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Speed Devils & Speed Devils Online

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:27 pm
by rjay63

Back in the day, Speed Devils was one of those games I completely ignored. I only bought select Dreamcast titles in the early days and besides, I didn't think much of the Speed Devils Online (SDO) demo I had from a cover disc. Fast forward a decade where I found said disc again in an old plastic bag and having nothing else to do, I played the demo again. I actually enjoyed it this time around, leading me to buy a copy of SDO from a retro game shop. However after a few plays I got bored of the unresponsive handling but was always curious about the Championship Mode and the New York track that could only be accessed when the SDO server was working. After learning that both these missing features could be found on the original Speed Devils, I bought the game from EBAY two weeks ago. And while Speed Devils is no racing classic, it has enough features to keep you interested and its superior controls blow SDO out the water!

Speed Devils is an updated version of an old PC title called Speed Busters: American Highways released in late '98. I guess Ubisoft were not sure about Dreamcast and decided to port or improve existing games to keep down development costs. While I have never played Speed Busters, research shows that various control and framerate issues were resolved for Speed Devils and Championship Mode was modified to include betting on race outcomes. Sadly the peer-to-peer online option found on Speed Busters is not present in this game.

First I'll discuss the good points and surprisingly there are quite a few. They are mostly found in Championship Mode where you race against various oddballs who seem to resemble guests from The Jerry Springer show ("My mother hates my man for sleeping with a chimpanzee" kinda episode). Although it's best to finish first in each race, you can also gain cash by breaking the speed limit within radar zones dotted throughout a course. Some of these zones are in areas where you have to slow down so you need to work out a racing strategy for carrying the best speed (until you get nitrous). As well as breaking speed limits, you also earn extra cash by getting the fastest lap, staying in the lead for longest and managing the highest top speed. But that's not all because you can also make bets with other racers when the opportunity arises. These are mainly challenges where you have to finish in the top 3 or break the speed limit within a certain radar zone. Win these and you'll earn extra money; lose and you'll be delayed from buying that faster car or necessary upgrade. Finally there are "vendettas", a one-on-one race where you and your opponent put the car on the line! Win and it's a nice new vehicle free of charge; lose and you'll either have to buy another car, or get lumbered with the broken down default car if you're broke. If it's the latter you'll probably better off starting the game from scratch....unless you save the game before taking on the bet (ha ha take that Ubisoft)! All in all these features make Speed Devils a lot more interesting than it otherwise would be. Think of them as an early version of "Achievements" (even pre-dating MSR's Kudos system) that is now the norm with most current-gen titles.

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Moving onto the courses and Ubisoft have done a very good job at producing some interesting and varied tracks. There are 7 locations in total (Aspen, Canada, Hollywood, Louisiana, Mexico, New York and Nevada) with variations on weather and time of day. Throughout each course there are various shortcuts that can make or break the race. For example on Aspen Winter, you have a frozen lake you can skid across instead of following the road, Nevada has a underground mining tunnel you can dip though and Canada has a risky set of planks suspended by cranes across the water. There also some various obstacles and animations that try to hinder your progress like the T-Rex on Hollywood, the flying saucers on Nevada and the luggage-throwing coach on Mexico. Make it to the end and we also have an insane Tornado on the Louisiana course that lifts cars high up into the air before crashing them back down. It's all great fun and make Speed Devils a really unique Dreamcast racer.

Graphically speaking Speed Devils is unspectacular due to its origins but the courses are well done and the framerate is smooth, albeit with occasional minor slowdown. The game looks best in either VGA or standard CRT via RGB SCART (Europe). I should also mention the various colour schemes for each car as they really add to the sense of fun this game has. You can choose eyeballs, leopard skin, flower power and even rainbow colours; a million miles away from the sniffy world of 'realistic racers'. The cars themselves are make-believe models and thus unlicensed which means they're allowed to sustain damage in Championship mode if you're too reckless. As you have to pay to get the car repaired, this gives you an incentive to become a better driver and learn the track accordingly. The models range from slower vehicles like the Belray and Orion to faster cars like the Montana pick-up, Solaris and Firebug and finally Driver X's mighty Mystere. Sound and music are fairly average but don't annoy....with the sole exception of that parping saxophone on Louisiana!

