Breathless logo

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

Breathless is another game that we first caught glimpse of from Aminet, and then it was a 3D engine demo - showing off the graphics, I must say it looked absolutely mouth-watering - the smooth graphics were smoother than a peach, no, even a baby's bottom, and that's saying something.

In fanfare-like fashion a demo of the game arrived. I have to admit that after the previous Doom-clones, my mind wasn't really on the job as I was rapidly losing consciousness with sheer boredom.

I mean, all you readers have to do is pick one and play it. I have to play them all and then fill around two pages in exactly the same way. I think I deserve a medal for describing about six similar games in an entirely different way. Ahem, OBE? I think so> Please send your rewards and 'congratulations' not to mention money, to the usual address.

So this looks like my last review of a Doom game either because I haven't noticed anymore in the pipeline or I shall be handling in my notice as a doom game reviewer after this. I must admit it's been nice. I'll miss all you Doom fans, but it's time to go. But not before I've finished with an absolute cracker. Here we go.

Breathless, developed by Fields of Vision, is about the seventh or eight Doom clone to appear on the Amiga. There are four worlds, and each one has five sub-levels. Each world will have its own password so you are able to continue where you left off. Also, there are twelve different enemies which proves that Breathless is quite varied.


Breathless features some excellent graphics and sound effects, and it plays like a dream

As with the usual collection there are plenty of collectables, and by that I don't mean Star Wars figures or Dinky cars. I mean power-ups, weapons, ammo and health. What rarely features in most Amiga Doom clones is the finding of keys which will let you open the colour corresponding door. In various other clones, you actually find a switch which will be a red colour and by switching it green, will open another door somewhere else in the maze.

Breathless allows you to look for credits which act as cash, and when it all totals up at the foot of the screen, you'll be able to log-on at a computer terminal and buy weapon boosts, new guns, health and keys. A bit like a computerised Tesco.

Another feature which you can easily perform is looking up or down, Doom on the PC looked pretty weird because when you saw a monster on a top platform high above yourself, shooting from your eye-level could easily kill it - realistically, this isn't possible.

However, Breathless lets you look up or down at any angle to see the enemy. Most of the time you will enter a huge room and find what looks like a drained swimming pool with a number of beasts in the bottom. Looking down enables you to pick them off one by one.

However, there is a downside. The view is quite difficult to toggle between and it's hard to shoot everything from the one angle. This, however, is about the only niggle I can find. There is one other but I wouldn't refer to it as a niggle. You see, nearly all the walls are at right angles, giving the game much of a boxy feel, but it's only when you actually think about it that it has an effect on you.

By the way, I didn't even notice until someone else kindly pointed out.


The backroom boys

The programmer for Breathless is called Alberto Longo and has programmed on the Amiga for a long time. His past projects include T-Racer which he made for the Amiga a while ago. Pierpaolo Di Maio is the team manager. He works as a musician and worked out the map and sound effects for Breathless. Finally Ginaluca Abbate is 15-years old. Yep, 15-years old and designed the 2D graphics and textures. Sounds like a bit of a genius to me!

The final word

Considering this isn't the first Doom clone, you'd expect it to be at least above average after seeing the other efforts, and Breathless is above average in most ways. Whether it will suit your needs is another matter. Although there may be four different worlds with five sub-worlds. It still won't really last you that long. Okay, so maybe it is a challenging game, but you get a password after you finish a level, letting you carry on, so you could probably finish in less than a week.

That's about my only gripe. Otherwise, Breathless features some excellent graphics and sound effects, and it plays like a dream. This certainly ranks alongside Fears and Alien Breed 3D - there's absolutely no doubt in my mind.



Breathless logo Amiga Format Gold

If the Amiga was compared to King Arthur, Breathless would be Galahad - the worthiest and most able champion in the land. Steve McGill can't recommend it enough.

Wow, despite being an assertion verging on understatement, it seems ironically appropriate to proclaim that Breathless is going to be as significant and as important to the Amiga of the Nineties as the Juggler was to the Amiga of the Eighties.

If you're new to the Amiga or don't know what I'm referring to, here's a brief explanation. The Juggler was a ray-traced animation of a rotund figure juggling some light-sourced balls which reflected the surrounding environment. Nothing like it had ever been seen before on a home computer.

