If there are certain games that initially seem disappointing and then grow on you, there are also those that make a good first impression and then fail to deliver the goods. I have more than a sneaky impression that Fifth Gear falls into the latter category.
The game has you taking part in an illegal race in which the only rule is that there are no rules. You must get from the start line to the turning point and back to the line again within a set amount of time. But the route is far from easy. There are obstacles and other cars to be avoided and collision with any of them can cause serious damage or the loss of your car. Fortunately you have five cars to play with, so a little erratic driving is tolerable as long as you don't overdo it.
Initially your car is equipped with a simple slow-firing machine gun, but you can stop off at service points to buy extra weaponry and addons. These include a missile launcher and missiles, helium tyres to enable you to perform Dukes of Hazzard type leaps, and a rapid fire option. The weaponry, should your imagination not be up to it, is for blowing away other vehicles that happen to get in your way, as well as removing tricky static obstacles.
The money you need to pay for such luxuries is awarded for every kill you make and for the time you survive. You already have 10,000 dollars when you start the game which is enough to buy you a couple of goodies, but it is generally best to save some cash to pay for refuelling and repairs. This is especially necessary since the other cars have a nasty habit of firing back, occasionally with pretty good accuracy.
The game utilises a birds eye view of the course with a status panel beneath this. The graphics are pretty enough and the vertical scrolling is quite smooth. The real problem comes when you begin to attempt manoeuvring the car. It is so sensitive that even players with the lightest touch will find themselves running into walls and obstacles a little too frequently for comfort.
I am all in favour of a challenging game but the difficulty of Fifth Gear is set at such a level as to make learning the game more of a chore than a pleasure. Naturally it becomes much easier when you know what is round each corner, but crashes are still too frequent an occurrence nevertheless. The problem is compounded by the requirement for some very tight and careful steering at certain parts of the game. Having said all that, if you are prepared to persevere with the controls you will no doubt in time managed to overcome this difficulty. But be prepared to run the first part of the course several times if you want to achieve this.
It is a shame that this aspect of Fifth Gear is so tricky because it mars two otherwise good 16-bit conversions. Still, if you enjoy driving games and are looking for a particularly hairy challenge then Fifth Gear might be worth a look.
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