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Now although Speed Devils is mainly good there is one big problem and a few minor niggles that spoil an otherwise great title. The big problem is the physics system; although the controls are very responsive, the whole thing feels very basic and most turns can simply be taken by holding the brake throughout the turn while accelerating. While this is great for beginners, a lack of a decent drift dynamic for expert players (a la Sega Rally) really hurts the replay value. Once you have finished Championship mode and are left with the infinite recurring Class S races, things get boring very quickly. A drift dynamic would have had added a great deal of longevity to the game and may have even made Speed Devils a classic racer. Granted you do some kind of crude skid using the handbrake and nitro options but it's hardly worth it. In its defence, Speed Devils was never intended to be a Time Attack racer but Ubisoft could've extended the replay value another way...and the answer lies in Multiplayer mode. Here there are various modes like Defend and Attack (fighting your opponent to stop them overtaking) and Special Challenge (least nitrous used, fastest lap, most radars busted etc). These should have been incorporated within the final Class S races along with the ability to choose each course. I would have also included rewards for knocking your opponents into the tornado on Louisiana or sending them into the lava pit on Mexico! The other minor niggles are the lack of autosave on Championship mode, no real advantage to using manual gears and lack of reward for clean racing.

All in all Speed Devils is a fun racer that doesn't take itself too seriously. I'm glad I gave it a try; it's just a shame it lacks a good physics engine that would've made it something really special! Even if you don't like racing it's still worth picking up and can be bought very cheaply. BUT REMEMBER BUY SPEED DEVILS, DO NOT BUY SPEED DEVILS ONLINE! Want to know why....see the next post.

Final Score: 7/10

Re: Speed Devils & Speed Devils Online Review

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:29 pm
by rjay63

After the success of Speed Devils, Ubisoft released Speed Devils Online (SDO) just over a year later in Christmas 2000. The aim was laudable; to take the best part of Speed Devils (the Championship) and make it completely online. This meant you each of your opponents for each race would be a real person. Now unfortunately I cannot review this part of SDO as I never played the game online and probably never will. However if the basic mechanics of the offline mode are anything to go by, that's probably a blessing.....

Now all that remains of SDO are the basic race modes, similar to the Arcade mode on the original Speed Devils. The biggest change is the additional of a new course, Montreal Industries. Now this is actually a very good course containing plenty of shortcuts and twisty turns. There are also some new cars models and more crazy colour schemes; the highlight being the F1 dressed in rainbow "Alphabetti Spaghetti"!. Unfortunately these new additions are COMPLETELY RUINED by two mistakes that cripple any racing game. Firstly the framerate is absolutely SHOCKING! Even with one car on the track, the graphics engine splutters and wheezes its way through the race. Where once was smoothness now lies slow motion replay; it's that bad! The worst example is going down the staircase shortcut on Montreal; with one car on screen the game almost's really that bad!

Fatal error number 2 are the controls...what on earth happened here? Tight controls have now been replaced by clunky, unresponsive handling that make difficult sections such as the short-cut "ship jump" on Louisiana that much harder. It was only when I bought the original Speed Devils that I realised how bad SDO actually was.

Please note, if you played Speed Devils Online when the servers were up, enjoyed yourself and you're angry with my review I apologise. Again I point out I am not reviewing the online section of the game as I cannot play it. However if the controls and framerate on the offline mode were the same as the online mode, I'm glad I didn't. I will give SDO a point for the Montreal course and a point for the "Alphabetti Spaghetti" F1 car. Sorry, but there is no reason to buy this version whatsoever!

Final Score: 2/10

PS Here's a Montreal course video I made last year:


Re: Speed Devils & Speed Devils Online Review

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:33 pm
by elmagicochrisg
The yellow...


Re: Speed Devils & Speed Devils Online Review

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:47 pm
by rjay63

Point taken but you could always wear shades! 8-)

Re: Speed Devils & Speed Devils Online Review

Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 10:46 am
by Neohound
Haven't been able to post for the last few days due to.........well, anyway, non-videogame related shit.

Just read your review, rjay, and I found it to be a very interesting read. I think you are right to point out the differences in playability in both games - It's definitely a tale of two halves !

I suppose, if you're an out and out racing fan, then games such as Le Mans, F355, Sega Rally 2, V-Rally 2 plus others, such as Daytona 2001 and THC, are/were the driving games of choice. But there should always be a place for 'alternative' games on any system and I'm so glad Speed Devils got released on the DC as it's so full of character(s!), it's different and fun. It joins Revolt, Demolition Racer, 4 Wheel Thunder etc in making the Dreamcast so appealing to all kinds of gamers.

