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Time for yet another 'never have I ever' kind of introduction, for never have I ever played Virtua Racing, to my knowledge, in any form, at any time. I know of Virtua Fighter and Virtua Tennis, so I guess sticking Virtua in front of something probably means Sega made a game of that something at some point?
I like racing games. I don't consider myself anywhere near an expert at them, but I know enough to get me through at least a few races. Might explode along the way, depending on the game, but I'll manage. As such, I'm looking forward to seeing what Virtua Racing is all about.
I started with the Sega Mega Drive port and was rather enjoying what it had to offer. Alongside the main mode (race through checkpoints until you run out of time) is a free play/time trial mode and a two-player mode, which is pretty much all you need in a racing game.
While the graphics take quite the hit when compared to the arcade original (and the sound isn't exactly pleasant either), this Virtua Racing port isn't too bad. It comes complete with the animated viewpoint switching, the 'V.R. View System', of the arcade game, where the camera will swoop down from high above your car all the way through it into your drivers head, with each of the stops along the way offering their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on circuit and personal preference.
These views are very welcome, as the Mega Drive doesn't exactly have the fidelity needed to give drivers a proper heads up in some cases. These signs indicate that, after them, there is a ruddy great big wall and that you really should be on this side of the track if you don't want to flip out, for example. Very easy to miss when they don't look like arrows until you're practically on top of them.
The graphics also show off the way the tracks are built, with the background/skybox not reacting in any way to the way the track leans and turns depending on whether you're on a slope or not, which happens quite a lot, it's just occurred to me. I thought racing tracks were a little bit flatter than these...
Anyway, once you've got your eye in and have learnt the track layouts enough to not need to rely on the graphics to point you in the right direction, the main stumbling block for you is whether or not you'll be able to get to grips with the handling of your car.
It's not too bad to be fair, but there were times when it felt that easing off the accelerator or hammering the brake just wasn't working, and the quickest fix was to spin out and rejoin the race a second or two later, which is obviously not a good tactic in any mode, frankly.
Despite climbing through the field (or at least as high as 6th-ish), I would often fall right back down, finishing in double digits.
Further Fun Times
I liked the game, though, and checked out the 32X version, which is clearly better than the Mega Drive, almost a night and day difference. The graphics are much closer to the arcade title (and yet still quite some way away), and it all lead towards a better experience.
I was able to see the track more, and earlier. I felt I had more control over my vehicle. I still span out far too often, so I'm not fully in tune with the controls, but I had a better time of things.
Having a better time doesn't shake the feeling that there wasn't a lot of life in Virtua Racing. The lack of tracks and cars is mitigated a little by more tracks and cars in the deluxe 32X version, but despite this being a great 3D racer, I don't see myself climbing into the seat for another few laps anytime soon.
I watched the arcade version, and that is a must play, it looks fantastic. The home console ports could only dream of being that good, but if that's all there was available to play, they're not too shabby. Definitely a distant second, though, so I'll be on the lookout for an arcade run of Virtua Racing before declaring anything more concrete.
If you just want a quick race, you can do far worse than Virtua Racing.
The Deluxe Arcade version had airbags inflating and deflating in the seats to give off the sensation of turning and braking as though racing a real vehicle.
Virtua Racing, developed by Sega AM R&D2, first released in 1992.
Versions played: Sega Mega Drive, 1994, via emulation
Virtua Racing Deluxe, Sega 32X, 1994, via emulation
Versions watched: Multiple (Ace9921, teh2Dgamer)