The Juggler single-handedly, so to speak, turned on thousands of adventurously curious types and tuned them in to the arcane lore and heady world of the Amiga. Consequently, the machine sold in droves and went on to become the resounding success that it is today.

Breathless, meanwhile, has the potential locked within its exquisitely crafted code to repeat history. But rather than selling Amigas - which it will as a matter of course - Breathless is more likely to sell accelerator cards by the bucket load. For it is a walking, talking, singing and dancing tribute to the potential and power than lies within the heart of an accelerated AGA chipset Amiga.

In effect, it's probably the most opportune and timely advert for the potential of our underrated vanilla chum ever seen. At a stroke it casts aside the imagined inferiority complex the Amiga's been suffering from for the past year or so concerning the higher profile PC and Mac platforms.

What Doom does on the PC using brute processing power, Breathless does on the Amiga using optimised elegance. Except, Breathless does it better.
Elegance is the keyword here. Elegance and design and Amiga friendliness. The detail and size of the playing screen can be optimised to the processor used and the memory available. You'll always be able to find a detail/window size versus running speed compromise without affecting the gameplay.

The 2 * 2 pixel mode resembles the look of Alien Breed 3D and, just like Breed 3D, Breathless is great to play in this screen mode. But, if you've got an accelerator installed, the difference between the 2 * 2 and 1 * 1 mode resembles the difference between squinting myopia and pin sharp focus.

Making the switch has a profound effect. It's like taking the jump from a cartoon world into temporal, in yer face, reality, And, if you like recreationally tinkering with your perception, you'll be mightily impressed verging on 'Breathless' by the difference the change makes.

Breathless tunes into, tickles, thrills, titillates and teases your brain's inbuilt reality construct; a construct that's been created, shaped and solidified since you first learned to grasp an object in front of you.

When the hand/eye coordination adjustment to Breathless is made, you'll find yourself doing ridiculous things, like trying to peer round corners, squinting to see what's up ahead in a poorly lit room, become illogically pensive when faced with a dark corridor. Such is the power of the game to affect you on a subliminal and direct level.


It is a tribute to the power that lies within the heart of an accelerated AGA Amiga.

It's also why the game's so compulsive. Despite following a formulaic game plot of finding keys to open doors, wasting nasties who get in your way, and picking up health, energy and shield icons, the environment and creatures change enough to keep you permanently interested and curious to see what's up ahead.

Furthering the sense that you're treading in a parallel world consisting of its own laws of physics reality and danger is the clever use of lighting.
Flickering lights on some levels add to the spooky unsettling effect of seeing a behemoth shambling toward you; gun fire lights up the immediate surroundings; light floods into dark rooms when you open doors. Terrific stuff.

The use of lighting might sound cosmetic, but internally your brain is registering the light levels on a subliminal level and in creating an immersive parallel cognitive gestalt that not only appeals to the player on a mechanical level, but interfaces directly with their emotional responses. Scary, though not as scary as some of the creatures themselves.

The creatures found within the confines of the Breathless Arenas are assigned varying artificial intelligence levels. Some will stay within a certain zone. Others attack you on sight. Yet others try to shoot you while dodging your return fire.

At first it makes some of them look a bit stupid: all they seem to do is run left and right. But when you think about what you're doing - dodging left and right to avoid incoming fire - it makes perfect sense for them to do likewise. It makes it harder for them to be hit and killed.

As for their look. They look the bit. Some are guaranteed to give kids nightmares. Especially the shambling simian monstrosity and the Aliens. They frightened me as they drained my shields and health at an alarming rate. It made it all the more gratifying when I put them out of their evil misery.

Even the structure of the game makes sense. There are four worlds consisting of five arenas to each world. You take on an arena at a time.
Each arena increases in size and, unlike Breed 3D, there's an automapping display to hand for navigation purposes; if you get lost, the tedium of traveling over old ground kept to a minimum.

The map even highlights the various terminals dotted around the arena. Which, as you might have guessed, is my cue to tell you about the terminals. They're where you spend your hard-earned credits. There are new weapons on sale along with upgrades, keys, energy, health and shields. Judicious use of the terminals can increase the chance of survival. Save your credits and spend them wisely.

Phew. We've almost made it to the exit in one piece. If you haven't sussed by now that Breathless has impressed me more than any Amiga game I've ever played on the Amiga. Throw a book of superlative at it and you'd still run out of praise for the game.

