Midway's been leading the charge in retro collections, and it was with eager anticipation that I dove into their latest offering. Volume three of their popular Arcade Treasures series concentrates on the great racing games of old, with a small but varied selection of titles that is sure to please quarter pinchers everywhere.
Initially, I was disappointed at the lack of old-school games available (six out of the eight titles in the collection are from the post-polygon era), but my feelings changed once I saw that San Francisco Rush 2049 and Hydro Thunder were the superior – yes, I said it -- Dreamcast versions. Believe me, these two alone are reason enough to pick this set up. Both are jam packed with unlockable content, and still hold up quite well visually. I loved both of them years ago, and even today they still receive the lion's share of playtime.
So what about the rest? Well, it's kind of a mixed bag. Some games, like Race Drivin', suffered in the conversion, since a lot of the original charm of the arcade has been lost. The awesome arcade cabinet made playing it very close to the actual experience of driving, which was what the whole series was about. At home with a controller, that appeal is no longer a factor, and you're simply left with a dated racer. It does seem to play smoother and faster, but it's not enough to make it interesting for more than a short while at best.
S.T.U.N. Runner also has its ups and downs. The biggest problem is the speed at which it plays. It's faster than its coin-op sibling when the road ahead is clear, but slows down considerably when traffic appears. This inconsistency can be irritating at times, and was noticeable enough to detract from the experience. Retro compilations are supposed to take us back to another time and place, and for this reason spot-on emulation is a must. Not enjoying S.T.U.N. Runner as much as I had hoped to really left a bad taste in my mouth.
Thankfully, most of the other games have fared better, and are just as much fun now as ever. One such game is Super Off Road, although strangely stripped of its famous “Ironman Ivan Stuart” moniker, is still a blast to play. Badlands was also cool, and while I prefer Super Sprint (a true racing classic), I thoroughly enjoyed this pseudo-sequel quite a bit.
The last two selections, San Francisco Rush: The Rock Alcatraz Edition and Off Road Thunder are pretty middle-of-the-Road compared everything else here. The latter also comes with the bonus track pack, but that doesn't really change things for the better. Neither game is as much fun as the other entries here bearing the same names, and while it's nice that Midway decided to include them for the sake of completion, but I do believe there are far more deserving racers out there that should have had a place in this collection, like any of the Cruisin' titles. Licensing issues, perhaps?
The fact that the list of games included has been reduced from twenty in MAT 2 to only eight here might be a turn off to some, but there's enough fun on this theme-focused disc to warrant a purchase. I personally would have like to have seen some earlier racing titles, like Demolition Derby or Power Drive, but those may yet still appear on a fourth installment.
Available at a $20 price point, you simply cannot go wrong with Midway Arcade Treasures 3. You can post your scores on Xbox Live, and the inclusion of the Dreamcast versions of Hydro Thunder and San Francisco Rush 2049 make this a must-buy.