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March 2005

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This chapter is from the book

Whiplash: Closet Classic (1996)

Genre: Pure Arcade Racing Goodness Publisher: Interplay Developer: Gremlin Platform: PC

Released in 1996 by publisher Interplay and developer Gremlin Interactive, Whiplash (also known as Fatal Racing in Europe) is one of the best arcade racing games ever made. It wasn’t a simulation by any means, but rather an arcade stunt racing game with sim-like elements. You didn’t need to be a gear head to enjoy Whiplash; you just needed to like fast cars racing over highly imaginative track designs.

The game sported eight unique cars, each of which had different ratings for speed, braking, handling, and damage (as in how much it could take). The cars added a lot of strategy because you needed to determine whether you wanted a lightning fast car that could handle well but was highly prone to taking damage, or a slower more durable car that was slower on straightaways but maybe handled a bit better on turns. In fact, there were seven car traits in all, which really made the cars stand out from one another.

The cars were only half the fun, though. Whiplash came with 16 over-the-top tracks that really stole the show. Some tracks were fairly basic with only a few sharp turns and maybe a few jumps. After you played more of the game and unlocked everything, you could race over tracks with full loops, corkscrews, and even extremely long jumps that would make or break a race. The jumps were particularly nasty because if you didn’t hit them at the right speed you were toast. Still, this was more about fun racing than sim racing, so it was no big deal that your car could land on its hood and you’d still be able to get back in the race (unless you blew up). Granted, as your car took damage it would lose speed, but pit stop locations on the track could be used to fix your car (costing you precious time).

Although the single player game was a lot of fun, Whiplash was at its best as a multiplayer game, something that was tough to take advantage of in 1996 when multiplayer gaming was in its infancy. I was able to take advantage of the game’s awesome multiplayer functionality more than others because at the time I was working in a PC lab at The Ohio State University. At the time, a roomful of blazing fast PCs in a college computer lab was an open invitation for multiplayer gaming (especially with someone like me in charge of the thing). After the lab closed for the day, my friends would show up to play games and Whiplash was a nightly ritual.

The game supported a whopping 16 players and you could even break people into teams of two. You could send messages to teammates via hotkeys and race in a championship mode to see who the better team was over the course of 16 races, using all of the tracks. At the time, it was multiplayer racing at its best. Whiplash is a game that really doesn’t get its due as one of the best arcade racers ever mainly because it was a resource hog for its day, which is a fair criticism. If you had the machine to run it, though, it provided hours upon hours of high intensity racing entertainment.

Whiplash is defined as the result of impulsive stretching of the spine, often the result of a rear-end collision between cars or trucks. It was also Metallica’s first single release ever in North America. "Love Me Do," it wasn’t.

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