Virtua Racing Deluxe is an update to the original Virtua Racing released in arcades in October of 1992 and launched with Sega's 32x in November of 1994. The 32x release adds 2 new cars and tracks in addition to the original Formula car and 3 tracks of the arcade and Genesis releases.
The original Virtua Racing was one of the first 3D polygon based racing games available. The 32x version is not as pretty as the arcade version, but still looks great. Everything in the game is fully rendered with polygons including all of the rival racers, environments, and track side details. Everything is flat shaded (no textures or shading effects) but it is easy to make out what things are supposed to be. The scrolling backgrounds also look good and help define the 5 different environments.
The real crowning achievement of Virtua Racing Deluxe is the frame rate. Even with 15 cars on the screen the frame rate stays silky smooth which adds to the playability. There is some pop-up as your cruise along, but nothing that adversely affects the game play. It's really too bad more 32x games didn't look this good.
The main meat of Virtua Racing Deluxe is the "Virtua Racing" mode. From here you get to select one of three cars:
- Formula - This is an open wheel car, resembling Formula One cars of the era. It's quick and grippy.
- Stock - This is a "NASCAR" styled stock car. It is the clumsiest handling car, but also drifts the best, letting you get pretty sideways before the grip gives out.
- Prototype - This resembles Le Mans prototype cars of the era. The prototype car is the quickest car, but does not have as much grip as the formula car.
After selecting your car, you can choose an automatic or manual transmission. The manual transmission has more gears (7 total) and offers a higher top speed. After selecting your car and transmission, you get to select one of 5 tracks, the last 2 being new for Virtua Racing Deluxe:
- Big Forest - This is the easiest course featuring long straights and mild turns.
- Bay Bridge - This track features a long straight over a bridge and features a lot of tight turns.
- Acropolis - The biggest track in the game features a couple of long straights and plenty of tight and medium turns.
- High Land - This track is based on city streets and features a lot of 90 degree turns.
- Sand Park - This track takes place in the desert and features a lot of elevation changes. It is also the only track with an alternative route.
After selecting your options you get to race against 15 computer controlled racers. This is where Virtua Racing Deluxe really shines. The controls in the game are very responsive and work well with the Genesis's controller. The excellent controls make weaving through traffic a blast. In Big Forest, you start from pit lane and enter the action in 8th place. On all other tracks, it is a standing start and you begin in 16th position. In addition to trying to win the race, there is also a timer than counts down. It replenishes when you go through a checkpoint that are scattered through the tracks.
To be successful at Virtua Racing Deluxe, you need to brake before turns, turn into the apex, and accelerate out. You cannot simply run wide open throttle or you will spin out and hit walls. Overall though, the games physics lean more towards the arcade side than the simulation side.
The tracks themselves are all well designed, and each has it's own distinctive look and feel. Some of the tracks lend themselves to speed while others feature complicated turns that you need to memorize to be successful. Most of the tracks are wide enough where the computer controlled drones don't get in the way and you can keep your momentum going.
After competing the race, you have the option to watch a replay. While nothing new now, this was a pretty unique feature back in 1994. The replays themselves mix up all the camera views as well as some stationary cameras the follow your car as it zooms past. You can also manually select a couple of different camera angles as well, and even zoom in. The replays also contain the only musical scores in the game.
The sound isn't technically great, and sounds like most 16-bit games. However, it is definitely creative. After passing a checkpoint, or finishing a lap, there is a voice that tells you what you just did, "time bonus," "final lap," and my favorite, "get goal!" Each cheesy expression is then followed up with a fast paced jingle that lasts about 10 seconds. Between these sounds is nothing but engine noise. Each car features it's own noise, from the low rumble of a V8 to the high pitch whine of the Formula car. Your cars tires screech through the turns and there is a nice engine whoosh from the other cars as pass them. While dated, it still sounds good.
The Time Attack mode lets your practice any of the 5 tracks and 3 cars without a time limit or opponents. You have the option to run, 5, 10, 15, or 20 laps. This is a must as the time limits in Virtua Racing mode are pretty tough, and you need to have the tracks memorized to be successful. If not, you the timer will run out and you will lose.
Lastly, there is a 2 player split screen mode. This mode is one on one, and has no computer controlled cars. To keep the racing close, each player can select a handicap level between 1 and 5. The 3 option is neutral/normal. Selecting 4 or 5 (hard) decreases your grip level making your car harder to control. Selecting 1 or 2 (easy) increases grip making it easier for less skilled players. The frame rate is still very smooth in 2-player mode, but the draw in is pretty bad with things popping up at the last moment. It is still very playable though.
One of the flaws in Virtua Racing Deluxe is the lack of save feature. After powering off the system, all of your lap records are gone. It would have added some replay value to compete against your old records.
Virtua Racing Deluxe fully utilizes Sega's 6 button arcade pad as well. The additional 3 buttons, X, Y, and Z, along with C select from 4 different camera views. There is an in-car view, a behind-the-car view, an above-the-car view, and a sky view. I preferred third view as it gave a good view of the opponents and the upcoming track. If you use the standard 3-button pad, the C button cycles through these 4 views.
Virtua Racing Deluxe is fantastic game and worth tracking down a Sega 32x for. The smooth graphics and controls, and the quirky sound still stand the test of time. The game is virtua-ly flawless. This game is a classic and should be in every game collectors library.
Graphics - 8/10 Silky smooth
Sound - 7/10
Game play - 9/10 Almost perfect
Overall - 9/10 This is a classic!