On your marks! A bead of sweat trickles down the side of your head, lingering at your temple before rolling unnoticed down your jaw. The sound of your car's engine purrs all around you, smooth, relaxed, emitting that sweet low tone of a machine tuned to perfection. Get set! You grip the clutch and test the accelerator, smiling as the car responds, its purrs rumbling up to the dangerous growl of a panther coiling to pounce. You're sitting on a storm, a hurricane waiting to be let loose. Go! The growl of the engine leaps into a high pitched roar as the tires paint the asphalt burnt black. There is the merest fraction of a second as the universe encompassed by the car battles between concepts of stillness and concepts of dynamics, and then, with a lurch, you're off, barreling down the road in Heat Rush, from developers Asute and Long Animals.
For many of you, Heat Rush will be familiar, as there's no doubt this is an Out Run/Rad Racer clone. To be thorough, the lineage for this type of racer can be traced back to Pole Position and has a varied and vast history up till the present versions of Need for Speed, Project Gotham Racing, Gran Turismo, etc. Like those games from past and present, Heat Rush puts your view behind the racing machine, where you essentially remain in the center of the screen while the scenery whips by. Here, all of the steering, accelerating, and braking is handily taken care of using the [arrow] or [WASD] keys and if you need a quick turbo boost, wait until the meter at the bottom of the screen starts flashing, then mash the [space] bar or [X] key.
Heat Rush is a clone, but to its credit, it's a fun clone, capturing much of what made Out Run (its closest relative in the racing game taxonomy) a quarter gobbler back in its day. Visuals are clean and impressive with static three dimensional images racing toward you fast enough to make you believe you feel the wind whipping around your ears. Controls are tight and responsive, but also account for drifting in hard turns. Unless you have titanium dipped nerves and fresh ice in your veins, you'll probably catch yourself leaning back and forth as your tires screech towards the outer edge of the pavement on the tougher curves. Thus, Heat Rush does a magnificent job translating the feel of speed and precarious cornering into a Flash racer.
To its discredit, Heat Rush gets a few things wrong. My largest complaint is the upgrade/achievement system which greatly limits your ability to customize your vehicle. Yes, I know, the older racing games didn't have customizable cars, but it's 2009 now, and the custom shop has become a racing staple. Here any upgrades you receive are directly tied to goal-based achievements. Can't get the achievement? Forget about the upgrade. Also, the bracket style course selection is a little annoying, as selecting one branch from the beginning precludes certain tracks later on.
From turbo starts to spectacular crashes, Heat Rush successfully captures the heart of racing games of the past. Strap yourself in, pull on the leather driving gloves, and get ready to go VROOM!!