Originally an arcade release from Taito in 1988. Chase H.Q. was a driving game very much in the style of Yu Suzuki’s Outrun. However, in a twist to the formula instead of playing as an unknown with your girlfriend alongside you in the passenger seat, you play as police officer Tony Gibson. Alongside him was partner (as far as I am aware not romantically linked) Raymond Broady. Rather than just racing to get to the finish line you are instead tasked by Nancy from Head Quarters to chase down various different criminals ranging from murderers to armed robbers & even a spy. The visuals were also more impressive than those of Outrun, including hills and jumps. Yes kids’, once upon a time having hills in a driving game was impressive!
Crime obviously does pay as all these criminals drive some of the finest super cars of the time. Having said that you drive a Porsche and a suspicious number of civilian cars are also rather sporty but given the limited memory of the hardware of the time I think we can let that go. Stages are split into two sections, in the first you have 60 seconds to catch up with said wrongdoer. Once you have the target vehicle in your sight you then have an additional 60 seconds to ram the outlaw car repeatedly until they have to relent to the long arm of the law. You are aided with 3 turbo boosts per stage which you can use to help catch up with your quarry or for some extra wallop when it’s time to ram them off the road.
As is the way with such things, your task is not always as simple as you would wish. Along with various obstacles in the road you also have the aforementioned civilian cars to dodge. At certain points on your pursuit the road forks and you have to make a choice as to which way to go. You are aided by advice from Nancy back at H.Q or from a handy police chopper as to which way the felon has gone. However if your not paying attention or are too slow to react and take the wrong road then your route to slapping those cuffs on will be that much longer and will mean you have to pull off some serious driving skills to be successful.
I first came across the game on an arcade machine at a motorway service station and loved twist on straight up driving. The game was ported to various formats but Ocean Software’s Spectrum version was widely considered to be the best, appearing in many ‘Best Ever Spectrum Games’ lists. This is where I spent most of my time with the game and it truly was a great conversion. Maintaining all the content and gameplay of the original and pushing sprites along at a cracking pace. It also included one of many great Spectrum loading screens held dear from my childhood. Despite its short game time, with only 5 criminals to apprehend a perfect run will see the game done in less than 10 minutes, I spent many Sunday afternoon hours with the game and will always fondly remember it.
Going back to the game now and whilst it’s clearly no Forza when it comes to visuals it’s clear it was a great game for the time. Gameplay wise it’s still great fun to get behind the wheel and unlike any other driving game around even twenty odd years later. Whilst it spawned two sequels introducing firstly a shooting mechanic and then a first person view point along with a 2D platformer spin off and bizarrely a quiz game, none of them match up to the brilliance of the original. A cheap downloadable remake or a full blown Burnout style update is long overdue. Chase H.Q, welcome to the Monkey Tail Hall of Fame.