It plays sublimely. IT demands discipline and skillfull procedure from the player to make headway. It looks fantastic. It's exciting. It's scary. It's fun. It's a work of interactive art. It's brilliant.

At last the Amiga has broken through the 3D Doom engine barrier and proved itself capable of matching and beating machines costing multiples of its price. Things can only improve here on in. Its arrival couldn't have been more timely. Imagine you were trapped in a box canyon and surrounded by hostile Indians. You'd just fired your last bullet and the Indians were coming to get you. Just as you were about to throw the gun at the first Indian to appear you heard the bugle of the Seventh cavalry in the distance and the Indians scatted like the wing. Breathless is that bugle call.

There have been some many detractors of the Amiga around. So many people willing to pour scorn and derision on the machine and its market that at times it felt as if we were surrounded by hostile Indians.

If enough people buy Breathless and make the necessary upgrade to drive it at anything like its peak performance, other developers are going to want a piece of the action and make the Indians go away.

So go on. Do yourself a favour. Do your Amiga a favour. Do us a favour. Do the Amiga market a favour. Buy Breathless.
If the Amiga was compared to King Arthur, Breathless would be Galahad - the worthiest and most able champion in the land, It can't be recommended enough.


UP, DOWN AND IN MY LADY'S CHAMBER
Aside from the fantastic graphics, the one feature that puts Breathless streets ahead of other Amiga Doom clones is the ability to look up and down within the 3D environment. Executed in increments, its use is essential to survival.

Breathless
All of these pics are taken from the same position...

Breathless
...to the left we're looking down. Ahead here...

Breathless
...and this time we're enjoying the night sky.

A GALLERY OF ROGUES

Breathless
Aliens are not only tough to kill, they're also very fast and very aggressive. Hard to run away from.

Breathless
Difficult to spot and harder to kill, you need some serious weaponry to take these guys on.

Breathless
A slow but persistent rambler, this armoured Alien is a real boss of a monster. He just doesn't give up.

Breathless
You take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll be in Scotland before you.

Breathless
When killed, this bodyless head falls into a horrible pile of mush. If only we had smell-o-vision.

Breathless
If you look closely to this chap's head is the same as the head on the left. Efficient use of graphics.

THE BEST VERSUS THE REST
In order to give sceptics a better idea of how good Breathless looks in comparison to other first perspective 3D engines, we decided to put the most influential ones on other more expensive platforms.

BREATHLESS
Breathless
This is Breathless running on a 1200 with a Blizzard 030 card installed.

Breathless
Truly Breathless is one in the eye to Doom clones on other platforms.

DOOM
Doom
The original Doom running on an eight Megabyte PC. After the eight hours...

Doom
...it actually takes to get the game to install, it still doesn't look as good.

MARATHON
Marathon
To run Marathon with this number of colours and size of screen requires...

Marathon
...a Power Mac costing in excess of £1,500. Made me feel 'Breathless'.


Breathless logo

Ballerdungeons, neuester Stand: Die aktuelle Gemeinschaftsproduktion englischer und italienischer Kerker-Architekten bringt texturierte 3D-Gemäuer auf den Amiga-Screen, bei deren Anblick tatsächlich der Atem stockt!

Tja, die Zeit bleibt halt auch für bzw. in Scroll-Labyrinthen nicht stehen, und was in diesem Genre am Amiga gestern noch top war, ist heute schon fast ein Fall für den Software-Friedhof. Am Ende stellen wir Euch daher zum Vergleich noch mal kurz alle einschlägigen Metzeleien für Eure "Freundin" vor.

Zunächst sollen aber die Schöpfer der aktuellen Gemäuer gewürdigt werden, schon weil die beiden Nationalteams hierzulande nahezu unbekannt sind: Fields of Vision kannte man hisher allenfalls in mediterranen PD-Zirkeln, und die Gentlemen von Power Computing beschäftigten sich früher ausschließlich mit der Verbreitung von Amiga-Hardware auf der britischen Insel.

Gemeinsam waren sie stark - stark genug, um so flüssig scrollende, zoomende und rotierende Kerker voller Monstrositäten auf den Amiga-screen zu hieven, daß beim Anblick vo Breathless selbst den alten Hasen im Gewerbe erst mal die Luft wegbleiben dürfte!

