Classic Sport Driving is the brainchild of Pixel Wrappers’ Sylvain Debaudringhien, whose love of Amiga racing games such as Jaguar XJ220 and Lotus Turbo Challenge prompted his desire to create a modern equivalent.
The game has endured a convoluted development period – we sampled its initial demo back in October 2021 – but a full release is finally here, a full 20 months later, boasting novel features like a random track generator and competitive online leaderboards.
However, with a plethora of retro-inspired racing games on the market does Classic Sport Driving do enough to stand out from the crowd, and does it play like a re-booted version of the Amiga classics it’s inspired by?
Back to basics
The similarities between Classic Sport Driving and games such as Jaguar XJ220 and Lotus Turbo Challenge are clear to see from the outset. Your car is placed right at the bottom of the screen, with the horizon and skybox playing a leading role up top.
This helps with forward visibility but it still feels as though some corners come out of nowhere, especially over crests. Fortunately, vehicle handling stacks up nicely, with your car tending towards understeer – don’t expect outlandish Outrun-style drifting here. It feels grippy enough, however, and reacts quickly to gamepad inputs (I went old school initially and tried keyboard controls, but it’s safe to say a gamepad felt far superior).
This is where the game’s two handling modes come into focus, with Arcade mode supplying a simpler, more straightforward experience. Pro, on the other hand, implores players to apply their brakes liberally to keep up the momentum.
The action in Classic Sport Driving whizzes by at breakneck speed, as you’re tasked with racing point-to-point as quickly as possible to gain up to a three-star rating. There’s no let-up in the action, with a seemingly endless number of opposition AI cars to avoid as you progress through each stage.
Strangely, there’s no position indicator or traffic coming in the opposite direction, so the AI cars – which are all identical – are simply there acting as mobile chicanes.
There are seven environments to tackle, with various weather and road conditions – day and night – with a 16-race campaign mode providing a solid, yet relatively brief, challenge. The real difficulty is in attaining a three-star rating across all levels, which will realistically take a fair amount of practise.
Each campaign stage is around 13 miles long, so only the most dedicated players will have the time or patience to commit each layout to memory (it’s like trying to learn 16 different Nürburgring Nordschleifes after all). However, most tracks are simple enough to allow player progression first time through.
On balance, I played more of the Arcade mode handling type but the Pro level added an extra layer of skill to proceedings, making the car feel more alive under braking. The increased difficulty will likely mean the majority of players stick with Arcade, however.
Drive to survive
Gameplay is naturally retro inspired, with players needing to reach the next checkpoint before the timer runs out. However, your car slows down when the counter hits zero but doesn’t immediately stop, gifting you a few precious seconds to make the grade.
There are nitro icons dotted around each stage too, offering a small speed boost when hit, but those pesky AI cars always seem to veer blindly in front of you at the crucial moment. Pah.
You don’t need friends when you got leaderboards
Another of Classic Sport Driving’s main selling points is its online leaderboards. These supply an extra incentive for players to shave off the last few tenths off their stage times, going head-to-head with the best in the world.
The online leaderboards go some way to making up for the lack of local or online multiplayer modes, but even still, these feel like significant omissions – I mean, even Jagaur XJ220 had a local split-screen mode where players could participate in the game’s main campaign together.
Daily Challenges are available from release too – I somehow just eked myself into pole position for today’s (13th June) – so there’s an incentive to revisit the game every day to maintain your status as a top performer.
Tracks of my Tears
Although Classic Sport Driving has a decent range of vanilla tracks, Pixel Wrappers has added a track generator too.
Inputting a track name will create a bespoke stage with random environmental values and length. Players can share this with their friends and compete for the top spot on the leaderboard (every vanilla and generated track will have its own online leaderboard).
It’s a novel feature with its origins rooted in nineties racing games, with both Lotus Turbo Challenge 3 and Jaguar XJ220 featuring their own takes on track creation tools (Jaguar XJ220’s is particularly powerful, as can be seen from our retrospective last year).
We’ve created our own track and posted it online for anyone to have a go at beating the target time. Trust me, it won’t take long…
Simply input ‘#Traxion’ as the track name. Good luck!
Although there’s a lot to like about Classic Sport Driving – its soundtrack is excellent, the graphics are colourful and crisp and the handling is the fun side of arcadey – it feels like the game could do with more content.
Customisation is completely absent, for example, as there’s no way to upgrade, paint or even change your car. That’s right: you’re stuck with the same car for the entirety of the game. It’s a superficial point but still pertinent. A lack of real-time online multiplayer or local split-screen seems like a missed opportunity too.
For fans of the genre, however, Classic Sport Driving is well worth investigating. It provides a nostalgic look at racing games from a bygone era but with added visual horsepower. Classic Sport Driving plays well and feels like it would suit a handheld console perfectly (although it currently hasn’t been rated for Steam Deck but I can see no reason why it wouldn’t work flawlessly).
It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, mind, and its price tag may put some casual racing gamers off, but it’s a short and sweet look back at the glory days of two-dimensional arcade racers, even if lacks a little variety and content.
Classic Sport Driving is available to purchase now for PC via the Steam store, priced at $14.99/£12.99/14,99€. For the game’s first week of release players can enjoy a discounted price of $13.49/£11.69/13,49€.
|12th June 2023
|Best played with
Full disclosure: This game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.