"When the Dreamcast was released in the U.S. on September 9, 1999, it had a bevy of varied launch games to back it up. Some were titles everyone knew and had to get, like SoulCalibur and Sonic Adventure, then there were the rest, the "second choices" that spanned many genres: action, racing, sports, and so on. It was easy to get lost in the shuffle, fallen to obscurity, and it happened with quite a few. Hardcore Heat was such a GD-ROM, an off road-ish racing game of the arcadey kind."
When the Dreamcast was released in the U.S. on September 9, 1999, it had a bevy of varied launch games to back it up. Some were titles everyone knew and had to get, like SoulCalibur and Sonic Adventure, then there were the rest, the "second choices" that spanned many genres: action, racing, sports, and so on. It was easy to get lost in the shuffle, fallen to obscurity, and it happened with quite a few. TNN Motorsports Hardcore Heat was such a GD-ROM, an off road-ish racing game of the arcadey kind. It was one of those titles I took interest in around the launch, only to stay away thanks to the overall consensus of it being a waste of time. Still, I wanted to play it one of these days, at a cheap price, and when I eventually stopped forgetting its existence, because I figured it was going to be one of those "good" wastes of time.
Well, guess it was a good thing I only spent $10 on it instead of the full price 12 years ago, would've been pretty upset passing up Sega Rally 2 for this. Numbness and confusion are all I remember when playing through it for one hour, and I ultimately contribute that to the vehicle handling. I know the controls are supposed to change a lot due to Hardcore Heat's off road nature, but even so, after I tried understanding the handling mechanics, the game continued to mystify me; no matter how well I made a sharp turn, how much I observed the A.I. driver movements, it always felt like I screwed up, making the entire playthrough one big guessing game. There were plenty of moments where I'd make slight turns, only to watch my speeds go from 80mph to a horrifying 30.
An interesting, crazy thing about the controls, too, is how they are supposedly an improvement from the game's Japanese version, Buggy Heat. An improvement?! It's scary to think how the original version played in comparison to this.
Another problem with Hardcore Heat is one I'm also thankful for, given the game's previous issue. When I said I only played for one hour, I wasn't implying that's how long it was played before quitting... the game was completed in that span of time. There's only a total of six courses, which the game forces you to replay most times in the three difficulties offered, the only difference between settings is that of slight, slight weather changes and an increase in speed for the top two A.I. racers. Even with the whack handling (accommodated by occasional cursing), I was able to complete each setting, easily memorizing track layouts after one lap. However, the two A.I. racers did make it annoyingly hard to stay in first place as progress was made, since, even after witnessing them bumping into barriers, they appeared to lack any decrease in speed. Thankfully, Hardcore Heat accepted third placement as "winning".
It's too bad how the game turned out, since there are some neat aspects to it. The courses actually have nice structures and turns to them, and really look different from one another. The first race takes place at a small town with an oceanic view, there's a Egyptian level where you drive through ancient ruins and pillars, and a track featured on Japanese highways and tunnels. The constantly changing terrain is put to good use in certain stages, forcing players to pay close attention to the roads; there'll be holes and logs scattered in one stage, a street under construction in another, and bumps that launch your vehicle into barriers if you're reckless. This is probably too trivial to mention, but there's even this bizarre camera angle that shows the insides of your car in the lower left corner of the screen, viewing your character model steering, shifting gears, and braking. It doesn't sound impressive now, but back when the Dreamcast was brand new, it was unusual for a console to show off this level of 3D horsepower.
But a game needs more than pretty locales and tricks to be a good product, and that's where Hardcore Heat fails at. A few short months afterwards was the release of Sega Rally 2, and while it has its share of problems, did a better job of showing what an arcade-style off road racer should be like, what Hardcore Heat could've achieved. That game has a huge selection of cars, vehicle handling that makes more sense, and longer replay value under the guise of the 10-year mode, featuring a slew of varied track designs and challenges. TNN Motorsports Hardcore Heat may have been lost in the sea of launch titles, but at least it happened to a bad game, and quickly outdone by a better one, too.
Community review by pickhut (February 15, 2012)
Alternative tagline: Hit the Road, Jack.
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