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Pole Position

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Released: 1982

Genre: Racing

Format reviewed: Arcade

Publisher: Namco

Submitted by: Ian Marks

Pole Position blew me away when I first saw it in an arcade in Cornwall. Not only did it have a steering wheel, and real pedals, and a gear lever but it also had graphics that were so detailed and colourful that I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.

There had been racing games before, Night Driver springs to mind, but nothing like this. The rear view of your car that Pole Position offered has been copied and refined to this day. Without Pole Position there would be no Out Run, no WEC Le Mans, no Gran Turisimo even.

As with all great races you first had to qualify. Who can forget the mumbly electronic woman’s voice telling you ‘Prepare to Qualify’, whilst a blimp flew across in front of you. The lights went green and you were off!

Whoever designed the course didn’t have safety in mind. He was more interested in advertising revenue. He didn’t care if you went round the second corner and crashed into an advertising hoarding, as long as you noticed it was for Atari Centipede.

The gorgeous orange car drove beautifully. Sliding round the corners of the Fuji circuit like a dream. Other competitors weren’t as fast as you, but that didn’t mean they were going to get out of your way. Quite the opposite was usually the case.

If you so much as tapped another car it became clear that whilst your opponents were made of bullet proof steel, you were made of paper, and combustible paper at that. Huge explosions followed any mistake.

Once you qualified it was the big race, and where qualification was fairly easy, the race was nearly impossible. Too many cars, and then you ran out of time. More 10p coins were required.

Influencing a whole generation of racers, both in looks and controls, Pole Position has earned it’s place in history. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still play a damn good game. Try it for yourself, it’s as great today as it always was.

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