Behold These Hilariously Off-The-Mark Car Models From Old Racing Games

Behold These Hilariously Off-The-Mark Car Models From Old Racing Games

Need For Speed II
Need For Speed II
Screenshot: Electronic Arts/Jalopnik

There was a time when calling a video game photorealistic was just about the greatest praise you could offer. Times have changed, of course. Sure, some games today look more convincing than others, but with modern hardware flailing hundreds of millions of polygons at your face, all shiny and ray-traced, the bar for what constitutes realism is decidedly higher than it was just a decade ago.

That brings us to this visual exercise. Some beloved racing games certainly featured surprisingly detailed and accurate car models in spite of the harsh limitations of mid-’90s gaming hardware. This is the charming, low-poly aesthetic we remember fondly, the era indie developers revisit today with the most vivid of rose-tinted glasses.

What’s less fondly remembered are the times games got cars horribly, horribly wrong. Here are a few of the medium’s most glaring examples.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. 2017 Fiesta ST. Wishes NASCAR was more like Daytona USA.

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2 / 10

Toyota Supra from San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing

Toyota Supra from San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing

Illustration for article titled Behold These Hilariously Off-The-Mark Car Models From Old Racing Games
Screenshot: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment/Jalopnik

A mainstay of the early days of the Nintendo 64, San Francisco Rush was the sort of game you dangled in front of your PlayStation- and Saturn-having friends, claiming you didn’t need no Ridge Racer or Sega Rally because you had this blurry ol’ pile of misery. (At least it had more going for it than Crusin’ USA, low bar to cross though that may be.)

Rush had many cars for its time, the gamut of which aped real cars, though without licenses and permission from automakers. (That’s ironic — the automakers’ lawyers could have put a stop to this tomfoolery.) Many of Rush’s car models are sort of charming in the sense that they manage to convey somewhat familiar cues despite being remarkably featureless. My personal favorite is the game’s take on the Mk IV Supra, which really just entertains me for its squinty tail lights and tires that extend about seven inches past the fenders. It looked a bit better in the N64 port, but the model shown above from the later PlayStation release gives me the heartiest chuckle.

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3 / 10

McLaren F1 GTR from Le Mans 24 Hours

McLaren F1 GTR from Le Mans 24 Hours

Illustration for article titled Behold These Hilariously Off-The-Mark Car Models From Old Racing Games
Screenshot: Atari SA/Jalopnik

Le Mans 24 Hours — known in North America as Test Drive: Le Mans — is actually a phenomenal game, and one that remains unmatched in the way it captures the spirit and glamour of the world’s greatest endurance race. It’s also unmatched in the manner in which it fouls up some of motorsport’s most recognizable racecars.

Most of Le Mans’ longtail McLaren F1 GTR model is reasonably proportioned, save for edges so sharp you could cut yourself on them. Where it all falls apart is in the face, though I admit I didn’t capture the most flattering angle here. I can’t decide if those tall, boxy eyes say this F1 is frightened or merely stunned. This particular car was run by GTC Competition in the ’98 edition of the event and finished fourth overall, which is pretty decent for Le Mans. Hopefully our little buddy here could calm down after that satisfying result.

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4 / 10

Shelby Series 1 from Test Drive 6

Shelby Series 1 from Test Drive 6

Illustration for article titled Behold These Hilariously Off-The-Mark Car Models From Old Racing Games
Screenshot: Atari SA/Jalopnik

At first, I looked at this Shelby Series 1 from 1999’s Test Drive 6 and honestly didn’t see that much wrong with it. I mean, it’s moderately offensive on the eyes, but so was the Series 1 — or at least that’s what my memory convinced me of.

Revisiting the actual Series 1, I’m still not a fan of the styling. However, in defense of Shelby’s musclebound roadster, the real thing looks far less like one of those peel-and-stick glow-in-the-dark alien wall decals I used to plaster my room with as a kid. The inexplicably black eyes and shrunken jaw certainly don’t diminish the uncanny resemblance. Prepare for the Test Drive series to dominate the rest of this list. It was not in a good place.

Oh, and that car in the background? That’s supposed to be a TVR Griffith.

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5 / 10

Dodge Viper GTS from Test Drive 5

Dodge Viper GTS from Test Drive 5

Illustration for article titled Behold These Hilariously Off-The-Mark Car Models From Old Racing Games
Screenshot: Atari SA/Jalopnik

The Dodge Viper posed as a frequent cover star for the Test Drive franchise back in the mid-to-late ’90s, especially while the series was under the stewardship of the U.K. outfit Pitbull Syndicate. None of the Pitbull-era Test Drive games are particularly good, though they’re certainly good for a laugh because the artists took some creative liberties with the car roster, to put it mildly.

