“Very fast sedentary lifestyle of the chauffer half-lying in the steering wheel saturn in the ring turn turn do the foot to the most distant blue speed of the craziest speeds glou glou glou of air in bottles-ears wind ventriloquist [..] hold the pedal to the snoring organ, kilometers breathed in a breath blown away, [..] reject with right foot accelerator distances +1000 depth + 300000 resistance of the earth to the overflowing speeds offer to offer itself pan-pan-traaak tatatraaak ”
(Quote from the literary work “Zang Tumb Tuum” by the Italian futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti)
The sky is clear, cloudless. The air, made incandescent by the glare of the sun at its peak, is still, immobile, lifeless. On the track, in the distance a flickering reflection appears on the horizon, a dull roar breaks the unreal silence in the desolate racetrack. The asphalt starts to jolt, the deserted stands vibrate in unison as the bolide sweeps supersonic along the straight of the finish line. A hand lets the chronometer start shining under the blinding sun while a gust of wind and smoke swallows everything.
Nooooo! This is not an F1 2000 Cut-Scene or some other car racing title for PlayStation but Pitstop II for Commodore 64, published in 1984 by Epyx, the unforgettable Mission Impossible and Summer Games Software House.
PitStop II, by Stephen H. Landrum & Dennis Caswell, was the first racing game to introduce the split screen, i.e. the horizontal division of the screen into two portions, one for each player, so that the two runners could follow, in the at the same time, in addition to his own run, also that of the opponent.
An ingenious idea that introduced the possibility, unthinkable up to that time, to live in real time every moment of the challenge between the two vehicles in a head-to-head adrenaline until the last breath, an involvement so effective and perfect that not even a possible third despite being the spectator of the race, he managed not to fall victim to it. Here, then, is the magic formula which, despite the fact that twenty years have passed, still remains topical and successful!
In addition to this aspect, however, many other components are involved in making this classic for Commodore 64 immortal !!!
The thrill of confrontation and the race with the opponent, the tension continues until the last second, the suspense for a possible unexpected or off the track that can at any moment completely change or reverse the progress of the race, the control of the consumption of the fuel and tires to administer during the race, the strategy of refueling, the consumption of tires, the thrill of getting out of the pit stop a few moments before our opponent, the absolute concentration to always maintain up to the last meter before the finish, and a thousand other factors that make involvement in the game absolute!
But without hesitating further we get to the heart of the game:
As soon as the fast loading is finished we are faced with a menu with various choice options; the number of players (choosing a single player will compete with the computer), the choice between six race tracks, including the legendary Vallelunga track with its anthology straight, and finally the level of difficulty.
After choosing these options we are ready to be catapulted into the middle of the race. So here we are in front of the great surprise of Pitstop II: the picture is divided horizontally in half, a portion for each player, each with its speed, time and fuel indicators. The two views of the two cars are shown at the same time and for each moment of the race and each of the two will always know where the other will be during the race.
Let the challenge begin!
Of course, as in reality you will never find yourself in front of fully decubertenian opponents and so prepare to fight during the head-to-head because the other competitors will try to throw you off the track, to close your trajectory or to tighten you.
So if the game gets dirty grit your teeth and hold on and be careful because during the clashes or even just having touched the curb your tires could be damaged, especially at high speeds. Touching a curb at 251km / h could make the tires explode and your race would end instantly for withdrawal!
The wear of the tires is indicated by the change in color of the reflection of the tire: as the damage increases, it will change from black to increasingly lighter shades until it reaches white which will lead to the disintegration of the compound. In any case, the tires are quite resistant and a careful guide can allow you to reach the pits for replacement.
Another important factor during the conduct of the race is fuel consumption: the greater the speed and the greater the consumption, and therefore it is important to plan a consumption table for each race to decide the right time for refueling in the pits.
The controls of the machine are very easy: right, left, accelerator and brakes. There is also the possibility of using the turbo by pressing the fire button: this will give you great acceleration and speed, very important during the start of the race.
During the race you also have the route map available in a small box on the right side of the screen that will continuously inform you of your position and the track’s progress.
I would like to conclude this review by talking to you about two extremely interesting aspects of this little Epyx jewel.
The first is computer artificial intelligence. Curated in many small details, such as refueling in the pits (really impressive for 1984), or in the different personalities of the other cars in the race: the yellow and green cars often have murderous tendencies and try to throw you off the track.
The second aspect that deserves a particular note is the scrolling of the road. Reading an interview with Stephen H. Landrum I learned that the screen is updated 60 times per second to make the movement slide and to allow sprites to move at any speed. Regardless of the fastest to the slowest, each element of the game is thus displayed perfectly.
Competition, pure and simple competition! This is car racing! This is what they are supposed to be. You can’t relax when you’re in the head, because you know that your opponent is right behind you ready to catch your every indecision, your every mistake. You don’t know when it will attack you, or when it will try to overcome you. Here is another curve: will it be the decisive one or will it wait for the next one?
Pitstop II is a full-fledged car race, not just a game!