reviews\ Nov 4, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Beam Breakers - PC - Review

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 or gang members who refuse to pay you for protection or move in on your turf ... all from the comfort of your Hovercar.


While flying around Neo York, controlling your vehicle revolves around a few simple button presses. The arrow keys move the car up, down, left and right.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 villain ... 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. The lack of a mouse control option leaves the overall sense somewhat clumsy and difficult to learn overall, and can cause do overs during timed missions. A controller of some type hooked up will provide a flight stick setup, but unfortunately those of us who don’t have that luxury are kinda stuck.


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 are pretty fun, even if they did get a little monotonous at times. 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 picking up powerups like shields or turbo and hitting various checkpoints. Checkpoints can be reached by following a “track” in the air … or hey, just make your own path … as long as you hit them all it doesn’t matter. 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.


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.


From a sound aspect, the game was a mixed bag. The music is decent, and provides a pretty good tone for the racing and excitement of the game. The city sounds of honking cars and the distant hum of engines while stuck in traffic or passing along doing what they do was good … but the real killer in the “audibles” department are the overall lousy and somewhat annoying voiceovers, especially during the race mode. The mission mode wasn’t too terrible, but hearing really moronic statements like “That’s not going to happen” in a generic Arnold Schwarzenegger voice over and over again while trying to focus on racing caused me to turn the sound off after a couple of minutes.


Overall, Beam Breakers turned out to be a good buy for $29.99, and a decent racing / mission based title, despite a few flaws or repetition. If you like racing titles, games like Grand Theft Auto, or a combination of both … this might not be a bad title to pick up. If you are a run of the mill action or FPS fan and are looking to give this one a try, you might like it … but I would recommend keeping your receipt just in case.  


Gameplay: 7.4
The idea behind the game is neat, and hey … it’s fun doing illegal activity from behind the computer screen! The combination of racing and mission play is neat, and gives you a little something to do regardless of what kind of mood you are in. The controls, unfortunately, are kind of clunky and hard to get used to which caused a lot of do overs, and the missions can get a little repetitive at times.   


Graphics: 8.0
The sights and lights in the big city (Including some endorsements by McDonalds and some other companies) look really futuristic and good, and the car models … yours and the traffic you fly through … are well done and produce some good lighting and driving effects. The looks really set the scene for the game, and were done well.


Sound: 7.0
On one hand, the city sounds and the voiceovers of the crime boss you work for aren’t too bad. The voiceovers from some of your opponents, however, are ridiculous and can get annoying really quick at times. The music was done well, and sets a good tone for the game.


Difficulty: Medium
Kinda depends on what you use to play it. Using the keyboard alone will be a sluggish start and somewhat of a learning curve, while I’m sure that using a joystick would have been a little more easy … since it falls somewhere between a flight sim and a racing game. The missions can provide some challenge as well.  


Concept: 7.9
Hovercar racing meets mission-based gameplay. This is a neat idea overall, and one that was done pretty well. 


Multiplayer: 7.4
Race up to six people online, through use of TCP IP addresses. This would have been a little better if it ran over a chat server that allowed people to just meet up and go at it.  


Overall: 7.3
A decent title which will probably appeal to fans of games like Wipeout or Quantum Redshift, plus some of the GTA thugs out there like me will enjoy it as well. If you’re not into either, you might want to be a little careful when purchasing … but overall worth the $29.99 price tag.


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