Shortly following the launch of the Dreamcast, Speed Devils filled a gap in the Dreamcast’s line up. This odd and sadly forgotten racer seems rather straightforward on the surface, though was loaded with relatively new additions to the racing genre at the time.
Those familiar with William’s Cruisin’ series will immediately recognize the feel of Speed Devils. Tight controls mean braking is unnecessary, drifting doesn’t exist, and taking a corner is only a matter of being in the right place. The sense of speed is excellent, and a generic backdrop storyline involving underground racing is stuck in the background for effect.
What separated Speed Devils were the unforgettable courses. Hollywood stands above the 12 available tracks. A t-rex tries to eat your car, a shark destroys a bridge, and a giant animatronic gorilla with no relation whatsoever to a giant movie monster to avoid any lawsuits tries to slam its fist through your roof. Tornadoes, rockslides, broken bridges, UFOs, and various other challenges litter these wild designs.
While it may feel like Cruisin’, its closest competition is the N64 game Beetle Adventure Racing. Both have the same zany style and ridiculous shortcuts. Speed Devils carries the advantage of extensive upgrades in a fun career mode, not to mention damage to your car which affects performance. Earning money can be done by winning or beating speed traps throughout the level.
Surprisingly, the graphics still manage to hold up on today’s market. The low resolution is slightly difficult to adjust to, and background objects are clunky, but there’s a nice sense of stylistic choices to appreciate.
Controls definitely feel archaic, and in the early going, it’s tough to adjust to the speed. The car you’re given is slow, and can barely take a hill. This would be suicide in an arcade racer these days. It takes longer to get into the feel than it did back in 1999.
The length of the courses may surprise some as well. The average race can take well over 10 minutes, a far cry from more modern games that try to get the player in and out as quickly as possible.
Facts and Notables
Speed Devils Online would follow slightly over a year later with, obviously, online play. There is little point in the single player here, and SegaNET’s no longer active, leaving this game a collector’s piece only.
Lead game designer Patrick Fortier would go on to work on other Ubisoft projects including Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Myst IV.
Known as Speed Busters on Windows PCs. It featured a completely different storyline than its Dreamcast counterpart, but the game was otherwise the same.
Speed Devils is a regular rotator game, or one that routinely finds its way into my Dreamcast. When it released, it was a day one purchase after renting it only a few hours prior.
The idea of upgrading parts, earning money, and even betting on cars was a radical concept for the time. Split-screen multi-player would always lead to some intense match ups with friends, and that’s one of the main reasons this one is still played around here.
I still have my save file with a fully powered-up car and unlocked extras. However, it’s still fun to start over from time to time just to enjoy the casual pacing. It’s also great to take a break from a genre that takes itself far too seriously these days. Speed Devils still fits.
Images and review courtesy of Digital Press.