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Hugh Poynton makes old couples in brown Allegro's look like speed fuelled wild eyed joy-riders. Not the perfect choice to review Vulcan's latest auto destruction fest then.

A question: Do you reckon any kid in the world has ever played with toy cars and not played at crashing them together? I seriously doubt it. When we were kids we used to play at making the toughest Lego cars possible, run them along the ground until they reached a decent speed and crash them into your opponent's car.

The cars were tough but, unfortunately, only as tough as the lego they were made out of. The playground used to look the road to Basra on a bad day. It's a fascination, a sicko morbid fascination that almost everybody shares (do you reckon hundreds of years ago people had fascinations with crashing horses together? It makes you wonder).

Burnout, Vulcan's impressive high spec arcade game is another example of the simple pleasure people gain from crashing cars. Like Destruction Derby, it actually elevates the pastime into a sport. Set in a future where media corporations will do anything to retain their hegemony of the airwaves, and people are so fatigued by constant death and destruction that their taste in sport has changed somewhat.

No longer satisfied with Wolf making scary faces at the audience when Rupert from Richmond yanks him off the rings on Hang Tough, these future Sky subscribers want death destruction and blood, preferably by the skip load. As in films like Rollerball and The Running Man, the contestant's eagerly sought prize is their lives. In this apocalyptic future, to try and pull in as many viewers as possible, the corporations show what the public want - Burning - a nightmare meld of a destruction derby, dodgems and monster truck shows.

At first glance Burnout is visually very impressive, the fully rendered graphics give the game a high quality feel - it looks more like a game you might find in an arcade. The sound is also pretty well done and, in general, the game strikes you as being very highly polished.

Burnout stuck me as being a pretty amusing and entertaining arcade game. Another name for it could have been Battle Dodgems, because that is the basic aim of the game - bounce other cars onto the vicious looking spikes on the perimeter of the play area or shove them over the edge of giant precipices.

How you choose to do this depends on whether you go for brute force or manoeuvrability. You can drive a three tonne monster car and just shunt other players until they're flatter than a month old pint of lager or pick a zippy little trike and rush around like a demented mouse attacking the other players on their unprotected flanks.

Burnout can either be played as a tournament, where you have to complete eight rounds on the four different arenas, or as a deathmatch, which can include up to four players. Cars can be upgraded, weapons attached, brakes improved and shields added.

Like many of Vulcan's releases, this is deceptively addictive. The game totally surprised me, it looked like a fairly simple arcade game, interesting in a brainless way for a few hours but ultimately boring after that.

My perception was shattered after spending most of one Monday afternoon in the office trying to be Burnout champion 2045. The four tracks are different enough to warrant you souping your car up in a number of ways to stand you in good stead for winning. The donut shaped tracks require good brakes, the circular tracks good shields, and so on.

However, there is something you should be aware of if you buy Burnout. When you buy the game you are basically buying the shell of the game. I expect that Burnout will become very popular because of the endless possibilities the game affords; Worms with only four levels would be, lets face it, fairly crap. That is the problem Burnout faces at the present moment. With only four battle arenas available at the moment, completing eight rounds in each does not take that long.

Another basic problem is that the gameplay area just feels too small. You have four cars on one screen and they're meant to butt each other out, Sumu style. This is good fun, but rarely takes longer than about 30 seconds to do and there is not a vast deal of skill involved.

If there were a selection of maybe 10 or 15 screens included with the game, this might have been alright, because the amount of time required to master each screen would have given the game some extra depth.

The problem is that you only get four screens and in most simple circular arenas, you either get bounced onto explosive sprites or fall off the edge. The game would have been infinitely better if only the arenas had been much larger - say four screens that scrolled. I think this problem could well be cleared up however, when the future arena disks become available and the arena editor program allows you to create more challenging and ingenious arenas.

Reviewing Burnout at the moment seems to be quite difficult because, as Vulcan has made clear, the gam is so expandable that reviewing the bog standard version seems almost unfair. This very limited number of levels just doesn't provide enough depth to the game, 10 levels would have you playing the game constantly. Four just ensures you play it until you've mastered those four tracks and then you've got to wait for the data disks. However, when the future car and data disks are brought out, there will be little to stop this game from becoming a runaway success.

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Climb in, turn on and Burnout. Andy Smith prepares for some serious road rage...

Hey! Let's have some scenario stuff for a change! Burnout's a spectator sport for the masses. And they need some entertaining in 2045 because they're recovering from the latest war. All right, enough scenario already.

Burnout's about battling cars in arenas. Last one standing is the winner. Up to four cars take part in each battle - computer or human controlled - and there are four different types of car for you to choose from.

Basically, you pick the car that suits your playing style. Up to a point. After each contest prize money is awarded and after each set of four bouts (in Tournament mode) you pay a visit to a shop where you can by upgrades to your car - things like extra shields and a reverse ability.

You can also buy weapons and special features - such as the ability to be able to 'fog' the screen for a few seconds so nobody (including you) knows where anyone else is. And it's largely how you manage your funds and what upgrades you buy that determines how you fare in the early stages of the game at least.

And so the gameplaying experience. The four cars are arranged around the screen in top, left, bottom and right and when the bout starts you all pile into each other - depending in which arena you're fighting you're trying to either simply bash hell out of the opponents or push them down the hole in the middle or off the edge and into oblivion.

And, last one standing is the winner of the bout (not strictly true, if you're the last one alive but you die within a second or two of the second to last person, then you're both credited as coming second, erm, if you know what I mean. And that's almost your lot.

You do the shopping thing every now and again and this will hopefully increase your chances of being the last one left standing - if you make some clever purchases.

Almost your lot because there are bonus stages. These last about five seconds in total and involve either being the first to accelerate when a light switches on, or trying to be the last person sucked into the hole in the middle of the arena.

