When I was young, I remember being enraptured by the stark vector graphics of tank-shooter Battlezone. The green hues and blocky shapes approximated explosive combat that couldn’t quite be rendered in high fidelity. Byte Driver, a new indie racing game, embraces that aesthetic and adds some 1980s flair to create one of the fastest and most intense racing experiences I’ve ever had.
Byte Driver, which is out for PC, Mac, and Linux, mixes arcade classics like Outrun with the old-school graphics of vector games like Tempest or Atari’s Star Wars. It’s a deeply nostalgic experience for someone like myself, who used to play endless hours on my cousin’s vintage Vectrex game console. But Byte Driver ups the ante with speedy chases and on-the-fly power-up collection that leads to exciting battles.
The game plays like many arcade racers. You have to reach checkpoints in allotted times and survive without crashing. What makes the process unique is your ability to target other cars and hack them, either to run them off the road or to steal abilities from them. If you’re low on health, you might siphon energy. Want to add a shield ability to your car? Snag that from some hapless schmuck. Enemy boss got ya down? Hack into him, enable your guns, and blast him off the road. It gives Byte Driver some moment-to-moment tactical decision-making that’s really enjoyable.
Of course, there’s also the speed. Nitro boosters and upgraded engines launch your car forward at blistering rates. There’s a real sense of free-wheeling excitement as you whip along to Byte Driver’s killer ’80s-inspired soundtrack. This is the type of speed I expect from F-Zero, and Byte Driver delivers. Byte Driver caught me off guard the first time I played, and I get the sense I’ll be thinking about it for a while. It’s fast, stylish, and fun. What more could you want from a racing game?