Der Grund dafür liegt erstaunlicherweise im Verzicht, nämlich dem Ver Verzicht auf Programmierkniffe aus der Demo-Szene, wie sie sonst gerne in diesem Genre angewandt werden. So sorgt etwa der Chunky Copper-Screen bei "Fears" oder "Gloom" für eine schnelle 3D-Optik, aber erkauft wird sie eben mit einer verhältnismäßig schlechten Bildqualität.

Die dabei im günstigsten Fall erzielbare Auflösung von rund 130 x 120 Pixeln stellt bei Breathless gerade mal das untere Ende der Fahnenstange dar; bei maximalen Grafikdetail werden dagegen 256 x 200 Bildpunkte berechnet - damit sind dann frei Auge (und bei gleichen Auflösung) tatsächlich keine Unterschiede mehr zur PC-Konkurrenz zu erkennen.

Die Kehrseite der Medaille besteht natürlich in der zwangsläufig erforderlichen Rechenpower: Ein AGA-Amiga ist hier ohnehin Pflicht, dazu gehört aber auch Fast-RAM, besser noch eine Turbokarte, sollen die Prachtdungeons nicht bloß träge vor sich hin ruckeln.

Eine vertretbare Alternative für die Besitzer eines Standard-1200ers besteht im Verkleinern des Sichtfensters, das dann ähnlich wie bei "Alien Breed 3D" von Zahnrädern und anderem grafischen Zierat umrahmt wird.

Die optische Minirevolution ändert freilich nichts daran, daß auch Breathless beim Gameplay grundsätzlich das alte Lied vom guten Söldner, seinen vielen Waffen und den bösen Monstern singt: Als Cyborg schleicht man durch ein verschachteltes Labyrinth, in dem Gegner aller Gewichtsklassen und Rassen auf die blaue Bohne mit ihrem Namen warten.

Die vier jeweils fünffach unterteilten Kohlenkeller sieht man dabei aus der gewohnten Egoperspektive, nur die sonst üblicherweise im Bildvordergrund agierende Waffenhand fehlt - aber zum Zielen genügt ein Fadenkreuz schließlich auch.

Die oft beklagten Blutbäder sind ebenfalls nicht zu befürchten, weil die feindlichen Terminator-Exoskelette, Fantasy-Aliens und Techno-Walker nun mal rein mechanische Eingeweide haben. Der Sammler im Jäger kommt selbstverständlich auch zum Zuge; die aufgeklaubten Munipacks, Energieriegel oder Goldmünzen tauscht er an den überall verteilten Shop-Terminals gegen Power-Ups, Schlüssel, Flammenwerfer, Plasma-Projektile oder alle zerstörende Smartbombs ein.

Die sechs verfügbaren Waffengattungen lassen sich jederzeit per Tastendruck wechseln, was in der Praxis auch sehr wichtig ist, weil die diversen Vernichterli für den Kampf gegen die verschiedenen Biester unterschiedlich gut geeignet sind.

Von selbst zielt allerdings keine der Wummen, und das hat sich auch bis zur Gegenseite herumgesprochen: Besonders beim Anvisieren von Feinden, die auf einer anderen Ebene herumspazieren als der Held, verstreichen wertvolle Sekundenbruchteile, die das angepeilte Objekt gnadenlos zum Angriff ausnützt.

Zudem ist der Munitionsvorrat begrenzt, so daß durchaus ein paar taktische Überlegungen fällig werden, bevor man hier enge Korridore betritt, weite Säle durchsucht oder sich in unübersichtlichen Treppenaufgängen bzw. Aufzugschlächten verbirgt.

Um so mehr freut sich der Weidmann da über die Unterstützung durch das Auto-mapping, die drei Continues und die Levelcodes, welche die aktuelle (Waffen-) Ausstattung gleich mit abspeichern.

Nachdem wir die Optik vorhin schon so lauthals gelobt haben, können wir uns nun auf ein paar kritische Anmerkungen zur Grafik beschränken. So hätte das mit dem Raytracing-Tool "Imagine" gerenderte Kanonenfutter ruhig ein bißchen vielfältiger sein und zudem etwas mehr Abwechslung in seine Angriffsformationen bringen dürfen.

