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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Chase HQ - Classic Inspection



In 1989, long before the likes of Need for Speed petrol heads got their hi-octane fix and highway entertainment from 'Chase HQ'. Borrowing a lot from SEGA's Outrun, but with enough spin to go it alone, this pseudo 3D racer had you chasing down the crooks Miami Vice style. 

Originally released by Taito, it was subsequently left with Ocean software to work their 8-bit magic, and boy, they didn't disappoint! Although it was released on several platforms, the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC versions are generally believed to be the most superior conversions which, surprisingly, only took three months to program. 

The main protagonists resemble Miami Vices's Crockett and Tubbs and even sport a cool looking black Porsche. ChaseHQ is really easy to get into and the car features steady, responsive handling, a manual gear shift, and three nitro boosts! Unfortunately, there are a few issues with collision detection, on both the ZX Spectrum and CPC versions, more so on the latter. An example of this is when turning right at the fork in the road, as you turn to avoid the barrier, even though it is plain to see that your vehicle is nowhere near it, the game will occasionally register an impact regardless. The same issue can be found with anything that passes too closely to the left side of your car, even with other passing vehicles. It is obviously a glitch, but not enough of a problem to derail the overall enjoyment of the game.


To this day, I still haven't quite worked out whether smashing into a crooks car, side on, or from above, makes any difference in regards to damage, but my brain instinctively tells me, "it must"! 'The cleaner from behind' technique doesn't always appear to work, and in the corners, it is advised you allow the other cars a wide berth to hinder the chance impact. It's proving more efficient to travel through the corners safely and smoothly and will usually prevent you from smashing into a wall or object. The game is full of instances where you must risk everything! These are dangerous and difficult roads, but taking these sorts of chances usually provides you with a, much needed, last second boost, which tends to result in you catching a criminal.

I can't stress enough how much fun I've had, over the years, playing ChaseHQ. It's bloody good because it has been properly programmed - speech and other bits haven't been sacrificed for the sake of good graphics. There's amazing attention to detail, and the sound helps 'jack up' the entire experience, especially on the CPC and Speccy. The Spectrum version, included a faithful rendition of the classic arcade music, and if you had a 128k machine, not only would you be treated to a multitude of voice overs, but the whole game loaded in one go. As with the arcade original, Ocean treats us to five levels, with all the dips, tunnels, hills and speed of the arcade original, nicely squashed down into 8-bit technology. I am of the opinion that some improvements could have been made, these would have included: having extra nitro's, extra paint jobs, performance upgrades, reverse tracks and the ability to race the other cars. However, it is was and is a great game that will never be equalled. 

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