XTreme Racing (Third Review)


Title           XTreme Racing (Third Review)
Publisher       Black Magic / Acid Software 1995
Game Type       Driving
Players         1-4 (2-8 with link-up)
HD Installable  Yes
Compatability   All AGA Amigas
Demo            aminet:game/demo/xtrdem2a.lha & xtrdem2b.lha
Game data/utils Tracks, music, soundFX all over aminet
Submission      Dennis Smith

Review
I'll not beat about the bush. In my opinion, XTreme Racing is the best
driving game you can play on an Amiga. If you're an AGA-compatible
driving-game fan who hasn't tried it, download the demo now. Oh, and if
you're still running an 020 A1200, upgrade. It'll be worth it. Even an 030
will make a big difference for this game.

The majority of Amiga race games fake a 3D view by running a set of
widening horizontal lines down from a scrolling horizon and scaling a few
objects around the track to give a pretty good impression of depth without
having to worry about any real 3D. It's the sort of thing that the blitter
does particularly well and it's hard to fault it in that it serves its 
purpose well, but after a while, all the games end up looking pretty much 
the same, they seem very one dimensional, and we crave something different.

Which is where XTR comes in. If you're familiar with those so-called 
'mode7' games from old Nintendo consoles, you'll have a good idea what to 
expect. Instead of trying for a full-blown polygonal 3D approach (like
F1 Grand Prix), the ground is made up from tiles that are rendered in full 
perspective up to the horizon, with sprites racing around on top. Now 
you're racing in a proper 2D environment; you can cut across the track, 
turn through 360 degrees, you can see other parts of the track off to the 
side, and at long last we've got a first-person racing game with crossroads 
and short-cuts. Various jumps, numerous objects scattered around the edges 
of the track and well drawn, 256-colour floor textures prevent it from 
looking too two-dimensional. 

This sort of thing, however, is really pushing the capabilities of your
blitter chip too hard and if you're on a vanilla A1200, you'll suffer from
a nasty dithered mode if you've any hope of playing the game at a
reasonable frame rate. Get an 030 and you can do some proper c2p work and 
lose the nasty dithering; get an 060 and you'll be screaming round in full 
screen, 1x1 pixel, with two friends on split screens and you'll not look
back.

All very well, but what's it like to play? Games of this nature tend to
fall down on a couple of points: the computer opponents and car handling.
Computer opponents are pretty respectable. They don't need to rely on any 
of that nonsense you find in most other race games, like pulling 10 g's to
accelerate off the start line and leave you standing (in fact, time your
start right and you'll be at the front of the pack by the first corner), 
or that old chestnut of turning up just a fraction of a second behind you 
no matter how fast you were turboing round the track (this is proper 2D, 
they couldn't get away with anything like that; like F1 GP you can pull up 
a camera view and check out each car in turn as they drive around). Pick 
the right difficulty setting (fiddle with the config file if you need to) 
and you'll find the opponents giving you a really good run for your money, 
race after race.

But car handling has to be twice as important as the opponents. If you're
anything like me, you've played dozens of shareware or even full-price
racing games which were let down by being too difficult - or maybe too easy
- to control. But I've already told you that this is my favourite driving
game so it will not come as any surprise when I tell you that Alex Amsel
has got it just right in XTR. This isn't a real driving simulator, that
just wouldn't be enough. No, it's proper tyre-screeching arcade fun. Belt
down the straights at a hundred miles an hour, turn into the corners long 
before you reach them, pull an impressive 180 degree skid and accelerate
out of the bend almost as soon as you reach it. And repeat as required
until you've won the race. Once you've got a hang of your car (and there
are eight to choose from with different speed, acceleration and cornering)
you'll feel like you're in full control, the mark of a top-class game.

And if that wasn't fun enough for you, there are weapons to collect. Like
those Nintendo racers, you can drive over bonus squares that give you a
random weapon to play with. Hit the fire-button to release it at the most
opportune moment, and curse when the opposition do exactly the same to you.
A variety of missiles, mines and bombs, turbo boosts, invisibility and
others can completely transform your race. If racing isn't vindictive enough for
you and your friends, get two or more round your computer(s) and take part
in death matches where there is no circuit to race around, just weapon
squares, hazards and points to be scored for killing everyone else.

Now go out and buy the data disks. Not only do you get a bunch of new
tracks, you'll also get a track editor to design your own tracks, or at the
very least you'll get all components you need to play literally scores of
new tracks that other people have created with the editor. The lastability
of the game has just got much better.

The game has a few quirks - no game would be complete without them. The
latest versions of the race executable, as provided with the data disks,
add new weapons but for some reason the ability of computer-controlled cars
to fire weapons has been lost and the data link is reputed to be much more
flaky, so you're probably better off stick it out with an older executable.
And it would be nice if there was a replay function. But the cake's already
got icing on it and a few areas with room for improvement can't take away
the fact that this game is shining brilliance. It's Supercars in 3D, and 
fun doesn't come much better than this.


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