An Originalität mangelt es auch den einzelnen Schauplätzen, die viele Teleporter, versteckte Räume und noch mehr reizvolle Grafikeffekte (z.B. Nebelbänke, vom Mündungsfeuer erhellte Flur, hübsch animierte Lavabecken etc.) beherbergen - doch gesehen hat man das alles eben irgendwie und irgendwo schon mal.

Der Unterhaltungswert von Breathless stimmt trotzdem, und das keineswegs nur aufgrund von Äußerlichkeiten. Ihren Beitrag dazu liefern auch die dramatische Begleitmusik und die mit der Situation wechselnden Sound-FX.

Und die flexibel an die Bedürfnisse des Spielers anpaßbare Tastatur-steuerung kennt alle im Kellerkampf üblichen Aktionen vom Seitenschleicher bis zur Beschleunigung mittem im Lauf.

Ein angeschlossenes CD32-Pad macht hier allerdings keine ganz so gute Figur, dafür geht die restliche Handhabung wieder voll in Ordnung: Die HD-Installation klappt schnell und einfach, beim Spielen von Floppy wird flott geladen, und lästige Diskwechsel bleben die Ausnahme.

Wer über genügend Arbeitsspeicher und Rechenleistung verfügt, darf Breathless zudem sogar im Multitaskingbetrieb zocken. Wie, das glaubt Ihr nicht? Dann besorgt Euch einfach den aktuellen Multimedia Joker, auf dessen Begleit-CD sich eine spielbare Demoversion findet.

Kurzum, hier haben wir spannendes Gameplay in packender Präsentation, aber dennoch kein Hit. Das mag zwar für die Hersteller betrüblich sein, doch können sie daraus für die Zukunft lernen: Bei aller technischen Innovation darf man eben die Eigenständigkeit des Spielkonzepts nicht ganz so sträflich vernachlässigen! (rl)



Breathless logo

adj breathless out of breath; with the breath taken away from excitement.

Now. You might be looking at these pictures and you might be saying this: "Those idiots at AMIGA POWER - they've accidentally gone and reviewed Fears again. Or perhaps Alien Breed 3D.". But you'd be wrong, so wrong, to think that.

This is Breathless, and it's the fourth (by my counting) serious attempt at doing Doom - but on the Amiga. And sadly for it, it's also a Doom - but on the Amiga to far. And at that you might be saying "But for why, Stuart? It looks smashing", and so here are the things I would say in response:

Picture the scene: you are the fourth attempt at doing Doom - but on the Amiga. You have previously see Gloom be fantastic and bloody, if perhaps a little heavy on the slaughter and a little light on the strategy (which is, in fact, perfectly fine, but that's another story).

You have previously seen Fears look very lovely indeed, but commit a series of idiotic sins and end up being a bit hateful. And you have previously seen Alien Breed 3D be Alien Breed - but in 3D. You're trying to think of an 'angle' with which to distinguish yourself from the competition, which you've had the luxury of checking out in great depth. You think, perhaps of this:

Well, for a start, all previous Doom - but on the Amiga games have been set in pretty much the same kind of scenario, and the corridors and rooms on some-sort-of-moonbase-and-outsdie-bits-with-laval-pits-in-them formula is getting a bit threadbare. Perhaps I could set myself in some new and exciting kind of place - Maybe a spooky mystery mansion (which would, let's face it, have a lot more reason for being stuffed with secret passageways and hidden rooms, for a start), or maybe a Vitorian sewer system populated by the ghosts of drowned construction workers, or even some kind of gigantic science-laboratory maze from which the player, as a much-experimented-on and pissed-off lab rat, is attempting to escape. For example.

Or, on the other hand, I could just rip off everybody else and be yet another spacestation potboiler with mutated human soldiers and aliens that look a bit like the ones in Aliens as enemies. Yes, that'll do.


Idiots at AMIGA POWER

MAGICAL MYSTERIES
That done, you begin to ponder the magical mysteries of making it good.

"Now, the really great thing about Doom, the thing that really made everyone fall for it, was that it had a believable atmosphere. That doesn't just mean that it looked realistic, but also that the enemies you found there behaved in a plausible manner - they were found in the sort of places you'd expect them to be found, they would wander around quite happily going about their own business until they noticed you (so you could sometimes sneak up and shoot them in the back) and then they attacked you in a vicious but convincing way, i.e. They sometimes missed.

