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.