previews\ Aug 22, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Beam Breakers - PC - Preview

Ahh ... Neo York. A bustling city where hard working citizens walk the streets heading to work or home or whatever. Businesses tower at multiple levels above the crowded city streets, and rush hour traffic is once again gridlocked ... 20 stories up in the air. Suddenly, the honking horns and engine noises are shattered by 5 swarming vehicles zipping through jammed up motorists, all 5 of which are going the wrong way into oncoming traffic ...


Exciting ... Dangerous ... or both?  Well, this is what you will soon experience sitting behind your PC playing Beam Breakers by JoWooD Productions. The year is 2173, and you are a newcomer to the city of Neo York. You gain employment by a shady individual, and eventually move up the ranks in what you find out later is a gang known as the "Beam Breakers". During your advancement through the ranks, you will get to perform tasks as remedial as delivering pizzas to more important criminal activity like destroying the businesses who refuse to pay you for protection ... all from the comfort of your Hovercar.


In the preview version, controlling your vehicle revolves around a few simple button presses. The arrow keys move the car up, down, left and right (Hopefully the mouse will be usable in the finished version to ease steering). There is a gas button, a brake button, an "action" button, and even a nifty option to turn off the anti gravity function in the car which of course sends you plummeting towards the street at an alarming rate. You may be asking why this is included, and I'll tell you that it provides a quick way of dodging everyone's favorite video game villian ... the 5 - 0. Since racing at high speeds through crowded streets is not legal, even in the future, you will have to contend with evading the police as well as running off other gangs who try to move in on your territory.


There are two main gameplay modes in Beam Breakers, each catering to a different audience. The first is a mission based style of game, similar to GTA3, which has you performing various tasks and functions for your employer. The missions included in the demo were fun, and had enough of a difference from each one to the next that it didn't get monotonous while playing. The second mode is a straight up racing circuit, which puts you up against 4 other vehicles in a high speed drive through the city hitting various checkpoints. Completing missions unlocks new vehicles to use in the races, and may keep you alternating back and forth between the two. There is also a "Survival" mode, where you have to avoid swarms of Neo York's finest and see how long you can survive. The completed game will also have a multiplayer option ... so get ready for some high speed racing against other players around the world!


Graphically, this game is pretty solid. The areas of the city you race through, such as Little Italy and Chinatown, are colorful and congested with nice lighting effects. Even at lower texture and environmental detail, this game still looks like a winner. Beam Breakers also moves at a good frame rate, providing some pretty exciting and edge of the seat moments such as trying to do a last minute acceleration straight up to avoid the flying RV that just rounded the corner in front of you. In addition you will have to avoid bridges, signs, TONS of oncoming traffic (Which prompts angry horns and flashing brights from your potential head on victims), and steel construction beams which could cause some serious body damage ... especially at 200 MPH. There are pedestrians who walk the streets and walkways under or over you as well who add a nice touch, but their little 2-D selves didn't fair so well graphically. Flying at them causes them to just sort of collapse ... like a cardboard cutout that fell over ... then they get back up after a few seconds.


There are a couple of areas here and there in Beam Breakers which could use a little attention. Collision detection, for example, can be found in a few areas of the game. Flying head on into some vehicles results in a crash and deals damage to the hovercar, while sometimes I passed through them like they weren't there. One mission, which is the pizza delivery mission, had a couple of areas where the pizzas I was hurling at my target hit an invisible wall and required an adjustment to be made to one side or the other. Since missions are timed, this can shave off a few valuable seconds needed to complete the mission rather than re-doing it. Some pop-up was apparent here and there in the backgrounds, but it really only reared it's ugly head at a lower resolution mode, and wasn't really frequent enough to make a difference in the overall quality. Lastly, the voiceovers are a little annoying and repetitive at times, and some of the opposing player's dialogue was somewhat corny.


Overall, Beam Breakers is shaping up to be one heck of a fun, illegal ride. I definitely applaud JoWooD for taking two types of gaming styles which have been done 100 times before ... and not only merging them into a complete package, but also adding a creative and fun twist to both to produce an exciting and different gaming style to the world. 5th Element and Blade Runner fans especially should keep an eye out for this one. So fasten your seat belts, race fans  ... it's gonna be a bumpy, anti - grav ride. 

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