Where something like Fears fell down was that the enemies were nearly always found just hanging around doors waiting for you to open them, or invariably all spotted you simultaneously the instant you walked into an area, as if they'd all been simply staring all day at the spot where you would arrive, and immediately slaughtered you in a withering crossfire of infallible pinpoint accuracy. I'd better be careful that, for example, my enemies don't behave in exactly the same way as that.

But wait a minute. That could call for some careful, painstaking design.
Actually, no, on the other hand I can't be bothered. I'll just stick 'em all behind the doors. It'll be harder that way, And to make it even harder, I'll make them attack by charging right up against the player regardless of how many times he shoots them, then shuffling round his body so that he has to slowly turn round, taking hits all the time before he can get them in his sights.

And I'll make sure there's nearly always three of four of them at a time, too, and with no auto rpeat on his guns, so he has to hammer the keyboard like a demented drummer with only one drumstick. And he won't be needing any of those fancy joystick or mouse control options, either."


A Victorian sewer system

HELLO GOODBYE
Right, you've got the difficulty sorted out. But there's more than one string to this particular bow - one of the best things about Gloom was its superb pacing How best to ensure that the game keeps rollicking along at a cracking rate, for that constant, exhausting, adrenalin-pumping excitement?

"Hmm, Tricky. It would be terribly easy to fall into the old trap of extending the game's life by forcing the player to constantly trek backwards and forwards over previously-explored and cleared terrain by, for example, putting switches at the opposite end of a level to the doors they open. Yes, that would be terribly easy."

But you can't, of course, just reduce the game to lots of aimless traipsing around occasionally interrupted by frantic bouts of keyboard-shattering gunfights. You'll need other stuff fo the player to do - treasure and weaponry to collect, secret stuff to find, all that malarkey.

"How hard can that be? The only way I could possibly mess it up would be to have, for example, weapons collected by buying them from a computer terminal, like some kind of absurd flamethrower vending machine, which is clearly a stupid idea compared to finding them lying around in the aftermath of a terrible alien invasion, or stealing them from enemies you've just killed. "

"Or by showing the locations of secret passages on the automatic map facility, somewhat defeating the object of their being 'secret' in the first place. Although that would compensate somewhat in the eventuality that, for some reason, you could only open doors and secret passages by standing infuriatingly squarely in front of them, which would otherwise make looking for secret entrances an extremely tedious and time-consuming operation I suppose."

Oh yeah. You have remembered the map facility, haven't you?
"Of course. What do you take me for the kind of idiot who would have a map facility that you couldn't move around in? For example."

Well, I think that's pretty much everything covered. With a bit of luck, there's just time to have a quick check for some of those obvious annoying flaws that sometimes sneak through at the end if you're not paying attention.


Aimless traipsing around

HELP
So: stupid, almost illegible copy protection that's actually easier to use after you've photocopied it?
"Check."

Lava pits that you can fall into but there isn't any way out of except dying?
"Check."

Long corridors lined on either side with lots of little vestibules that - shock! - enemies are hiding in?
"Check."

Bit where you have to jump-down a wall that you can't get back-up, but with no sign of whether or not going down might be a good idea?
"Check."


There isn't any way out

Fantastically irritating teleporters that transport you right back to the start of a level without any kind of warning, when you've just spent 20 minutes fighting your way through to them in the first place?
"Check."

Having no status screen at the end of each stage to let you know whether you've found all the secret rooms, killed all the enemies and so on?
"Check."

Only giving the player three lives, after which he must agonisingly re-do anything up to five previously-completed stages, since the game is constructed as four levels of five stages each, with passwords only available for each full level?
"Check."

Hang on. When you say "Check", you don't mean that you actually have included all these things, do you?
"Yes. Isn't that what you meant?"
Oh no! Your wife's going to kill you!


IT'S A GIMMICK!
Breathless is distinct from other Doom - but on the Amiga games (and, indeed, from Doom itself) in that it boasts a looky-uppy-downy feature. Here is how it works.

You can look up!
Breathless

You can look straight ahead!
Breathless

You can look down!
Breathless

Sadly, this plays almost no active or worthwhile part in the game, as practically all the bits you can look up or down into can be seen perfectly well in the normal look-straight-ahead manner, and being able to shoot baddies above or below you is handled automatically by nearly every other Doom game anyway. It is, though, undeniably a nice touch. A round of applause for that, if you please.
IT IS FOGGY!

Breathless
It is foggy. But it is indoors.

Breathless
How has this happened? Send your answers to It Is Foggy, Despite Being Indoors, For This Reason, Stuart. AMIGA POWER, 30 monmouth Street, Bath BA1 2BW, and win 20 copies of Mortal Kombat in a big box.

BUT STUART, THAT'S NOT FAIR

An exciting new regular, and self-explanatory, column.

"But Stuart, you can't slag it off just for having the same scenario as all the other Doom games in the world. They've done it like that on purpose, so it will be Just Like Doom."
Hitler started World War 2 on purpose. That didn't make it a good idea. You wouldn't, I trust, expect us to give him 95% for having so successfully achieved the aim of Starting A World War, when it was clearly a bit of a duff aim in the first place. So SHUT UP.

"But Stuart, I just want to play Doom - but on the Amiga, and I simply want to know which of the alternatives available to me is the best one, not listen to you bang on about principles of good games and stuff."
If that's all you want to know, then here's the answer: Breathless is the closest thing on the Amiga so far to the original Doom. If that's more important to you than whether it's actually a good game or not, then go and buy it, otherwise get Gloom. There, I've told you so. SHUT UP.

"But Stuart, 56 percent? Don't you care about the future of the Amiga?"
Of course I do. But not as much as I care about THE TRUTH. So SHUT UP.

"But Stuart, I actually like trudging back and forth up and down dark grey corridors for hours and hours, occasionally blasting a few aliens who were hiding behind a door waiting for me. In real life, too."
Didn't I already you to SHUT UP?



Breathless logo CU Amiga Super Star

Price: £29.99 Publisher: Power Computing 01234 273000

A third generation Doom clone is here and it's great. Get in the pasta, pop open a Peroni, unclog the Espresso machine, take a deep breath and hold it...

Field of Vision are an Italian development team with close links to their brains. Here is a company that sat down and thought hard about what they'd like to do and then did it. They disregarded the theoretical limits of the Amiga and said something like "we will produce the game we want, and to hell with those too stingy to upgrade".

So they did. They produced a 1x1 pixel dream game that needs acceleration but looks spectacular. OK readers, you can start breathing again.

I won't bore you for long with the details of the plot. You kill or be killed. There are four worlds, each subdivided into a number of levels. The earlier levels are all indoors and have you wandering around dim-to-bright corridors, opening doors, pressing the Alt (fire key) continuously and running like Billy-o to a shooting vantage point every time a big bad alien with a large gun appears.

On later levels you get to run around in fog or even in open air, opening doors and pressing the Alt key even more feverishly, while running away like a rocket powered Billy-o every time three massive evil aliens attack you with unfeasibly large weapons.

It's great fun, honest. The keyboard is absolutely chocker-block with functions. The keypad allows you to increase or decrease resolution and screen size - a mahor advantage on less powerful machines.

It also allows you to look up or down. There are three angles of each, using the 7 and 1 buttons while 4 centres you again faster than you can say 'doughnut'. While on the move the shift key allows you to slip sideways, while Ctrl lets you run. It's all nicely balanced in a right hand/left hand manner and thus control becomes second nature after a short time playing.

The F-keys give you access to whatever weapons you have available, and top class, but I found it easier to stick to the keyboard as you still have to use it even in joystick mode if you want to change weapons, run or sidestep.

Big weapons
Don't you just love it when game developers get to the point and call their weapons something decent. The weakest weapon is called the Simple Shot. Although the bullets are big enough they don't do an awful lot of damage, especially when you get onto the second level and beyond.

I must say I haven't taken the time to count how many bullets it takes to kill a medium sized enemy but it's more than three or four, which always seems to be enough in most of the war movies I've watched. So the simple shot is a bit useless, but it will all have to do 'cos it's all you've got for the first few levels.

At the other end of the scale is the devastating and equally well named Death Machine. This little piece of kit is the equivalent of shooting a burning, explosive filled grand piano at your quarry. But even this isn't enough to down one or two of the blighters.

You can also upgrade these weapons if you have the dosh. At a certain point on each level there is a red-backed console which acts as a shop. This is accessed by walking right up and pressing the space bar. This will give you several options including Weapons, Weapon boost and Accessories. You need credits (collected on all levels and usually guarded by aliens) to buy anything, but health, armour and upgrades for all weapons are available.

The main screen is divided up into the playing screen and the icon bar at the bottom. This is by far the neatest presentation of any game of this type so far. The three key readouts are Health, Armour and Energy. Health has a maximum reading of 100 and if you hit zero you die.

The more armour you have (to a maximum of 200) the less health lost when enemy ammo hits you. This also decreases though as you are shot. Energy is Breathless' bullets substitute and although there is a theoretical limit of 9999 units of energy this is impossibly to accumulate.

Write in and tell me if I'm wrong, but you must have one hell of a cheat if you do. Energy works for whatever gun you use, but the bigger the gun the more energy it uses.

Speed!
I said at the beginning that Breathless needs an accelerator. This is not strictly true, although it does play to its maximum with one. We played it on a standard A1200, one with 4Mb Fast RAM added, one with a 28Mhz accelerator and one with a 50Mhz accelerator. No surprises for guessing what it was best on. But anything will make a difference. I got addicted to the smooth graphics and found it difficult to play in chunk mode so on the standard A1200 I had to put up with a very small screen.
Fast RAM lets you increase the size of this screen, and every incremental increase in RAM and processor speed thereafter improves the game.

Not that it needs much in the way of improvement. I was a bit sceptical about depth and difficulty on the first level, but once you get used to all the moves, start building up weapons and gain some cash to spend in the shop you realise that there is a lot more to the game than at first looks.

Before I go any further though I have to make a comparison with Alien Breed 3D. While there is no doubting Breathless' graphical superiority I'm still in two minds about whether I prefer I or not. The graphics certainly add masses of feeling to the game and the various enemies are perhaps even more difficult to kill.

I also much prefer Breathless' presentation: there's no stupid looking rubber glove on the information bar (which Team 17 ridiculously claimed was intended to represent a heart), everything is clear, neat and concise. But Breed had a dark atmosphere to it, the likes of which I've only felt playing Doom on PC.

The creatures look really evil (even if they only look really evil in a blocky sort of way) and it sends a tingle down my spine. Breathless is more efficient, more business like, but hasn't as much heart (rubber or not), or colour.

But...
With both Black Magic and Team 17 developing new versions of their respective titles to compete, Breathless has certainly shook up the scene, like Gloom and AB3D did in 1995. At the moment though there's nothing like it and I'm following its murderous path to destruction at every available moment. Once you've seen these graphics it's difficult to contemplate returning to the old ways.


Big is better...

Breathless leave you, well, breathless when you look at its graphics but with four definition levels and five screen sizes there is a lot to choose from. On a basic A1200 there's no getting around the fact that you either need to play it in the basic 2x2 pixel mode, in which case it looks like Gloom, or else you've got to scale the screen down. The problem is that once you use the option of 1x1 pixels you'll never be able to look at a 2x2 screen again. Not only is it less pretty, less clear and a bit cack, it also induces motion sickness. As your eyes get used to the top notch 3D world of full resolution graphics, they'll find it hard to focus on the blocky world of 2x2.

Because of this I was actually happier to play the game on a standard Amiga 1200 at just the second smallest screen size. Yes it was tiny, but it moved fast enough and the graphics were wonderful. Some, though, will never stoop this low, so my advice is to upgrade to a decent accelerator with 4Mb of Fast RAM.

An offer you can't refuse...

Upgrading your Amiga can be an expensive business, but we've teamed up together with Power Computing to make it a little bit easier. Because Breathless is so demanding of processor power we asked Power Computing to give CU Amiga Magazine readers an exclusive opportunity to purchase an accelerator or RAM board from them at a 5% discount. If you purchase Breathless and are fed up with 2x2 pixel resolution or a screen the size of a postage stamp, all you have to do is to choose what accelerator you want to buy from Power Computing's advertisement in this magazine and apply for a 5% discount by providing proof that you purchased the game. To qualify for the discount you will have to provide them with a receipt and registration document and also the score box from this review. For more details on this EXCLUSIVE CU Amiga Magazine offer (valid until February 29 1996) contact Power Computing, 44A/B Stanley Street, Bedford MK41 7RW. Tel: 01234 273000.