Chase H.Q. Captured the Essence of the 1980s Buddy-Cop Genre

YouTube/AL82 Retrogaming Longplays

The action-packed buddy-cop story trope was hugely popular in the 1980s, whether it was Crockett and Tubbs on Miami Vice, Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs., or Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon. At the same time, video arcades were booming, so it only made sense for a game developer to create an experience where players got to experience the thrill of two police officers in hot pursuit. This was the concept behind 1988’s Chase H.Q., which lets you hunt down exotic sports cars on busy highways while behind the wheel of a black Porsche 928.

Chase H.Q.‘s gameplay is similar to Sega’s classic 1986 game OutRun. The camera looks downward from behind your car, providing a wide angle at other vehicles and obstacles you’re speeding past. Whereas OutRun is a point-to-point race, with the player needing to reach a goal before a countdown runs out, Chase H.Q. adds a more exciting objective by tasking players with pursuing a suspect in a sports car and bumping into them until the criminal crashes.

The developers picked some of the coolest cars from the late 1980s for these criminals to drive. In the first level, you’re chasing “Ralph, the Idaho Slasher,” who is running away in a white Lotus Esprit. Next, “Carlos, the New York armed robber,” flees in a yellow Lamborghini Countach. For stage three, “a gang of Chicago pushers are fleeing toward the suburbs” in a white Porsche 911 Turbo. The game calls the villain in stage four simply “the L.A. kidnapper,” and he appears to be driving a blue Ferrari 288 GTO. The last level is about going after an “Eastern Bloc spy from Washington” in a red Porsche 928.

Chase HQ Poster HD
Taito America

Chase H.Q. doesn’t use graphics with three-dimensional polygons like most modern video games. Instead, the artists worked with two-dimensional elements called sprites, so we can only view the cars from the angles that the developers wanted us to see. Judging from what’s visible, the player seems to be driving a 928 S4. This variant debuted for the 1987 model year, while Chase H.Q. came out in the latter half of 1988.

The real-world 928 S4 boasted an upgraded version of Porsche’s 5.0-liter V-8 that made 320 hp. Exterior styling differed from its predecessor with revisions like a smoother nose and a tweaked rear bumper with flush-mounted lights. Both of these elements show up on the car in Chase H.Q. The prominent wing on the tail was another addition and is also easily visible on the vehicle in the game.

While not accurate to an actual 928 S4, the arcade game’s high- and low-speed gearshift has a button for activating a temporary turbo boost up to three times each stage. This ability is especially useful if you crash while chasing down a bad guy and need to catch up quickly.

By late-1980s standards, the driving in Chase H.Q. offers a fantastic sense of speed. There are many obstacles along the side of the road, and they move past your Porsche rapidly to give you the sense of traveling at high velocity. There’s also heavy traffic to maneuver through, so the player is seldom steering straight ahead.

YouTube/AL82 Retrogaming Longplays

Beyond the cool vehicles to pursue, Chase H.Q. has some visual and audio flourishes that add to the crime-fighting excitement. At the beginning of the first stage, you hear the engine start and emit a rumbly V-8 sound. One of the cops then says, “Giddy up, boy,” and the Porsche peels out. When you get close to the villain, the officer in the passenger seat of your 928 reaches out and puts a flashing red light on the roof. Voice clips also encourage you to smash the bad guy’s sports car.

Chase H.Q.’s period advertising to arcade operators didn’t shy away from showing the game’s inspirations. One brochure depicted a cop in a white blazer and pastel purple T-shirt who was clearly taking cues from Miami Vice’s Sonny Crockett. Another ad included officers who looked a bit like Gibson and Glover from the Lethal Weapon poster.

Chase H.Q.’s major weakness is the game’s short length. The video embedded above shows a complete play-through in just over 15 minutes, including the “attract mode” gameplay demonstration at the beginning and the end credits. I played all the way through recently, and it took me about 20 minutes while using seven continues.

Chase H.Q. spawned a sequel, S.C.I. – Special Criminal Investigation, in 1989, where the cops swapped their Porsche 928 for a Z32 Nissan 300ZX with T-tops. Rather than crashing into criminals, one of the cops stood up out of the roof and shot at the fleeing suspect’s car. The spiritual successor, Super Chase – Criminal Termination, arrived in 1993 and added a first-person driving view.

With nonstop action during the game’s limited runtime, Chase H.Q. is a must-play if you ever see it at a local arcade, especially if it has the sitdown cockpit, which provides a more immersive experience than the stand-up version. In an ideal world, pair the experience by playing the Miami Vice theme song or Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight to set the mood.


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