[Acorn Gaming]


Burn 'Out

[ 2/5 ** 2/5 ]

Burn 'Out is an arcade-style racing game where you drive a small buggy around a twisting, torturously undulating log track. First impressions are superb. The game has wonderful graphics, loads of excellent music and is quite well presented (although the introductory sequence is a bit lame - it needs more animation!).

[Burn 'Out logo]Without doubt the music is the best original music I've heard on the 32-bit Acorn platform, and there is absolutely loads of it! Full marks to the composer. The graphics are also superb throughout, and fit the style of the game perfectly. In fact, the graphics and music are pretty faultless.

To complete Burn Out you have to take part in a series of races, coming first, second or third in each race and finishing inside a time limit. In reality, though, the `first, second or third' proviso has little real effect - you nearly always come first, and only the time limit matters. You get to choose one of four different buggies to drive in, and to take the part of one of a mottley bunch of people, although I don't think this has any effect on the gameplay (although it does change the graphics used).

You can start at either the first track or one of two later tracks - supposedly harder to start from, the idea being that if you start from the first track you can upgrade your car from the in-between level shop to the point where the harder levels are actually considerably easier by the time you reach them. You get money to buy upgrades with by winning races - the better you do the more money you get.

The game has quite a bit of style. The track previews are an excellent idea, and I really liked the way your car bounces around on the track - even though it does go off the top of the screen sometimes! Sometimes the track rises quite a long way up the screen and so if you have the large time display turned on (`foreground detail high') it can be difficult to see where you're going! The end of each race is badly done, however. Your car sort of halts, as do the other cars, but then whilst the game `thinks' for a few seconds you get to see your car shuddering about and sometimes sliding sideways! Collisions are a bit strange, too. The collision detection is a bit inconsistent, although this may be because the screen display is an approximation of the car positions the game actually holds internally, and when you hit a car a series of sparks fly slowly through the air - only they move forwards at exactly the same rate as your car, even if you change speed whilst in the air. Strange, but not untypical of arcade games, I suppose.

[Burn 'Out box picture]The track is well drawn, although the flat road surface parts do break up sometimes because of the way it is plotted, and if you look closely at the screen you'll see the track doesn't actually scroll towards you - the texture stays still and occasional darker patch moves towards you. But in all honesty, you can't notice this whilst you're playing the game and so it doesn't matter at all.

As I said, the music is excellent, and the sound is too. Unless, that is, you try and play the game on anything less than an ARM 3 - because of the way the engine noise is generated it sounds like you're permanently going about 1mph (so you have to turn it off else it drives you mad!).

Unfortunately, however, the game has bugs in it (one serious), and the development team clearly don't understand the concept of playtesting - I get the impression the game has only really been played by the people who wrote it, which is hardly objective!

The game timing is little short of attrocious. On a Risc PC it runs far too quickly in my opinion - halving the VSync rate with Game On solves this, though. But more importantly the game changes speed when the amount of scenery on the screen decreases - on some levels the game halves and doubles speed at whim as you progress round the track, which it certainly shouldn't do! Basically, I think the game plots the screen and waits for the next VSync before it plots it again, with the result that it slows down and speeds up like nobody's business.

And on an ARM250 the game is so slow as to be unbearable, and there is no impression of speed at all - the game grinds along, with about two small logs passing you every second (ie. although the game says you're travelling at 275kph your eyes telling you it's more like 2kph!). And that's with every feature which you can disable disabled! So I can't imagine how slow it must be on an ARM 2! (And it doesn't point out on the box that it needs an ARM 3, even though the loading screen says `ARM 2 Not Recommended'; it doesn't detect an ARM250).

As for bugs, well, the game is supposed to support Acorn joysticks. It doesn't - the option is there but it won't let you select it (even though you can move the mouse pointer with the joystick you can't play the game with it!). The music on/off option doesn't always take effect until you play and quit the game, and as far as I can tell the menu fades option does nothing. And switching on and off all the options has virtually no effect on the game speed on my A3010 anyway! What is needed is the ability to switch off some game feature which will have a more profound effect on the speed of the game (such as the plotting of the horizon, or the plot-ahead distance of the track).

But most importantly of all, to complete some of the tracks you need to pass under `time' banners. This would be fine, but unfortunately they're severely bugged! They don't always register that you've passed under them, and there's one which never registers when you've been under it (and I've tried about 50 times!) - meaning that you can't complete the game. And when I fought through to this track from the very start of the game and managed to complete it without this time bonus (possible due to a buggy upgraded to maximum specification), the game thought I hadn't completed the level and proceeded to end the game! Talk about an annoying bug - it makes the game as good as unplayable!

The game design is flawed, too. The cars bunch and sometimes block the course entirely - and there's nothing you can do about it. When they overtake you they suddenly appear on top of you - so you can't avoid cars approaching from behind. This doesn't happen too often though because all the computer cars are useless and soon fall behind after you've upgraded your car a few times. Also there are too many too short tracks, with the result that you spend ages waiting for it to cycle through all the in-between level screens and not long enough playing them - it also means your car reaches maximum power when you're only about half-way through the game (before you even get to the `advanced' starting race) and so the shop becomes useless (unless you want to change the colour of your car every level!). Oh, and you can't skip any of these screens, and it takes ages to fade them in and out (and then you have to wait ages whilst it accesses the disc - even if you've installed the game on a hard disc!).

The skill level is appallingly set. If you play from the start the game's quite easy, anyway (except for the impossible level due to the extra time bug!), but the game consists of loads and loads of `hold down the accelerator and you'll finish the level' levels followed by one which is suddenly much harder! Not very well thought out, and obviously no real play- testing has been done.

Also, whilst the car is sitting on the starting grid it has a strange tendency to slide across the track, sometimes to a position it's quite hard to get out of!

The games comes with a small manual, but it's very badly photocopied (the pictures in it might just as well not be there since you can't make them out) and doesn't even bother to tell you that you have a time-limit - which is fundamental to the whole game!

All in all, this is a game which should have been quite good. The graphics are excellent, and so is the music, but the game itself has deficiencies which, sadly, spoil it.

So is it worth buying? If you've got a Risc PC and they finish debugging the game then I would say `yes'. Unfortunately, I've been told that the game isn't going to be developed further - so even Risc PC owners might like to avoid this game. But even despite all these criticisms it's still fun to play. On pre-ARM 3 machines, however, I wouldn't bother if I were you. The game is far too slow to be playable, and you have to wait an aeon between the levels (of which there are at least fifty).

Review by Gareth Moore, ©1995

[ 2/5 ** 2/5 ]

...this page last updated: 25/5/95...
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