It’s now week three of this nonsense, and I’m taking a break from my standard office routine of editing random articles in Wikipedia to honor my editor’s contributions to pop culture. Quick fact: did you know it was RGM’s own Carl Williams’s behavior that inspired Whale to write and record their 1995 alt-rock hit, “Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe“? Well, you would if the editors over there would stop flagging everything I add with those stupid  tags and banning accounts as fast as I can create them. It’s like, information wants to be free, man, but nobody wants what I’m giving away. That’s fine. I’ll just tell people about it here and let the world decide. Which brings me to the next game in Carl’s sack . . . The Dukes of Hazzard: Racing For Home.
Are you kidding me?
Be right back. I need to remind the world of Wiki that Carl also inspired King Missile’s 1992 prog rock masterpiece, “Detachable Penis“. I’ll just be a minute.
Dukes of Hazzard: Racing For Home casts the player as cousins Bo and Luke Duke, a pair of rough-and-tumble good ol’ Southern boys who never mean nobody no harm, and tool around Hazzard County, Georgia in a 1969 Dodge Charger dubbed the General Lee.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: the Confederate battle flag painted prominently on the roof of the Duke-mobile. Racing For Home is a 2000 video game designed to be a multi-episode add-on to a family-friendly television show which ran from 1979 to 1985, set in a state that used the Confederate emblem as a prominent aspect of its own state flag until 2001. While I’m no fan of what that emblem symbolized during the Civil War, the General Lee is an iconic element of the show, just as KITT was to Knight Rider and the alien power suit was to The Greatest American Hero. Changing its design would be just as much an insult to the Dukes of Hazzard license as removing his chest crest would be to Superman’s. Southpeak Interactive was not staffed by racists, and the game does not set out to offend anyone with the possible exception of corrupt county commissioners named Hogg. Now that I’ve stirred up literally everyone on the internet, let’s enjoy the rest of the article!
Racing For Home is actually an appropriate title with a nice double meaning you don’t catch until the story starts. Playing out over nine ‘episodes’ with anywhere between two and four ‘scenes’ per, Bo and Luke aren’t just outrunning the law back to the family farm. The game starts with an amusing FMV animation of the TV show’s opening. From there, opting for a New Game places you in a simple ‘do some laps around a dirt track’ track so you can get used to controlling the General Lee, then it’s on to the actual game. Episode one starts with Uncle Jesse nabbed by n’er-do-wells on the way to the bank to make his monthly mortgage payment. The Duke boys have to find Jesse, retrieve the money, and make it to the bank before it closes so Boss Hogg doesn’t foreclose on the property. You know, the usual shenanigans.
Episode two starts the story proper. Tired of the farm always being one payment away from repossession, Bo and Luke decide their best bet for securing the future is to enter the Hazzard Overland Race and win the $20,000 prize purse. Of course it’s not going to be that simple: someone’s got it out for the Duke clan in a big way, and this shadowy figure from the past isn’t going to rest until he’s wreaked vengeance on Bo, Luke, Daisy, Uncle Jesse, and everyone else associated with them.
I always give credit where it’s due, and Southpeak made exactly the right choice with how they approached this game. The Dukes of Hazzard always revolved around insane stunts, crazy schemes, and lots of police cars embedded in the river bank, and this game’s no different. Players get control of the car during all the action sequences, while the developers leave it to the FMV cut-scenes to tell the “boring parts”. They got Tom Wopat, Sonny Shroyer, Ben Jones, and James Best to voice Luke, Deputy Enos, Cooter, and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane respectively, along with Waylon Jennings who narrates the whole thing just like the TV show. Uncle Jesse and Boss Hogg obviously required other voice talent due to the fact that Denver Pyle and Sorrell Brooks had both passed away by the time development on Racing For Home began, but the replacement actors they use for them and other characters all turn in mighty fine performances. If it’s been a while since you saw an episode, chances are you wouldn’t realize anything was amiss. Even if John Schneider and Catherine Bach weren’t involved, it’s still nice to see Warner Bros. gave this much support to Southpeak.
The biggest problem with Dukes of Hazzard: Racing For Home is, unfortunately, the most important aspect for a driving game: controls. Driving the General Lee (or any other vehicle the story mandates you use for a given level) is frustrating as hell until you get the hang of just how sensitive the controls are. It’s far too easy to over-steer, then over-correct, then over-correct for your over-correction, until you fish-tail to a stop. Making matters worse is a power-up in the game that gives you a speed boost, something you’ll want to avoid using unless you’re certain the track isn’t going to turn within the next minute. Controlling the General Lee is hard enough when you’re doing 40 . . . kicking it up higher than that just means you’re going to put your fender through a fence or ram some hayseed chicken farmer in the tailpipe (a tradition Carl continues to this day in rural Arkansas). The physics system doesn’t help matters either. It’s there, but its behavior isn’t intuitive, and I wound up rolling my car over instead of landing smoothly from the game’s many launch jumps. It has the courtesy to flip you right side up if you start scraping your roof along the pavement, but it would be nice to take the game’s minor stunt leaps without worrying about landing a corkscrew. And you do have to worry about that, because your car takes location-based damage. Smash any part of your car into the red zone and you’re in trouble as one more hit to that location gets you towed back to Cooter’s garage for repairs.
In a concession to the madness of the controls, Racing For Home features levels that are mostly on the short side, and fouling up just means dropping back to an earlier checkpoint where you can try again. Several scenes task you with running another vehicle off the road, while others (like the very first one) involve escaping from the enemy AI. Don’t take Deputy Enos for granted . . . the boy’s the badass driver we see in season one, not the befuddled dipstick he morphs into in later years, and he will run your sorry behind off the road even if you’re trying to save Uncle Jesse from a bunch of armed kidnappers. Damn Enos, have a heart will ya? We just want to save the farm.
All in all, while I can’t say Racing For Home is a great game, I can’t say it’s terrible either. Southpeak does well to capture the folksy, Southern charm that earned the show its audience three decades before its release. If you aren’t a fan, the game won’t convert you into one–it’s cute, but not that cute. On the other hand, if you watched the TV show growing up, popping the disc in will treat you to some nice memories. It ain’t perfect, but there’s no shame in picking up a copy on the cheap and joyriding with Luke and Bo for a couple of hours. Get used to those controls, avoid the speed booster power ups, and remember to slow down when your cousin’s hanging out the window aiming his compound bow and you too might just find yourself belting out “YEEEEE-HAWWWWWW!” as you gun it over a gorge.