Top Gear 2

Grade:  B-

Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 40th

Publisher:  Vic Tokai

Year:  1994

Genre:  Post-apocalypse

Brad: One thing I’ve always found odd about most racing games is that they very rarely seem to take fans into consideration.  I don’t mean the fans of the game itself, but fictional fans inside the game world who would want to watch people driving fancy cars really fast.  Auto racing is, after all, a sport.  It would be hard to imagine a football game where both teams meet on an empty field in the middle of nowhere to play a game, with neither fans nor television coverage present (the Mountain West Conference notwithstanding).  Nor would you expect to see a basketball game deep in an empty desert, or a soccer game that started in the middle of the night (not that anyone would notice, anyway).  Racing games on the other hand don’t find this unusual at all.

If you can barely see the road, imagine how the people watching the race must feel.

Top Gear 2 is no exception.  The very first race starts on the outskirts of a city, but there’s no signs of life other than the other drivers that you’re racing against.  From there, the locations get more exotic, and by “exotic” I mean “unlikely that anyone would actually go there,” such as the aforementioned desert. When the races finally do return to civilized areas, they begins at 11pm.  It’s as if they’re doing everything they can to prevent people from watching their sport – much like the NHL, except in this case they’re actually doing it on purpose.

Of course, this is a racing game, so there’s no story to explain why this would be the case.  I’ve given it a lot of thought though, and managed to come up with two theories:

Theory #1: Top Gear 2 takes place after the apocalypse

Imagine this:  A global war, or pandemic, or zombie uprising devastates the world, leaving you and very few others as the only human survivors, but leaves most everything else (buildings, food, products, etc) intact.  You’re practically alone in a land of plenty.  What would be  the first thing you do?  I’m guessing you answered “Porn spree.”  But what about after that?  If your next answer is anything other than “Find some awesome sports cars to race against the other survivors,”  then I’m not really sure why you bothered surviving the apocalypse, since you’re already dead inside anyway.

In this scenario, parts of Top Gear 2 make a lot more sense.  It not only explains why the world is so eerily quiet, but also why some of the roads have unfinished construction projects, fallen trees and other obstacles.  Well, at least it explains why the construction was never completed or the roads cleared – nobody was left alive to take care of it.  I guess it still doesn’t explain why the few remaining survivors choose those roads to race on in the first place.

…maybe all the other streets are overrun by zombies.

Theory #2:  There is no race, except in the player’s mind

Once, when previewing an important race between a man and a zebra, Carl Lewis pointed out that the key to victory for the zebra was that it would need to realize it was in a race.  Playing Top Gear 2, you start to get the same feeling about the other drivers.  Similar to the Ridge Racer series, Top Gear 2 is one of those games where you start the race in last place and every other car has a big head start.  Whether or not you’re the fastest driver is never really in question – you clearly are – it’s really just a matter of whether or not you can overcome the massive handicap that’s been granted to the other drivers before completing all of your laps.

Perhaps the simplest way to explain the amount of ass that you’re kicking is to consider that there actually is no race.  Maybe the other cars are just people driving to and fro, wondering why some idiot is driving three times the speed limit and weaving in and out of lanes.  And since the “race” is all in your head, it could be taking place at any location and at any time you wanted it to be, such as the shores of Loch Ness in the middle of the night.  And understandably, you’re not going to get too many fans coming out to watch some crazy guy drive like an asshole on the highway.  Most people already see that every day – they call it “commuting”.

In a way, this makes Top Gear 2 one of the most artistically and narratively unique racing games to ever come out, as the entire thing takes place from within the delusional mind of a protagonist who has clearly lost touch with reality.  Hideo Kojima would be proud.

Oh, a log across the road.  In the middle of the desert.  And this is where we decided to have our race.  No, it makes perfect sense.

Stryker: As much as we enjoy racing games, they are the absolute worst to write about.  The basic concept of a racing game is pretty much immune to change, and improvement within the genre generally consists of refining the core gameplay, improving the graphics, and adding new cars and tracks. Now don’t get me wrong; making a game that’s more fun to play, better looking, and has more content than the games that came before it are not minor, insignificant improvements.  But these things don’t really translate well to words.

Top Gear 2 is one of the best games for the Sega Genesis, but what is there to really say about it?  It’s a game where you try to drive a car in a circle faster than other players drive a car in that same circle.  The graphics are better than other circle-driving games on the Genesis, and the music really gets you excited to drive in a circle.  The game is designed in such a way that driving in a circle in this game is more fun than driving in circles in other games.  And there are a lot of different circles (as these aren’t circles in a literal sense), which are generally more fun to drive on than the circles you drive on in other games.

Top Gear 2 is the pinnacle of driving in a circle.  Which is a lot more fun than it sounds.

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