FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Team Losi's long-forgotten video game
Friday, Dec 12, 2014 02:23pm
By Aaron Waldron
By Aaron Waldron
Everybody knows that Friday is meant for reminiscing old times. Each week we take you back in time as we flashback to some of R/C racing's greatest moments, products, drivers, and more!
Team Losi RC Racer for Sony Playstation
I was a 12-year-old seventh grader in 1998, completely obsessed and consumed with everything that had anything to do with RC racing. I'd always wake up early on Saturday mornings, pour myself a bowl of cereal, and burn the time until my Dad got out of bed and got ready to head to the track for club racing by logging some serious video game time - split between simulator-type games like Top Gear Rally and the early releases of the Gran Turismo series, and arcade-style Nintendo racers like Mariokart and Diddy Kong Racing. Then came the news that Team Losi, fresh off of the company's first two World Championships with Brian Kinwald (1997, 2WD buggy) and David Spashett (1998, ISTC), had released a video game in a collaboration with Fox Interactive. It was years before the release of VRC Pro or even Duratrax's less-than-stellar Real Race series, but I was blown away by the prospect of an RC game!
For a diehard RC racer, the video game was probably the biggest letdown that Team Losi produced in the 90s.
Before Team Losi RC Racer, a few RC-style video games had already gained quite a following. The original RC Pro Am for the first Nintendo system landed in 1988 and was followed up with several different versions.
RC Pro Am relied on an overhead view to lend its "RC" appeal, though the gameplay was more "Mariokart" than "ROAR Nationals." Each game in the RC Pro Am series retained its arcade-like quirks such as collecting letters to advance to new levels, and chasing other racers around with power-ups like boosts, oil slicks, and missiles. Cars could be upgraded for speed and durability, like an RC car, but aside from the car sliding around corners (with corresponding tire screech noise) RC-like physics were almost nonexistent.
RC Pro Am was probably the most beloved of the old-school RC racing games, but it wasn't very RC-like aside from the antennas atop the vehicles.
RC Grand Prix was another favorite, originally released for the Sega Master System in 1989. The in-game renderings of the cars were much more realistic than RC Pro Am (at least until you get to the actual gameplay), with cars that look just like the original RC10. In fact, the photo above (from the 1992 release for the handheld Sega Game Gear looks like it could've been lifted straight from the 1991 IFMAR Worlds in Detroit. Gameplay was strange, though, like RC Pro Am, the overhead perspective lent a certain realism to the RC experience - kinda.
When compared to RC Pro Am, RC Grand Prix wasn't nearly as well known. The concept seemed like a good one, but it just didn't work.
That might be the XX-4 logo on that yellow and red buggy, but it's clearly missing the front driveshafts and looks more like the JRX-Pro or XX from the front.
Both RC Pro Am and RC Grand Prix were updated a few times throughout the 1990s, but Team Losi RC Racer brought with it some true promise. Not only was it the first video game that bore the name of a real manufacturer, but flaunted choosable vehicles in the game modeled (or at least named after) real Team Losi vehicles like the XX-T CR and the top vehicle in the game, the XX-4. Though the game was sold as "Buggy" outside of the U.S., the Team Losi logo was found all over the game and even on the more obscure of the 16 vehicle choices like "Flame Dragon" and "Vixxen."
Today's "stadium truck" class is undeniably ugly, but this "XXT CR" missed the mark. By miles.
Unlike RC Pro Am and RC Grand Prix, Team Losi RC Racer utilized a more traditional - by video game standards - third person perspective that put the driver behind the vehicle. This allowed the player to navigate through the staging area, where the car can be driven into translucent windows to enter levels (much like the paintings in Super Mario 64), and meander along tracks clearly designed while someone was suffering from a bad acid trip, like Fungal Freeway. There was a "basher" component to the game as well, as you could choose a non-competitive "adventure" mode to go explore the track areas for hidden pathways and power-ups.
Like any niche video game, Team Losi RC Racer did develop somewhat of a cult following - but was regarded by most video game publications and especially RC racers as a total flop. The tracks and vehicles were strange, the controls were remarkably awkward, and the overall gameplay suffered from technical problems like glitchy and inconsistent frame rate. Using the joysticks of the Sony Playstation Dual-Shock controller made it a bit more realistic to operate the car's forward-and-reverse speed control, and offered proportional steering, but each car's floaty suspension was never un-cartoonlike.
Like the future of Team Losi's line of competition-grade yo-yos (the subject of a future Flashback Friday), the prospect of a follow-up to Team Losi RC Racer went out the window when Horizon Hobby purchased Team Losi in 2001. If you've got a copy of Team Losi RC Racer, you've certainly got your hands on a collector's item - even if it wasn't any good.
In my opinion, the best RC-style video game of the 80s and 90s was Ivan Stewart's Super Off-Road, the iconic arcade game that was eventually adapted to the original Nintendo system. Though there wasn't anything expressly "radio controlled" about it, the non-moving overhead view of the track was as close to standing on an RC drivers' stand than anything. Devoid of any silly hop-ups like missiles or oil slicks (though you could use "nitro" for a temporary surge in speed - something that I'm sure many of us had hoped was available on our RC cars at least once or twice), the only way to beat your opponents was to outdrive them - or at least hack them the old-fashioned way. You could upgrade your truck with hop-ups that made a real difference in the vehicle's performance, and the tracks were real stadium-style off-road courses! Today's 2WD short course class doesn't look too different, does it?