Virtua Racing is a Racing Game published by SEGA and developed by their AM2 division for the Sega Model 1 arcade hardware, released in 1992. While not the first racing game to use 3D polygonal graphics — Atari's Hard Drivin' predates it by three years — it's notable for having extremely smooth 3D animation for its time, running at 30 frames per second.
In terms of features, there aren't many to speak of: You pick one of three courses, decide whether you want to use automatic transmission or 7-speed manual, and then get in an open-wheel car and race against 15 CPU opponents or anywhere from 1-7 human opponents depending on how many cabinets are linked up. But the game makes breathtaking (for its time, anyway) use of these features, with full 3D environments and a "V.R." viewpoint system that lets you choose from one of four different viewpoints rather than being fixed to behind-the-car or cockpit only like in past games.
The arcade version comes in four cabinet types: an upright cabinet, a Twin Type cabinet that seats two players and can be linked up to other cabinets of its kind, a Deluxe Type cabinet that features a 16:9 screen (in 1992!), and a premium 8-player "Virtua Formula" setup with large projection screens and motion seats for each player.
The game has been ported to many platforms:
- The Sega Genesis version, which comes with a Sega Virtua Processor (SVC) chip, almost certainly made as a direct competitor to the Super FX chip for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Unfortunately, this came at the cost of bloating the price of the game to 100 USD.
- Virtua Racing Deluxe for the Sega 32X, which adds two new cars, Stock and Prototype; and two new courses, Highland and Sand Hill.
- The Sega Saturn version named Time Warner Interactive's VR Virtua Racing, which features 7 new tracks (all differents from the ones added in the 32X version), new type of vehicles and a Grand Prix mode.
- SEGA Ages 2500 Series Vol. 8: Virtua Racing Flatout for the PlayStation 2, which features 60 frames per second and features a career mode with its own set of unique courses.
- SEGA Ages Virtua Racing for the Nintendo Switch, developed by well-renowned porting team M2, which is hailed by many as the most accurate port of the arcade original, also runs at 60 FPS, and has both 2-player online multiplayer and 8-player local multiplayer.
Virtua Racing provides examples of:
- Anti-Frustration Features:
- There is no reason to visit the pit stop under standard lap settings (5 laps), but if you really want to do so, the game will give you a bigger time extension than usual so that you can finish the race.
- If a single-player first-place game is played followed by immediately by another one, the game will simply shorten the victory sequence the second time (likely assuming that it's the same player and they don't want to have to sit through the whole thing again).
- The Bus Came Back: A meta example: Virt McPolygon serves as the commentator on the live feed monitor that can be installed with Twin Type and Virtua Formula cabs, but was never in any console version of the game until the Switch version 27 years later, where the game uses the live feed for replay playback.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Your CPU opponents can take corners at speeds faster than you can, most notably the chain of sharp turns near the end of the Bay Bridge course. Even worse on Grand Prix mode, where your tires degrade over time and you have to pit in to refresh them, while your opponents never have to pit and their tires are basically Made of Indestructium; on the Medium course, where there is no pit stop, getting in first place is almost humanly impossible.
- Drought Level of Doom: The Medium course lacks a pit area, which is non-consequential on the standard lap settings but becomes a problem in the 20-lap "Grand Prix" setting, where you'll just have to deal with tire wear instead of taking care of the problem.
- Easy-Mode Mockery: Turning on the Helper mode in the SEGA AGES version will disable collisions with other vehicles — you'll just pass right through them — but will disqualify you from uploading your time to the online leaderboards.
- Long Song, Short Scene: For some reason, the original arcade/Genesis game fades many of the melodies before they finish playing. Deluxe fixes this, allowing the player to hear the melodies in full.
- Marathon Level: The "Grand Prix" setting sets the number of laps from 5 to 20, making a full race take 13-16 minutes to complete.
- Misbegotten Multiplayer Mode:
- The online multiplayer in the SEGA Ages version is rather tacked on, featuring a thumbnail of the opponent's screen that you cannot disable and no way to filter opponents by connection quality, meaning that it's possible to race incredibly laggy matches against several 0/5 or 1/5 quality opponents in a row, especially if you're playing late at night and you mostly get matched up with people thousands of miles away (due to the Switch using peer-to-peer networking instead of dediated servers).
- The local multiplayer isn't much better. While it does support up to 8 players, a first for any console version of the game, each player is forced to use sideways Joy-Con setup; while not allowing Joy-Con pairs for each player is understandable as the Switch has an 8-controller limit and each individual Joy-Con counts as one controller, the game prohibits using Pro Controllers and USB controllers. There's also no option for local wireless multiplayer (a bit strange given the existence of online separate-device multiplayer mentioned above); all players must share the same screen. Local multiplayer does manage to do one thing that's interesting and unique: In a 2-player session, the players' screens can be arranged to face in opposite directions for a "cocktail cab"-style setup.
- Nintendo Hard: The time limit is very harsh even on default difficulty, as is standard of arcade games at the time. It's entirely possible to run out of time while in first place.
- Pit Girls: A race queen greets you and presumably kisses you on the Expert course right before the race starts.
- Secret Character: The Saturn version has a secret unlockable vehicle, the F-120 Super Car. It is obtained by getting 1st place in every Grand Prix race of every vehicles and then pressing Z on the controller when the F-160 is highlighted in Practice Mode.
- Shows Damage: Vehicles exhibit damage modeling, but strangely enough only if you are playing on the Expert course. Visiting the pit will repair any visual damage your vehicle has sustained.
- Tech Demo Game:
- The game was developed to show off the Model 1 hardware, and while it's not the first 3D driving game, it's one of the first to do so at a relatively high frame rate.
- The Deluxe Type cabinet uses a 16:9 screen over a decade before they became mainstream, albeit a CRT rather than the LCD and plasma screens commonly associated with widescreen ratios today.
- The Genesis port was made to show off the SVC chip, demonstrating that polygons are possible on the 16-bit system.