Hard Drivin' appears in the arcades and suddenly drivin' games are comin' out all over the shop proclaimin' "state of the art". At least Taito's offering gives the budding speed freak a little more than the usual "race to the next checkpoint" format, presenting you with a task to complete before the timer runs out.
Chase HQ takes place in a Los Angeles of serious crime and psychotic individuals. You're head of the Special Criminal Investigations (SCI) branch of the LAPD, known locally as "Chase" (SCI, LAPD = Chase? Sure, it figures!). You must hunt down and apprehend perpetrators (or "perps" as they're known to the police) as they attempt to get away from the clutches of the boys (and girls) in blue.
As the game gets going you're cruising for a bruising in your Porsche 928, on the lookout for trouble. Suddenly a message comes through from Nancy at Chase headquarters: a perp ('scuse me) is attempting to escape the city in a powerful sports car. Information on the vehicle flashes across the in-car computer screen, the locator latches onto the car's position and away you screech.
The locator counts down the distance as you approach your quarry and informs you of the shortest possible route by pointing in the appropriate direction when splits in the road occur. To help you catch up to the escaping car in time, you have three turbo boosts to give a short burst of super-fast acceleration.
One point you have to remember is that, even though you're the police and in hot pursuit, you ain't the only vehicle on the road! Steering round cars gives you extra points, the bonus increasing the more cars you pass safely. Hitting an innocent driver, however, knocks the bonus counter back to the minimum value of 200 points.
Once those nasty baddies are in sight, their car is highlighted and extra time is added to the clock. Now you must power on and smash them off the road - that's the only sort of contact these people understand. Eventually they pull over, allowing you to arrest them and get ready to accept another call from Nancy.
There are five missions to complete, each trickier than the last - so git them tyres aburnin'!
Unfortunately, Chase HQ's graphics and sound don't quite capture the spirit of the original. The sampled speech is still there but a host of weak effects have been implemented as well. Most noticeable of all, however, is the annoying squeaky whine of the siren as you close in on the villains, which has even those of us with the most toughened eardrums reaching for the volume control.
On the visual front, things aren't so bad. The car graphics are a little on the small side and the parallax backdrops have been lost, but the 3D perspective is fast enough - not in the range of Hard Drivin', but still effective. Fans of the original will be pleased to hear that all the presentation points such as the video-link intro and the arrest screens have been included, albeit in a slightly distorted form.
In general the presentation of the game has been competently carried out, but the whole thing somehow lacks the polish of the original coin-op.
On first sight, Chase HQ gives the impression of being, er, not quite up to the mark. Play it, though, and you find a playable game lurking in there somewhere.
The feel of the car is tricky to start with but once you've worked out how to stop yourself flying off the outside of every other bend, the steering has a comfortable feel to it. Occasionally, especially in the tunnels, the car drifts off to the edges of the track, but with careful steering even this setback can be overcome.
Once stage one has lulled you into a false sense of security, the going on subsequent levels gets incredibly tough and use of the three credits provided is almost essential to get anywhere.
The only setback is that once you get to grips with the controls and methods of beating the criminals, it won't be that long before you complete all five stages, and once you've finished the game it's doubtful that repeating the arrests can keep its hold on you for long - unless you harbour secret law and order fantasies. Despite this, and the fact that the look isn't quite up to the arcade version, it's still a playable conversion that should please followers of the original.