Actually, The Usage Of The word "naff" might be just a tad misleading, as it isn't necessarily appropriate. So let's dispense with the tabloid approach and get Trevor MacDonald to do it in a more Channel Four Newsy style...
"A British software company, renowned for its high quality video game products, has recently released a title that - according to certain sources - has fallen short of expectations. A company spokesperson told me earlier that all criticisms were unfounded, and that the game in question "chugged along like nobody's business". And now onto the City News. Pam?..."
We're nearer the mark now. but before continuing with what the game's about, what you do and so on (which'U only take a few sentences), how about a fictional conversation between two people at Bullfrog, a few months ago...
Person One: Well, that's Magic Carpet squeezed dry. time to get our thinking caps on again. How about a futuristic sports sim? Based on golf? You have to kill your opponents or something?
Person Two: Not so fast! We can make some extra money first... the easy way. Person One: Eh?
Person Two: Well, how about we create some racetracks with the Magic Carpet engine, and make a high speed shoot 'em up caper involving hover cars?
Person One: Oh yeah! Good idea, that won't take too long.
Person Two: Exactly. