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Beam Breakers Review

publisher: JoWooD Productions
developer: Similis Software
genre: Racing

PII-400, 64MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 16MB 3D accelerator
ESRB rating: E

release date: Oct 21, 02
» All About Beam Breakers on ActionTrip

If there are any of you who didn't get a chance to see movies like Blade Runner or The Fifth Element, now would be a good time to do so. Beam Breakers takes us to a sci-fi atmosphere that's very similar to these movies (you know, tall sky-scrapers, hovering vehicles, and so on). As for the gameplay premise, I think it's safe to say there's a slight resemblance to games like Crime Cities and New York Race. These comparisons outta give you a rough idea of what the game's about.

The last Beam Breakers press demo we received gave us a chance to taste a very small portion of the game, so there was no room for any elaborate assessments. Now, the time's come to put the complete version to the test (courtesy of JoWood Productions).

The time is 2374 AD. And you are in Neo York, USA. The Big Apple is not what it used to be. The revolutionizing invention of antiGrav technology has changed public transport as we know it (oooh, there's an *original* idea). Since life in the city has become rather tedious, several racing gangs have begun to conduct illegal races throughout the world's largest city. This is where little ol' you should step in. Forget about law, morality, college education, and living a decent life. You have a new mission in life - to join one of these racing gangs and attempt to achieve the ultimate speed record. In short, you gotta "break the beam" (whatever that means).

But attempting to do that won't be easy. Racing in Neo York City ain't like dust and crops. Without precise calculation, the right piloting skills, you could smack into a skyscraper, bounce off a hovering Coke add, which should end your trip really quick. What's that flashing? - you'd ask. Well, that would be the blinding flash of an oncoming car's headlights, which could easily make you sway right off the racing track. Several similar details make Beam Breakers represent a good challenge for racing fans. And once you throw in a couple of neat visual subtleties, this game could be fun to play... If it weren't for some mishaps that is.

The first problem is that the game doesn't have a sufficient variety in terms of mission assignments. Racing can obviously become a drag after a few hours of gameplay, which is why the developers added a small number of missions and a so-called survival mode. Regrettably, Beam Breakers won't be offering any challenges beyond that I'm afraid. If it's of any consolation, there's the Championship mode, which is supposedly the ultimate test to your racing skills. But it doesn't take much of a Corben Dallas or a Deckard to go through those. After a while it all becomes quite simple to handle.

Also, the game has totally misplaced characters, hence the players have nothing to cling to throughout the game; it's kinda like watching a visually stunning blockbuster movie without any character depth (or without any personality whatsoever). I'm sure all of have experienced this before...

On the plus side, Beam Breakers has certain elements that slightly boost its addictiveness. To begin with, you'll get to drive all sorts of cool high-speed vessels through crowded city districts and dense traffic. As you rush from checkpoint to checkpoint, you'll notice that the sci-fi city surroundings are huge. The game gives players the freedom to take shortcuts whichever way they see fit. Also, you can pick up shield and turbo boosts along the way, which increase the power of your vehicle. Grabbing the shield gives your vessel an invisible force-field that forbids any other craft to get within certain range. And if you keep using the turbo boost, you'll surely have the advantage over all opponents. During the hectic races, rivaling gangs will use any means necessary to take the lead. This means, there's no room for slip-ups on the track, because other competitors are on your toes at all times. Clearly, the AI was optimized to work just the way it should.

The development team has taken the opportunity to focus on the visual aspect of the game. Suffice it to say, their effort has not been in vain. The ambiance of Neo York looks well-designed. All city districts have a huge variety of details in the background; from restaurants and caf's on rooftops and balconies, to tiny pedestrians that duck when you swoosh over their heads at maximum speed. Additionally, the skyscrapers and various other objects are furnished with a few extra details. For instance, you can notice some cool reflections on the windows and you'll even be able to see apartments and offices within the building. Quite an interesting combination of reflections and detailed texture patterns. If you suddenly get the urge to brake away from the race and just casually explore the futuristic atmosphere of Neo York, you may do so at any time during the game. Every section, from Chinatown to the East Village, has a unique appearance. Also, car models were interestingly designed and have been supplemented with some tasty facets. In addition, if you're rushing towards a car face-to-face, you are gonna be blinded by the headlights. Nice light effects, that's all I can say. But wait, don't get all hyper just yet! You're gonna need one helluva machine to power all that. We ran it on a pretty decent system (XP 2000 +, GeForce 4 Ti, 512 RAM) and we didn't have any problems. Even so, average systems will surely have a hard time with this one.

After such visual splendor, you'd expect they'd do a decent job with the in-game sound. Still, the sound effects (apart from being mediocre and unimaginative) are short of more features. Basically, the game leaves you with nothing more than feeble engine sounds and a few futuristic-sounding hums in the background. During the race, you'll listen to characters screaming a number of trifling catch-phrases, which can often make you wish God shouldn't have bestowed the human race with the gift of hearing... Granted, you're treated to a pleasant soundtrack. Hm, I guess even "pleasant" would be a fancy word for a bunch of tunes with snatched samples from well-known authors (like Prodigy and such).

In the end, no matter how much effort is put into the game's graphics, it doesn't amount up to anything if you don't add at least a smidgen of originality to the gameplay. Even though the game's obviously meant to pinpoint the sheer racing aspect of it all, there's nothing in its essence to make it more addictive. On the other hand, other aspects deserve praising; the level design, various visual details, a wide variety of car models, etc.

In a nutshell, I think all of you understood that it's high time you buy yourself a powerful PC just so you can play your run of the mill racer...


6.0   Above Average 

The visuals and...

... nothing more than that. Crappy sounds.



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