Case in point: the Viper GTS you see above. You’d imagine, given the fact that the Viper is on the cover and all, that it might’ve received the most love, care and attention of any of the game’s 30-plus cars (which, it must be said, is a healthy number for a 1998 racing game). Glancing at the front end, though, it’s clear to see that wasn’t the case. Weirdly, this Viper’s semi-vertical headlights almost foreshadow the last generation’s appearance, while the artists evidently made no attempt to replicate the signature crossbar grille of Dodge’s supercar. I’d like to say these oversights are shocking, but this is the same series that used a 1/18-scale Maisto model of a Viper on the cover of Test Drive 4 — a fact I can verify because I own the very same one.

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6 / 10

????? from Test Drive 6

????? from Test Drive 6

Illustration for article titled Behold These Hilariously Off-The-Mark Car Models From Old Racing Games
Screenshot: Atari SA/Jalopnik

Let’s play a game: what do you think this particular one is supposed to be? To me, the rather small square rear window, narrow wing and taillights pushed out to the corners evoke the 993 911. If the strip between the lights has been replaced with a body-color panel (it’s hard to tell on this red car), it might even pass for a Ruf CTR2.

As it turns out, this is no Ruf CTR2, nor is it any Porsche. What it’s supposed to be is an Impreza 22B STi, which I suppose you’d glean only from the unintelligible badging scrawled across the trunk lid. Subaru badging like that was more common on the non-WRX models, like the Impreza 2.5 RS, though that’s clearly the least of the problems afoot here.

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7 / 10

Mazda RX-7 from Metropolis Street Racer (Beta)

Mazda RX-7 from Metropolis Street Racer (Beta)

Illustration for article titled Behold These Hilariously Off-The-Mark Car Models From Old Racing Games
Screenshot: Sega/Jalopnik

I’ll readily admit this one is a little unfair, because it actually hails from a prerelease version of a game. That would be Metropolis Street Racer for the Dreamcast, which was the forerunner to all those awesome Project Gotham Racing games they don’t make anymore. MSR was great.

This first stab at an FD Mazda RX-7, though, was decidedly not great, and thankfully Bizarre Creations amended it ahead of the game’s launch. I’m puzzled by the treatment of the RX-7 black plastic rear trim here, mainly because it’s gigantic, red and conveys the impression of being one all-encompassing, singular taillight, which is unsettling for some reason. I wish I hadn’t seen it, but I did — and so you have to, also.

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8 / 10

Toyota GT-One from Test Drive 6

Toyota GT-One from Test Drive 6

Illustration for article titled Behold These Hilariously Off-The-Mark Car Models From Old Racing Games
Screenshot: Atari SA/Jalopnik

The Toyota GT-One is regarded by many people (myself included) as the prettiest race car to ever grace the Mulsanne. How Test Drive 6’s developers extracted this from that source material will forever remain a mystery.

The actual GT-One is renowned for its functional-yet-elegant tapered and flowing form, clearly shaped by the passage of air funneled over peaks and through valleys of bodywork. Test Drive 6’s GT-One is a bloated water balloon with extraneous curves in all the wrong places, wrinkly air intakes and a windshield that is a foot tall at best. The rear wing is another highlight; it’s so thick and clearly composed of three rectangular slabs, it looks like it’d make a mighty sturdy bench.

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9 / 10

Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 from Test Drive 6

Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 from Test Drive 6

Illustration for article titled Behold These Hilariously Off-The-Mark Car Models From Old Racing Games
Screenshot: Atari SA/Jalopnik

From certain angles, this R34 GT-R looks relatively acceptable. But the front and back are so tragically, absurdly off the mark, you reckon this model was a deliberate joke.

The tiny circles for the tail lights present a hilariously reductive take on perhaps the R34’s most defining visual cue. But the front might actually be the best part; it’s so miserable, so unamused, it’s perfect reaction meme material. We’ve all seen faces in cars — ones that convey excitement, aggression, performance, elegance, intelligence. This face is the embodiment of waking up, groggily opening Twitter and reading something vapid. It’s so expressive, yet conveys the countenance of acute listlessness. It’s a work of art, and it deserves to be recognized.

Interestingly, not all iterations of Test Drive 6 employed the same car models, and the examples shown here actually hail from the Dreamcast release of the game. As YouTuber Kacey explains in her tremendously informative video on Test Drive’s malaise era, the PlayStation port of Test Drive 6 sports different assets, and its rendition of the R34 GT-R looks far better than the Dreamcast version’s, even though the PlayStation was a markedly less powerful console.

We’ve reached the end of this brief list of wildly inaccurate car models from retro racers, though there are certainly many more not mentioned here worth dredging up. Be sure to respond with your favorite examples in the comments!

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10 / 10

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. 2017 Fiesta ST. Wishes NASCAR was more like Daytona USA.

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