Hard Rock Racing is a really hard game to review. Why? Because if you took it at face value, you would probably cringe at the cardboard flat roads, low polygonal environments and bland textures and write it off as another indie project that shouldn’t have made the cut. And to some extent you would be right, the game looks pretty rubbish. But once you get into Hard Rock Racing, you’ll be taken on a rip-roaring, adrenaline pumping and sometimes frustrating ride that really captures the essence of enjoyment in a game. So half of me is saying that the game fails on one of the most basic levels; the graphics, yet the other recognises how much fun I have had with this title so far. Which one do I go with, my head or my heart?
Hard Rock Racing Gameplay
Hard Rock Racing is what I would call the result of a load of adrenaline junky racers ransacking a nuclear weapons factory and deciding it would be a good idea to ‘customise’ their rides. And when I say customise, I don’t mean adding a few sponsorship stickers on the bonnet, I mean adding a ton homing missiles and mines. The number of explosions that Hard Rock Racing manages to cram onto one screen is terrific. With 10 cars in each race, all letting it rip with their new combustible weaponry, the game is a joy to play whether you’re slouching in last place or racing ahead in first.
Hard Rock Racing demands a lot of trial and error. Likelihood is that you won’t win a race the first time… or the second… and probably not the third either. There is a huge learning curve to get over before you can truly enjoy this game and this may put off a lot of gamers who’ll get frustrated at the game’s tricky first few levels. But even if you’re forced to restart a race over and over just to get that perfect racing line through the pack, it never becomes repetitive. This is because each race is different and interesting. Firing 3 concurrent homing missiles and marvelling as they twist and turn within themselves, seeking out their prey never seems to get old. Once you master the controls and sometimes unresponsive steering in Hard Rock Racing you’ll be cruising your way to an explosive victory.
But as a reviewer of course, I need to scrutinise a game’s technical feats and failings as well as its gameplay. If I were to put my analytical glasses on and look at Hard Rock Racing I would comment on how the game is riddled with graphical insecurities and glitches, the controls lead you facing a wall too many times and that getting yourself out of such a situation can be slow and tedious. Navigating each track themselves seems very unpredictable and you get the feeling that you are not in control of your car as much as you would want to be. The tyres seem to stick to the tarmac like glue making smooth drifting around tight corners impossible. As a result, it’s extremely easy to lose control of your vehicle to the point that a misplaced pebble could have you flipping and spinning into last place.
That’s if the ground beneath you wasn’t as flat as a piece machine-cut steel. As mentioned, the graphics are pretty shoddy in Hard Rock Racing. The square hedges look like they came from a toddler’s TV show set in squareville, the trees are flat and the textures are just bad.
Content-wise, it’s a mixed bag. The game offers a load of race tracks to play through on each of the three difficulty modes. Some are lap based whereas others involve a straight out sprint to the finish line. The multiplayer is a ghost town at the moment and I don’t see it being that much fun because if you mess up the ability to restart the race in rage isn’t possible unlike the campaign. There is a Free Roam mode but that just allows you to roam an empty and pretty boring city with no objective. I would love to have seen unlockable cars – the ability to change their colour at least – more variation in weaponry and different race modes like destruction. Whether they will be implemented in a Hard Rock Racing 2, I don’t know.
Shades off, looking at Hard Rock Racing in such a light doesn’t do it any justice, because this game isn’t meant to be taken seriously. The shear enjoyment had when you’re planting sneaky mines to trip up pursuing buggies or launching a volley of almost-inescapable homing missiles at the doomed first place car ahead (all the while listening to some awesome rock music) is just an experience that can’t be beaten by some of the more formal and pretty bland racers out there. Heart – 1 Head – 0.
Price: $4.99 (£4.99)
Description: An Indie Combat Racer with Lots of Explosions
Pros: Fun when you get into it, challenging AI.
Cons: Crap graphics, a bit temperamental.
Advised Control Method: All (keyboard control)