Publisher: The Software Toolworks
Developer: Cryo Interactive Entertainment
I’ve spoken a lot about why I’m crazy about the video game industry in the early 90s, and a big part of it has to do with the exploratory nature of early CD-ROM games. It felt like everyone had different ideas regarding what they should do with all that extra storage, and it was fascinating to see what different developers did with that freedom.
Of course, this lead to loads of multimedia extravaganzas that were long on cringe-worthy acting and extremely short on gameplay. And while some of those games put a smile on my face (I’m looking at you, Sewer Shark), a lot of them are downright awful.
If you owned a PC with a CD-ROM drive around 1990, you most likely played this game at some point. It was all over the place, even as pack-in software for some new computers.
MegaRace takes place in the very distant future, where the television network VWBT (Virtual World Broadcast Television) broadcasts a show called MegaRace, kind of an episodic Death Race 2000. In it “The Enforcer” (that’s you) competes in various races against different Speed Gangs. But the idea isn’t to win by coming first, but by destroying every car on the track within three laps. Do that, and you win the gang leader’s car. Fail, and you die.
Except you don’t actually die. The show’s host, Lance Boyle, constantly repeats that all of this is taking place in a virtual world, and so no one is really dying at all. The only real threat is that “dying” in the virtual world apparently scrambles your neurons a bit or something. Really, it takes every last tooth out of the dystopian future storyline. There’s no threat at all. You play until you fail and then life goes on.
The gameplay is horrible. You don’t really steer your car around the track. You move your car left to right in order to hit various power up markers on the racetrack, which is just a looping CG movie of the course you’re on. This is basically a really low-tech rail shooter.
Lance Boyle – played by Christian Erickson – is the real star of the show, and it’s obvious that his performance and the novelty of all the FMV is the real draw in MegaRace. The game features over 20 minutes of video footage, where this odd, smarmy game show host spouts one-liner after ridiculous one-liner for what feels like an eternity. It’s kinda neat for the first two minutes or so, but the intro alone feels like it lasts well over 10 minutes.
MegaRace was the perfect example of bleeding-edge CG visuals on the CD medium, and on the PC (and, eventually, the 3DO) it was enough to carry the experience. In fact, the game did well enough that it spawned two sequels. But on the Sega CD, with the lower resolution and colour palette, the game’s one selling point is completely lost in translation. It gets boiled down to its most basic gameplay, which is really not worth experiencing.