Developed and published by Taito in 1988
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During the golden era of the video arcade, Sega’s Out Run was the poster-child for the driving genre thanks to it’s amazing visuals and superb soundtrack; not to put too fine a point on it, it was a remarkable experience.
That was 1986.
Roll forward to 1987 and Taito, another arcade heavyweight developer, decided to release it’s own hi-octane racer. Whereas Out Run was purely about driving as an experience in itself, Chase H.Q. is quite a different beast.
Heavily influenced by classic 80’s cop shows like Miami Vice, the player takes on the role of police officer and member of the Chase Special Investigation Department, Tony Gibson. Along with partner and fellow wearer of sharp suits, Raymond Broady, the pair must patrol the highways in pursuit of dangerous criminals and bring them to justice.
Each of the game’s five stages begins with Gibbs and Broady receiving information about their next mission over the police waveband radio from special investigation dispatch controller, Nancy. The briefing outlines who the perp is and the vehicle that they’re driving (all of which are based on popular sports/super cars of the era – crime does pay after all).
Once on the road, the first objective is to catch up to the target vehicle before the timer (sixty seconds by default) runs out. A counter in the top right of the screen shows the distance between the player’s vehicle and the criminal, as does the distance gauge located to the right of the screen – this is a nice touch since it allows the player an at-a-glance update on their progress, without taking their eyes off the road.
This is an important point since you definitely don’t want to get distracted whilst driving. Hitting other vehicles, skidding off the road of colliding with obstacles costs you precious seconds, reducing the chance that you’ll catch up with the target vehicle in time. Also, the road will fork in two directions and the player must pay close attention to on-screen indicator as to the correct path to take – take the wrong exit and it will only make the chase longer.
If you do manage to catch up with the criminal in time, the timer resets and the second phase begins. The player must now slam into the target vehicle to inflict sufficient damage to bring it to a halt. Of course, this must be done whilst avoiding other traffic and staying on the road, something that proves exceedingly difficult on later levels where the road often narrows and the turns the come thick and fast.
The player’s car is equipped with high and low gear that can be changed at any time via the machine’s lever shift. Low gear limits the car’s speed to 200 km/h but improves handling, whereas high gear boosts top speed to 300 km/h but makes corner tough. Although the car has a brake, I find it’s more effective to down-shift into low gear for sharp bends and switch back to high as you exit.
The car also comes fitted with three turbo boosts, granting a temporary boost to maximum speed when used. These should ideally be saved for vehicle ramming, but can be useful in making up lost ground during the initial chase.
The car’s handling and cornering does take a little getting used to and is even more ‘arcadey’ than Out Run. Your gut reaction is to begin turning as soon as you enter the corner, but there is a delay before the game begins pushing you to the outside of the corner. As a result, you spend the first few games over-steering, but it’s something you learn to correct with some practice.
On a technical front, the game boasts ultra smooth scrolling and attractive visuals at 60 FPS – it might not look quite as good as Out Run, but then that game was locked to 30 FPS. Parallax scrolling is used to good effect on buildings and scenery in the distance and the artwork is particularly crisp and well drawn.
For me, however, the sound is even more impressive than the graphics. The game features exceptionally clear, digitised speech samples and voice-overs that sound like they’ve been spoken by genuine human beings! Even better are the roaring engine sounds and screeching tyre effects as you hurtle around corners – this is a far cry from the warbling, crackly samples heard in other games of the time.
Chase H.Q. is a great arcade racer that manages to differentiate itself from other titles in the genre thanks to the high-speed chases, ramming mechanics and distinctly 80’s theme.
So, what are you waiting for Mr. Driver? Punch the pedal and get stuck in!
Longplay,Chase H.Q.,Chase HQ,Special Criminal Investigation,Taito,Racing Game,Arcade,Ending,Miami Vice,1980,Retro Gaming,16-bit,Old Games