This article is written by Staresy.
Before there was GTA there was Turbo Esprit and…….not a lot else! Released in 1986 for The Amstrad by British software company Durell, Turbo Esprit took you into the world of high speed chases, drug dealers, urban maps and murdering of innocent pedestrians.
The game takes place in a pseudo 3D environment. The Play area looks like your standard racing game setup with a perspective view and it is your job to hunt down criminal cars in various cities while negotiating other vehicles and obeying (or disobeying) traffic laws.
Graphically the game window isn’t big and much of it is taken up by a representation of a dashboard with steering wheel. The play graphics are nothing to shout home about. A touch blocky and pretty much zero variety in look between cities but the road structure has some changes with 3 lane motorway type deals to one lane allys. Most of the cars are colour coded so you know who is who (and who you are).
Sound wise is nothing to write home about either. Some grumbly low engine noises and weedy skid and gunfire effects pretty much make up the entire soundtrack. The title tune is a jolly little number, perhaps a touch inappropriate for the subject matter but it’s there and it’s a memorable tune.
Gameplay wise is where Turbo Esprit starts to shine. The whole play is really nothing more than a game of chase but your little car can fair whizz along the streets and having to negotiate other drivers, red lights and zebra crossings when you are in high speed pursuit results in glorious expletives being shouted at the screen to the pixeleted population of the city who go about their business and as such, hold you up!
The game is superb fun to play when you have your mission head on but it also offers the delicious option of being a bastard as well. You don’t ‘have’ to stop at a red light and you don’t ‘have’; to let a person cross a crossing either. In fact you can quite happily mount the pavement with your sports car and mow down the unsuspecting people out for a walk on the city streets. Car in front won’t move fast enough when the light goes green? No problem, just fire a few rounds into his petrol tank and blow the bugger up. This carnage does result in score penalties but it’s so much hand rubbingly evil fun that it’s worth getting docked a few points!
It’s this fiendish side to the game combined with the chase aspect which makes it great fun. Pulling a handbreak turn at a junction, especially if it’s into a narrow lane is exhilarating because there is a 50/50 chance you will make the turn ‘like a glove’ style or end up charred pizza on the wall.
Turbo Esprit isn’t the best game cosmetically but it’s so much fun to play and a fascinating look into the genealogy of the GTA games of which this is a most definite ancestor.
Staresy is a long time gamer and chiptuner. You can listen to chiptunes from classic games systems and covers of classic game music. You can listen to some of them at Prototron.