Vulcan gush "...it's time to push the Amiga to its limits. Fast furious multi-player action with impeccable production values and in-game graphics of astonishing quality in high resolutions" on their ads and it's hard to find fault with what they're saying.

The action is indeed fast and furious. There are multiple players. The production values are very high. The in-game graphics are very good and at high resolutions. Obviously, they aren't going to tell you that it's terribly dull. It's all been done before and some would argue better.

Take the PD game Knockout 2 where up to eight little cars bash each other about on a disc that starts to shrink. In Knockout 2 you even get to push balls around attempting to score goals against the other players. It may not look half as good, but the gameplaying experience is certainly as good. If not better.

Vulcan have put great store in the fact that this game's going to be expandable. They intend to release another 26 different cars for players to choose from and another 95 different arenas. They're even planning to release an editor program that will enable you to design your own arenas. Sadly, I really can't see why they'd bother.

Burnout, when you're playing alone, will burn itself out within half an hour. When you've bandied together another three mates to enjoy the fun you'll only stretch it for another half-an-hour tops. It might look great but it's boring, unoriginal, tedious and well worth avoiding.


ARENA 1: A hexagonal shaped affair with walled sides.
ARENA 2: A metallic disk with huge spikes projecting inward - contact with any of the spikes during play causes instant death - no matter how full your shields are.
ARENA 3: A doughnut shaped thing with a hole in the middle you can fall down and nothing around the edge to stop you falling off.
ARENA 4: Another metallic disc, this one also having nothing to stop you falling off the edges.


BEETLE: A two ton vehicle that has medium everything but can't reverse.
HOVER BUG: A two ton vehicle that has good rear force and can reverse.
TRIKE: A one ton vehicle that turns sharply but has weak rear force and can't reverse.
HEAVY METAL: A three ton vehicle that's powerful, slow and can't reverse.

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Price: £19.99 Publisher: Vulcan 01705 670269 http://www.vulcan.co.uk

Fans of the film Crash might enjoy this because that's all the cars do in this game. not a race in sight.

In the ruins of post-apocalypse society, inevitably the first instinct of any strap survivors would be to strap spikes onto their cars and crash each other at high velocities. Things like rebuilding society, growing food and so on might be more sensible but people have seen too many Sci-Fi movies to escape this fate.

So set in 2045, Burnout puts you at the wheels of one of these cars as you bid for fame and fortune in the sporting arenas.

Burnout has been generating quite a lot of interest. First of all it is Vulcan Software's first departure away from catering for all Amigas. Instead of running on all Amigas with 1Mb as usual Burnout is AGA only.

Another reason behind the interest is: not only does it have, to quote the advertising, "100% fully rendered in game graphics... six channels of High Definition sound effects... Hires Laced 256 Cols @ 25fps... Newtonian Mechanics... Complex Artificial Intelligence..." etc., it also sounds like Wipeout, the futuristic racer which is making waves on ahem, other platforms. But a racing game it isn't.

Burnout is a demolition derby. You choose your car from a choice of four, and enter the arena (also a choice of four, but there will be hundreds of home grown arenas in no time) to battle it out with your opponents, which you do by ramming into them until they explode, knocking them off a platform so that they plummet to a distant fate.

The winner gets the big cash prize, the runners up, miraculously reborn to fight again, get smaller prizes. This can be spent enhancing your car, and therefore your chances in the next battle. You can spend your ill-gotten gains on improving your engine, buying a reverse gear (very useful when you find yourself on the edge of a principice), fitting your car with spikes, etc. There are also cheaper one-off weapons, such as the stinger, which gives an extra meaty slap to an opponent, or grey-out, which makes the action disappear into a dense fog while you escape,e or more likely blunder off a ledge in the confusion.

Also adding to the general confusion there are several bonus games that crop up throughout the game but they don't have nay indication of what you are supposed to be doing in them. Your car either shoots forward or stalls. Very strange.

The game comes on seven disks, which may be less than a large graphic adventure, but feels a lot longer once you have had to install the thing. Installation is via Workbench only, each disk having to be opened and the individual files dragged from their floppies into the appropriate folders. After all that, the files have to be unpacked by double clicking on each one.

Even if Vulcan hate writing proper installers, a custom AmigaDOS routine could do everything for you about ten times easier and ten times faster it would have taken little longer to write as it will take every buyer to install the thing. This is very poor.

Piece of art
Once it is up and running, everything begins to look rosy. The intro graphics are excelelnt, and the options screens all bode well for the game, offering up to four players via keyboard, joysticks and joystick adapters. Aura Interactor output and cars with wide ranging statistics. Then the game starts and it all goes wrong again. Yes, the screens do look gorgeous but they only have a few pixels up and down, and even then they have a tendency to strand you off-screen.

The vehicle sprites are all nicely designed full rendered 3D objects but they lack animation and don't show the effects of damage, indeed the first thing that really tells you your car is damaged is when it vanishes with a pop. No debris or anything like that.

As for Newtonian mechanics. I seem to remember notions of equal and opposite reactions - these collisions betray clear evidence of released elastic potential energy which must mean that... hmm, the cars are made of rubber!

There is a lot about Burnout that makes you think Public Domain. Damn fine PD admittedly, but the gameplay just never seems to go anywhere, and amusing as the idea may be, it just doesn't last. There is no real progression in the game, no increase in the difficulty, and very little sense of long term achievement. Even multiplayer acting didn't seem fun, and looking at those graphics won't keep you happy for ever.

I hate to sound discouraging, after all releases like this for higher spec machines are the only way the Amiga scene has a snowball's chance, but that's the way it goes. Pretty AGA graphics just aren't enough.