I always thought the handling was broken in the second game but always put it, along with the framerate problems, down to the developers incorporating the online code into the game. I'm not really just seems so odd that they went and spoiled a perfectly good game !?. I seem to remember F355 having this weird online aspect: that when you'd finished tweaking your suspension offline and took your car for a spin online, the suspension changed back to default settings :? Strange, but again I put it down to it being part of simplifying the mechanics of the game to get it running smoothly over dial-up. This is only speculation though, don't quote me on it :)

When we talk about the graphics of thirteen year old games, it can be tough to imagine or remember what impact they had all those years ago. But I distinctly remember thinking Speed Devils was impressive back in the day, especially in the way the obstacles were animated and the little details that brought the game to life. It, and I'm referring to the first game here, was also pretty solid looking, without too much slowdown or pop-up and certainly nothing game spoiling.

I think you're right in saying it could have been an even better game. Yes, a deeper or even 'drift' handling mechanic, plus those multiplayer options you suggested, could have elevated it to classic status. But, as it is, it's still a game everyone should try out. Like you say, it's a unique experience.

Re: Speed Devils & Speed Devils Online Review

Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:51 pm
by dark
Have you played Pod 2/Pod Speedzone? I read that it was entirely based on the Speed Devils engine, and playing the game reminds me of the demo of SD online that I have on one of the web browser discs.

I never played the first SD, but what got me about SD online and about Pod, was that the cars didn't feel like they had much momentum. The turning, coasting, and breaking all felt unnatural compared to how you would think the car would act based on its perceived weight. The sheer difficulty of doing a skid or a drift in the game was part of it.

Re: Speed Devils & Speed Devils Online Review

Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:59 pm
by rjay63

Thanks for reading! I dare say you're right about the controls/framerate in Speed Devils Online (SDO) being altered due to the online function. Perhaps people were prepared to put up with such flaws for the ability to play via Seganet/Dreamarena. My views echo those found in IGN's review:

"But nothing prepared us for the other major change in this year's model. What the %#@$ happened to the control here, people? Pod was a responsive, albeit stiff title while playing both online and off, and the original Speed Devils was a bit tricky, but it was definitely tight. But SDO? This game handles like a bad cell phone connection. Commands are delayed to the point where it doesn't feel like you're steering a car, but rather like you're blowing the wind at a car on the freeway, and maybe if you are a big enough gust, you just might nudge it to the side a bit. If you could imagine driving your run-of-the-mill RUSH vehicle with about 3 cars stack on top of it, you'd have an idea of how heavy these vehicles feel. A lot of the people I raced online didn't seem to mind, but I have to tell you I had a hard time getting used to it, and even after I did, I can't say that I enjoyed it."


The graphics in Speed Devils are solid but compared to the animations found in Daytona USA 2 (released a tad earlier than the original Speed Busters game), it does look a bit primitive. I appreciate the Model 3 arcade board could performs tricks the Dreamcast (and even the original XBOX for that matter) couldn't.

Of course what Ubisoft should do is release a Speed Devils Online remake for XBOX LIVE/PSN with the physics from the original game. ;) Unfortunately it seems the rights are owned by GameLoft who originally ran the server for SDO. They seemed to have turned into a mobile gaming company about 8/9 years ago, and have released this rather odd Speed Devils game which resembles an Outrun clone: (game footage video on the right)

"From the Dreamcast ® blockbuster Speed Devils-Online Racing ®" :? :shock: :o

Re: Speed Devils & Speed Devils Online Review

Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 4:31 pm
by rjay63

I would certainly recommend picking up the original Speed Devils game although you'd probably hate SDO even more after playing it! :)

I used to bemoan the fact the PAL version of Daytona 2001 had the online race functions removed. But after hearing all those stories about constant 'dropped' games and clunky controls, I'm somewhat glad it was. Strange thing about SDO was that it wasn't compatible with the BBA while POD Speedzone was, even though SDO had a later release date. I should point out I've never played POD.


If you are interested in checking out the original Speed Busters, Good Old Games have a version for sale that works with later operating systems. They have the original POD Gold game too.

SDO official website: ... online/dc/

SDO "Speedstake's" competion on SegaNet (winning prize was a trip to Las Vegas): ... akes.jhtml

Speed Devils Time Attack competition (prizes were a selection of real Fiat cars): ... rules.html

Re: Speed Devils & Speed Devils Online Review

Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:16 pm
by Neohound
Thanks for the links, rjay. It was cool to read through those pages, nearly brought a tear to my eye. I might even download that mobile version onto an old phone of mine, it's got to be worth a try :)

I only played the game online a few times back in 2000 and I've been wracking my brains to try and remember much about the experience. I did have some VHS tapes of online games from that period but must have mislaid/lost them over the years. Tbh, though I think I enjoyed the experience, everything was so novel for me back then that I would have been content with an online slug racing game. Oh, and online F355 was so good that everything else came second to that.

