Revs, BBC Micro

Geoff Crammond‘s racing simulator, Revs, is an absolute classic on the BBC Micro. It was the first ever racing game made for home computers that focused on realism, and it still plays amazingly well to this day. Revs was first published by Acornsoft in 1985.

That said: most people who load up Revs now may be stumped by how to play it, so I’m going to try to explain that here. The game can be played with analogue controls, but I’m going to focus on using the keyboard, which is what most people will be using – probably in an emulator.

I’ve posted an image of the keyboard controls below, but basically you need to focus on the following keys: ‘L’ steers left, and ‘;’ steers right. ‘T’ starts the engine; ‘S’ is throttle, and ‘A’ is brake. ‘Q’ for gears up, and ‘Tab’ for gears down. Pressing the Space bar amplifies the steering motion, and this last one is most important to learn.

Okay, firstly – when your car starts out – it’ll be in neutral gear (indicated by the ‘N’ in the circle in the bottom right of the screen), and will not drive forward. To get it to drive forward you must first start the engine (by pressing ‘T’), then rev the engine by pressing the throttle (the ‘S’ key). When the rev indicator reaches above ‘5’ – ie. 5,000 RPM – you then need to put it into first gear by pressing the ‘Q’ key. This should put it into the first forward gear and the car should then start moving forward. As you hear the engine increase in pitch (and the RPM meter increases upwards) you then need to put it into second gear to pick up speed. You can then put the car into higher gears if you want to speed up, or move to a lower gear if you intend to slow down. What gear you need to be set to depends on your situation and your intentions. If you drive a ‘stick shift’ car in real life then you’ll already understand the concept of gears and how they work. If you don’t know how to drive a stick shift car, then: good luck learning!

Once the car is moving forward, the next thing you need to learn is how to steer the car around corners. The Formula Three car in Revs has two modes of steering. Firstly, by simply pressing either ‘L’ or ‘;’ you’ll move the steering wheel slightly, left or right. What you need to learn to do is: hold down the Space bar – while turning left or right – to make quicker turns. You need to get used to holding down Space when turning, and remember that you’re NOT braking when you do that. You also need to learn not to over-steer (otherwise the car will spin), and to put the steering wheel back to the centre line after the turn (by steering in the opposite direction to the turn – after the corner). Steering in Revs is not easy, but with practise it gets easier and you’ll get better at it.

Other general driving tips for Revs are: try to brake before you enter a corner, rather than while turning. Some corners can be taken at speed, so you don’t need to slow down too much, but other corners can only be taken at low speed – meaning that you need to learn the layout of the course and know the corners. If you’re playing in an emulator (like BeebEm), use quick saves while you’re driving down a straight, so you can quickly re-load and try again if you crash (having to re-start the engine before you’re rolling again can become tiresome if you’re just starting out, so use quicksaves to skip this). Keep practising. Revs is one of those games that is hard to get to grips with initially, but with a small amount of practise you’ll be surprised by how good the game is.

The very first version of Revs, released in 1985, had only one track to drive on – Silverstone – but a later enhanced version, called Revs Plus, included four more tracks (Brands Hatch, Donnington Park, Oulton Park and Snetterton), plus a ‘steering assist’ driving aid.

Considering the BBC Micro‘s limitations, Revs is a truly remarkable game. The cars feature aerodynamic settings and the tracks are fully three-dimensional with realistic undulations. You can even drive in the wrong direction, or even leave the track entirely. Opponent cars are controlled by rudimentary AI, but they do look and behave way ahead of anything seen in similar racing games at the time.

Revs designer/programmer Geoff Crammond later went on to create Formula One Grand Prix, and its sequels, for Microprose, as well as creating a number of other classic video games, such as The Sentinel and Stunt Car Racer.

More: Revs on Wikipedia
More: Revs on bbcmicro.co.uk
More: Revs on YouTube

Revs keyboard controls

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