Title Payback Game Type General Action Company Apex Designs Players 1-4 HD Installable Yes Compatibility 020, 16Mb RAM, 20Mb HD, CD Drive, AGA/gfx card Submission Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer Review Payback is a violent action game that has been inspired by the hit Playstation game Grand Theft Auto, (GTA). If you've not seen GTA, then what we're talking about is a overhead viewpoint game, set within a volatile inner city environment where you must perform all sorts of anti-social acts to increase your stash of cash thereby furthering your progress through the game. It's far more of a 3D effect than, for example, the early Alien Breed games though; you can make your way to the rooftops, for example, and when you are travelling along the streets, you'll notice a proper 3D perspective on the sides of the tower blocks and taller buildings, in particular. When you are without a vehicle, (what a carless chap you are) it can be quite tricky to tell which way your character is facing, unless he's carrying a weapon, but you'll soon get the hang of it, and have him eagerly pounding down the streets in search of a new vehicle to steal. Actually, while it can't be denied that Payback owes a great deal to GTA, the central character's animation in both games seems to have been inspired (originally) by the Amiga game Hill Street Blues. You trigger the game's various missions by moving close to one of the indicated telephone kiosks, whereupon you will receive instructions (in addition to a convenient pointer) for your next job. This can entail anything from stealing and delivering a taxi to good old fashioned murder. A somewhat dubious moral structure to the game then. The sound is generally pretty good with some imaginative touches, and included on the CD are 16 very professional songs, one of which will start playing (on the 'car radio') when you jump into a new vehicle, if you've selected this option. The songs are of various styles including Rap and fairly mellow Rock. Its well produced, but some of the language in certain songs is pretty extreme, and there are some racist words included which I personally find a bit offensive, but I gather are deemed acceptable if spoken by somebody of the 'target' race. Still, you have the option of disabling the CD music should you prefer, or indeed, selecting a CD of your own. The CD case carries a Parental Advisory notice for the explicit content, by the way. These scruples aside, the game is excellently playable, and you'll soon find yourself happily killing innocent bystanders, and taking particular care to run over the owner of the car that you've just stolen, in order to obtain an 'irony bonus'. I never really bothered with GTA (produced incidentally by DMA of Lemmings and Hired Guns fame, although minus the talent of Scott 'Genius!' Johnston) but for the purpose of this review I did do some research into that game and I'm happy to report that from what I can see Payback is a significantly superior product. Its quite easy, for instance, in GTA to have your vehicle 'wedged' against an obstruction, and it can take an age to get free. I've not had this experience in Payback, and while your vehicle will suffer damage, and your progress is impeded by colliding with an obstruction, as you'd expect, it never causes the frustration mentioned above. The graphics are also sharper, and the handling of the vehicles seems more intuitive. Payback's vehicles are slightly 'blockier', but then they are also three dimensional, and so you have the benefit of seeing their 'sides' as they roll in certain situations. There is a lot that can be done in the game without even using a vehicle though; you can collect a variety of weapons and go on a killing spree if you like. The multiplayer game proves very entertaining, I've personally had a lot of fun in the two player game, and I think it was this more than anything that won my son over from being a staunch GTA fan. Playing with a friend actually stands up surprisingly well on its own, and you'll find yourselves scurrying about, often on foot, trying to find a flamethrower or some elusive weapon with which to bring about a fitting end to your opponent. My son is unfortunately rather gifted at luring me into situations where I blunder into a grenade attack, usually with fatal consequences. On another occasion, while I was on foot he was driving a large coach after me. Armed with only a pistol, in a scene reminiscent of 'Terminator 2', I managed to dodge down a narrow alley, thinking this would slow his pursuit. It didn't, and it wasn't until I'd finally staggered round a right-angle corner that he was unable to negotiate, depite his most determined efforts, that I achieved a measure of safety. Great fun. There's a refreshing amount of polish in Payback. Little touches like the falling snow, or the different sound your footsteps make when running down a snowy street, or the dust your tyres throw up when skidding over grass rather than the skidmarks left on tarmac. I've not completed Payback, but I've played through several of the levels of the main game, and I'm pretty sure most people are going to like this a lot. I'm only gradually getting the hang of keeping the faster vehicles under control (and jumping them across roof tops) and I've not even found the helicopter yet. It is clear that Payback offers far more depth than you'd expect from a game that is so immediately playable. This game is an Amiga success story, and great fun. What more could we ask for?