Critic Reviews add missing review
Average score: 77% (based on 28 ratings)
Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 96 ratings with 1 reviews)
At the time I'm writing this (2016), Pole Position is 34 years old. As I personally like driving games, I can tell that in between have passed many interesting titles: OutRun, Stunts, Virtua Racing, all the Need For Speed and Gran Turismo series, and the list can go on. Somehow, looks like sports games age more noticeably than others, as the technology every time allows for more and more realism.
So, how it goes for Pole Position? This is a race game, which puts you in the Formula 1. You have two challenges: First, you must qualify to the race, by doing a lap in a given amount of time. If you qualify, you have to survive the race, by making every lap before the timer runs out, and passing cars.
The game sounds simple, and by the way it is, however that doesn't mean it's easy. Pole Position at the time bragged about physics. That is, the car at higher speeds will skid and need a larger radius to make a curve. Also, not at all times the track will be empty to let you to use all the room you need, but more likely will have several opponent cars as obstacles. You will have to use wisely the brake and gears to go through, because the timer won't forgive and last, but not least, any hit against another car or road sign will slow you down - collision detection is the other remarkable feature that Namco, then, took pride on. It's very accurate.
That's the game in overall, but, how it is translated to the Atari 8-bit computers? Consider that most people had joysticks to play with; for myself I had the original Atari joystick: Eight directions with a frail stick, and a single button. With that, Atari had to work a way to give the feel of a steering wheel, two pedals - gas and brake - and a gear stick of the arcade version. It may sound not good, but don't rush - they kept it simple and it's very easy to get used to. Throttle is always set to full, to the sides you steer, up and down are gears - low and high -, and the button brakes. Controls are very responsive and you won't get disappointed.
Graphics are very interesting as they may look too simple - they are actually, when compared to the arcade version. The cars are square shaped, you won't see any curves at all. However, they do their work well, as you can recognize easily a racing cars. I reckon the reason to keep them as simple was speed, as the track can convey that feel, with no slow downs, even when you approach many cars on the road.
Sound is also simple as well, but gets the job done. With Atari's 4 voices you will hear the engine, skids, cars passed and blow ups when colliding.
As for difficulty, the game stands well. I have played it many times and remains challenging. It can be adjusted depending on the number of laps - from 1 to 8 - and the track. The circuit itself won't change, but Malibu Grand Prix - easiest - has less opponents and signs, Namco Speedway is the intermediate, and Atari Grand Prix will offer you the ultimate competition with curves full of signs and many cars on rush hour to crash on. I think I beat 8 laps on that difficulty only once in my life.
Can't complain with real perspective on Pole Position for Atari 8 Bit. I could think of a remarkable soundtrack like OutRun, a wide variety of tracks like many others, but... They came after Pole Position. This game is like watching the begin of modern civilization. So no, I can't find something wrong with it.
The Bottom Line
Try this survival racing game! There's no way you arrive in last place, but certainly odds are that you won't even arrive, even with the fastest car. To youngsters, Pole Position is not about nostalgia, but seeing where most modern racing games came from.
Atari 8-bit · by jose vargas (22) · 2016
Contributors to this Entry
Critic reviews added by Stelios Kanitsakis, S Olafsson, vileyn0id_8088, ☺☺☺☺☺, Patrick Bregger, Jeanne, Alaka, Tim Janssen, Jo ST, Big John WV, Kic'N, Scaryfun, chirinea, Alsy, Hello X), FatherJack, Martin Smith, CalaisianMindthief.