Looking back on Powerslide.
There have been more than a few games inspired by George Miller’s hugely-influential Mad Max film series. From id’s Rage to the 1992 Mega Drive/SNES game Outlander, all the way back to the virtually impossible 1985 Commodore 64 game The Last V8 (developed David and Richard Darling, who would go on to found Codemasters).
Ratbag’s Powerslide took fewer cues from Miller’s iconic, dystopian film series that other more brazen Mad Max riffs but it definitely felt like the world of Max Rockatansky was a key inspiration for the wild vehicles and decaying environments of Powerslide. The key difference between Mad Max and Powerslide is that, while in Mad Max the world ran out of oil, in Powerslide we ran out of bees.
Check out the video above for our discussion of Powerslide, or read on below for a quick summary.
Under the bonnet
Powerslide was the debut game from now defunct Adelaide, South Australia-based studio Ratbag. It was picked up and published in 1998 by GT Interactive; with games like Quake, Unreal, Total Annihilation, Duke Nukem 3D, Doom II, Driver, the Oddworld series and plenty more GT Interactive was the biggest fish in the PC pond at the time. Unfortunately, despite the good buzz from press around Powerslide, GT Interactive reportedly only printed a tiny amount of copies for the US market and sent the game out to die.
Kick it in the guts, Barry!
Unlike many of my old favourite PC games that soil themselves at the sight of a modern computer and refuse to run, Powerslide is still available today at gog.com and runs perfectly.
Time hasn’t been entirely kind to Powerslide’s largely poo-brown palette.
To be honest, time hasn’t been entirely kind to Powerslide’s largely poo-brown palette and, while the driving physics were quite complex for the time, the driving itself is a little more superficial than I remember it. Even using the arrow keys the cars are quite easy to balance in long and lazy drifts.
Of course, that’s kind of the point and, to be fair, the suspension modelling and sense of weight in Powerslide was certainly quite stunning at the time. It’s not too long before I’m reminded of just how temporarily smitten I was with Powerslide back in the late ’90s, especially with the game’s incredibly short but tricky-to-master abandoned dirt oval track. It was the popularity of that oval track online that paved the way for Ratbag’s successful Dirt Track Racing games that followed Powerslide.
So what was so great about it?
Powerslide’s tagline “Make your own damn track”, a boast which featured prominently on the game’s box, remains somewhat of a mild exaggeration but Powerslide’s often borderless tracks where pretty damn neat at the time.
Powerslide was actually a hugely impressive technical achievement back in 1998.
Powerslide was actually a hugely impressive technical achievement back in 1998; in fact, Ratbag even claimed Powerslide was the first 3D home release game to run at 60 frames-per-second and that it was pumping out more the three times the polygons of its competition.
Unfortunately, Powerslide never saw a successor. Ratbag developed a PS2 prototype for a sequel, called Powerslide: Slipstream, and put together an awesome-looking track set in a post-apocalyptic Sydney Harbour (complete with a semi-ruined Harbour Bridge and the terrifying but iconic face of Luna Park over the start/finish line). But Ratbag couldn’t find a publisher.
Ratbag also had another game in the pipe cut from the Powerslide/Mad Max cloth called Scavenger, but it never made it to completion either. Midway acquired Ratbag in August 2005 only to announce a few months later, on December 13, that it would be closing the studio. The studio was shuttered just two days later, on December 15, 2005. Merry Christmas!
The 0-60 words or less
Powerslide was a great and fun racing game that deserved to do better, and it’s a damn shame we never got to see a follow-up.
Tacho Tuesday is IGN’s weekly look back at some of the most memorable racing games ever made. Previous instalments covered WipEout, Colin McRae Rally, and Burnout 3: Takedown. Got a proposal for a racing game you’d like us to dig up? Track down Luke and Cam on Twitter: @MrLukeReilly and @jazzebration. All suggestions are welcome!