks on your own, picking up turbos and missiles and firing them at nobody in particular. I can imagine Toy Racer could have been quite fun with other players, seeing as the handling model of Toy Commander has been replaced with a much more user-friendly one. Vehicles all handle very well and have a really nice centrifugal suspension effect where they lean to one side as you slide around corners. Visually it is very rudimentary, and the tracks (again, of which there are only four) are all comprised of assets from the main Toy Commander you have a loose kitchen-based one, a bedroom based one etc etc. If No Cliche had fleshed Toy Racer out and turned it into a proper game rather than an 'online only' sideshow, this could have been one of the Dreamcast's hidden gems. As is...give it a whirl if you find it cheap (you will).

Originally an N64 cart, ReVolt is probably the only title many gamers will associate with RC racing. Developed and published by defunct outfit Acclaim, ReVolt was one of the N64's most highly respected racers and the inclusion of a hi-res Expansion Pak mode meant it was also one of the system's best looking games. I first played ReVolt on the Nintendo platform and remember buying the Dreamcast port simply to see if it was any better...and I have to admit that while I was sceptical as to whether there would be any improvement, I was pleasantly surprised to find a game that far surpassed it's predesessor. Not that the Dreamcast version of ReVolt is a sequel as such - it's basically the same game but with vastly improved visuals, vehicle handling and an extra environment thrown in for good measure. It's quite interesting now that I think about it - there is a lot of outcry currently about games being re-released on the PS4 and Xbox One that are simply the same games as found on the last gen systems but with a lick of graphical paint (see Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition)...yet it was going on in the Dreamcast/N64/PS1 era too, and ReVolt is a perfect example.

But what of the game itself? Well, ReVolt is a racer in which you get to drive an RC car around a multitude of circuits against other vehicles. As is the norm in this style of game, you can collect weapons to use against the other racers and these range from fireworks to bowling balls. The best bit about ReVolt though, is that all the circuits are based in locations where it would actually be fun to race RC cars. There's a neighbourhood - complete with sections that go through living rooms and under parked cars and through sewer pipes; a supermarket; a museum, and even a toy shop. The Dreamcast port also had an exclusive 'roof tops' environment that saw racers battle for pole position atop a cluster of skyscrapers. Elsewhere, ReVolt featured a fairly comprehensive career mode where it was possible to unlock new classes where you could graduate from battery powered models to petrol engined vehicles, and also a full-on track designer. It had some great music too. ReVolt is a great game and is also fairly cheap to get hold of these days, so if you're new to Dreamcast collecting it'd be a shame to miss out on this game.

Stunt GP
Another game released by a masterful development house of yesteryear, Team17's Stunt GP is the ying to ReVolt's yang. While it still (obviously) features RC cars, this title limits the races to the professional style where everything is conducted on purpose-built tracks. There is no straying off the beaten track here, my friend: even though there are multiple countries to race in, there is a definite air that you are taking part in an RC race - the track is laid out and you must race the way organisers want you to. So whereas ReVolt has you battling beneath the legs of a dinosaur fossil on the polished floors of a science museum, Stunt GP will always have you contained on a proper, asphalt or wooden track. That's not to say the tracks aren't awesome though - the twists and turns, climbs, drops and loops are a marvel to behold in Stunt GP - especially as the camera has a habit of pulling back and letting you view your aerial adventures in all their splendour. Indeed, as the name of the game suggests, Stunt GP actively encourages the player to engage in any number of ridiculous and spectacular stunts, as well as trying to win the race they may also be taking part in. Your reward for pulling off these flips and somersaults are points which can then be spent on extra parts for your vehicle - lighter chassis, better engines and battery packs, more grippy tyres etc.

Unlike ReVolt, Stunt GP is rooted firmly in pseudo reality, so there are no weapon pickups as such, but conversely you need to keep an eye on your battery or fuel level. To it's detriment, Stunt GP doesn't have a track editor - something you would think ideal in a game of this ilk, but what it does have is a stupendous championship mode which traverses all 30 circuits in the game and features all the tactics of battery charging and upgrading that you'd expect an F1 simulator to employ. Also, and similarly to ReVolt, Stunt GP has a corking make sure you crank the volume up. Elsewhere, you'll find a four player split-screen mode, arcade and stunt modes to hold the attention. Stunt GP also looks absolutely fantastic - most of the courses are pretty compact so you can view the whole track in most cases: get to the zenith of a circuit and turn back on yourself and you can examine the whole thing laid out before you, with no fogging whatsoever. Sadly, the frame rate suffers in places but this is a small price to pay for such a glorious racing experience. AI is perfectly balanced and the vehicle handling is suitable considering these are meant to be miniature toys. All in all it is a superlative title. So the question remains:

The best RC racer on the Dreamcast is...

It's a tough choice, I wont deny. Toy Racer can't really compete with the big boys so let's discount that one straight away; the main event is between ReVolt and Stunt GP. Both games offer excellent visuals, cracking music and their own individual style of racing. ReVolt is more about the weaponry, while Stunt GP is more about racing skill. They both have their individual merits - ReVolt has a full track editor and a more varied array of environments, whereas Stunt GP offers vehicle upgrades aplenty and a great variety of play modes. But ultimately, like the Highlander, there can be only one.

The best RC racer on the Dreamcast is...


It's the full package - loads of tracks, loads of cars, great music and ultimately it is a lot of fun to play. Stunt GP is also a worthy title, but in this competition it finishes as runner up.
Get some ReVolt it in your Dreamcast, you will not be disappoint!


Aaron said...

I want to say I owned Toy Racer at one point. Would it have killed Sega to include computer AI cars to fill races?

I do have StuntGP, and it is fun, but can be quite the challenge.

Tomleecee said...

I think Toy Racer was more of an experiment than anything - it even retailed for around £5 new. But yeah, even a couple of AI cars to race against would have been something.

hman said...

Great article I own all three and kinda like them all. I wish there was a complete game save of stunt gp somewhere on the internet so I could race with all the cars, I'm terrible at that game and can't finish it.

Tomleecee said...

Thanks for reading! Yeah, a lot of people say the same thing about Stunt GP. My problem with it is that I get to the final race of the Championship with a certain victory on the cards...and the game just resets to the system menu screen! How annoying is that?! Tried it in two different systems so I think it must be another case of disk rot :(

hman said...

It might be cool to see a comparison between the 3 4x4 racing games 4 wheel thunder Tnn Hardcore heat and 4x4 evolution. That is if you run out of ideas for things to write about

Tomleecee said...

Thanks hman - that's a good idea for a post. Although there are plenty more ideas for articles to come!

hman said...

I know the yard always has great content

zilti said...

Toy Racer actually also has a 4-player split screen mode.