BTW, did the collision detection in SD cause you any grief ? That is a common gripe about the game.

Re: Speed Devils & Speed Devils Online Review

Posted: Tue Apr 17, 2012 1:47 pm
by rjay63
Thanks Neohound, no the collision detection was fine for me. There were one or two minor problems with steering (it seems if you spend too long turning, the car will randomly spin out) and reversing after crashing (yes it can be done)

I like to try and accompany my reviews with a few extra items like old official websites or archived discussions. I've found the old Usenet archives at Google Groups an interesting resource as you can see Dreamcast opinions from the 1999-2001 period rather than historical revisions. Here's some choice views on the Official US Dreamcast Magazine's Speed Devils Review and a writen response from the Editor himself:

So I was reading the "Official Sega Dreamcast Magazine", which I fully expected to be the usual gush-fest. SEGA GAMES ARE GREAT! You must buy them all! They had a HUGE 2-page ad for Speed Devils that got me drooling (and that's saying something since I HATE racing games...)

Then I saw their review...

3 out of 10

+ You can turn it off.
- Overly long tracks and a poor physics model.

"Thirteen tracks, 13 cars, hulking dinosaurs, floating alien spaceships, giant condors, King Kong, wacky cartoon-style characters to race, power-ups for your car, multiple two-player modes, and reflections on the car models! Speed Devils sure is packed with stuff. On the 'stuff-o-meter' rating system it's an easy eight. Oh - and wait - there are short-cuts on the tracks and a Quest Mode, too, so that's nine.

And there's more great stuff. The tracks, for example, are really long, and it seems to take forever to drive around them. Just when you think you're done, you realize that you've got another two laps to go. The fun never ends (or, at least, it certainly feels like it never ends). There's even a Two-Player Battle Mode, where you 'fight' the other car and get points for sort of bumping into them. The 'stuff-o-meter' is fit to burst (and the sarcasm-meter... -Ed.) But there's no need to duck just yet, because Speed Devils, despite all the extras is - thanks to terrible handling, weak opponents, and uninspired track design - no fun to play at all.

WTF? I haven't seen a negative comment about this game on usenet yet (and that's saying something.) So what's up with this review? Case of
stick-up-the-butt reviewer or what?

I wrote to Simon Cox, editor in chief at Official Dreamcast Magazine, and expressed my "concern" regarding his magazine's 3 rating of Speed Devils. He took the time to write me a personal response...classy move in this day and age of computerized email responses. Here is what he had to say regarding the SpeedDevils review:

"Regarding the review of Speed Devils - what can we say? There are a
few key factors that go into making a driving game worth playing - the controls/handling, the enemy AI, the track length and design and
the graphics, of course.

Speed Devils looks like a slightly higher-res PlayStation game - a poor update of the PC title Speed Busters (which wasn't that great in the first place). The controls are poor- the cars handle more like boats than racing cars, and the enemy AI is such that once you get ahead of the opposition you tend to just float out there, driving a very lonely race indeed around tracks that are simply way too long for repeated laps.

It feels like a PC port - and like we said, not a very good one at that.

Please bare in mind that we do mark harshly compared to other magazines and, unlike other mags, we don't believe in giving 7 out of 10 for 'average' or just 'okay' games. As a racer, Speed Devils, for the reasons outlined above, is below average.

It's regrettable that space limitations prevented a clearer explanation of the problems with the game. It's often better to spend more space on reviews you don't like than the ones you do, because being critical requires a fair explanation. I agree with you that the review was a little short and came off sounding flippant, but I would stand by the review score and the conclusions of the piece.

You do raise a valid point about the reviewers, though. In the future we hope to include more information on the reviewers themselves so that you can identify with their conclusions/tastes in a far more personal way.

Anyway - if you like Speed Devils, then more power to you, but we're really not into at all. Sorry.

Best wishes, and enjoy the magazine (if you can) as we try hard every issue to improve it further.

Thanks again for writing in. It's very much appreciated.

All the best,


Simon Cox
Editor In Chief
Official Sega Dreamcast Magazine
Imagine Media"