Chase HQ - A ZX Spectrum Ocean classic, reviewed!


All hail Chase HQ! Bow before thee! Kneel at the altar and praise the gods at Ocean for creating this masterpiece. *gets on knees and prays* When it comes to arcade conversions, there are few equal to that of this piece of Spectrum genius. All the fun of the original arcade game (minus the seats - except the one on your sofa, I guess) has been squeezed into your modest little Speccy's memory, somehow, and makes this one of the most accomplished games for our hallowed machine. Unless of course, you don't like driving games, in which case you may think it's rubbish. But, for those of us who do like driving games - buckle up!

Vrrrmmmmm Vrmmmmm, beep beep, nee naw, nee naw and other such noises.
Well, clearly I'm crashing the car, sir!

If you're not aware, Chase HQ puts you in control of your two police partners' rather nifty (and nippy) police car, as you persue some local hoodlums, usually drug dealers or murders, you know the 'nicer' type of criminal, and try to run them off the road by driving into them several times. Smashing. Literally. To aid you in your pursuit are three turbos which handily speed you along the highway as you try to gain ground on your targeted criminal, or if you're just flagging behind, you could you use one just to get back on track.

But, let's start from the beginning. After you've waited for it to load (128K owners, you'll definitely have to put the kettle on and have a cuppa whilst this is happening. Hell, maybe a three-course meal too) you're greeted by the menu screen with some rather snazzy music and, dare I say it, some even snazzier animation, in the form of the Chase HQ logo. Every time you visit the home screen, the logo is brought to you in several ways - all brilliant in their own way, though my personal favourite is the the one where the stops bounce up of the 'A' from the word 'Chase' and are 'headered in' by the preceding 'H', as seen below. Epic!

On me 'ead, son!
Everything really is packed into this game and taking a look around the screen, you see the sirens on top, which flash when you've spotted your felon (ooh!) and also the little screen on top where Nancy at Chase HQ appears to give you instructions (or tell you off most of the time, if truth be told). They really have added as much as possible to make it look and feel as if you're in the arcade. Hats off to you, good sirs!

Still enjoying these? Then I shall continue!
After you've finished watching the logo animations several times by continually pressing 'Enter' and repeatedly pressing your control options, you can start the game! Here you are shown the vehicle of the crim that you need to catch whilst Nancy describes the vehicle and how dastardly the rotter inside the car is. Finished there and then...ooh, what do we have here? Speech! Is there anything not in this game?! And, not only is there speech, it's quite impressive too. More often than not, upon starting the game you'll hear the classic 'Let's go, Mr. Driver!' but sometimes just to mix it up, you'll get a 'Come on, man!'. This is all kinds of epic-ness. Throughout the level these clips will pop up again at various times (along with others) and definitely get you pumped as you wind your way through the twisty, bumpy roads.

Where? There? Oh, here!
One of the main things you'll read if you look at other reviews for this game (how dare you!) is that the quality of driving simulation is highly praised. Well, you've read it elsewhere so you might as well read it here, too! This is one of the games' main features as you're brought a very smooth, fluid driving experience as you dodge many a vehicle in pursuit of your target. I'm happy to report no jerkiness, blockiness (if that's a word) and when you hit those turbos.......the game flies! (with a high pitched wheeeeeee, I may add). The driving experience here really is one to be admired, the smooth flowing road really impresses and the sprites are clear, large and makes for an altogether moving experience.

Ok, ok. Last one now. I promise!

Apart from trying to catch various nasty people, what else do you have to deal with whilst you're peacefully cruising along the highway? Mainly, other cars who always seem to want to drive in front of you. Move it! Can't they see I'm in hot pursuit and that I've made the effort to place the siren on top of my car?! (which is animated in the game - love it!) Some vehicles can look similar to the one you're chasing so to avoid confusion, you will find a huge arrow pointing at the relevant vehicle. That's handy! Avoiding other road users is a large part of the game as before you get anywhere near the criminal, you will come across so many other cars you really do have to be on your toes and become an expert in swerving, avoiding cars, avoiding lamp posts (which are on the side of the road so you really shouldn't be there, anyway!) and also those weird random little posts that you see on the side of the road.

What you also find in the game is your buddy in the helicopter. I'll call him Arnie - for a number of reasons. Only appearing from level two onwards, Arnie will appear above your car and help you out with regards to which turning you need to take that is coming up ahead as he's only gone and followed the felon to see which way he went AND made the effort to come back and tell you. What a lovely chap. You'll see Arnie's happy little face pop up in the top corner where you'll also see your own and your partners' face as you drive along (and usually if you hit something), together with Nancy at Chase HQ. I'm sure she hates me, always telling me to 'get on with it', 'stop messing around'. Doesn't she know I play by my own rules? I'm a loose cannon, ya know!

Sorry, Nancy. Do you forgive me?

I think he got away.

I often talk about 'complete' games where it seems that it's really hard to find a fault and there seems to be so much packed in and such classiness to be found - and this really is one of these games. Ok, it takes an age to load (it really does!) but, it genuinely is worth the wait. Or you can load it instantly via an emulator, of course (spoiled sport). When you really get stuck into this game, the sirens ringing, the criminal in your sights, time slipping away - it totally grips you. It may sound grand but it really does feel like an immersive experience. You feel the tenseness and the pressure that comes with your duty. You must catch this guy! The public are depending on you, dammit!

There's so much detail in this game that it'll have you scratching your head in thinking how all this was achieved for such a humble machine but at the same time have you drooling. Would I put Chase HQ in my top ten Speccy games? Ya damn right, I would! After a few games yourself, maybe you will too.

Article by Paul Davies @florinthedwarf

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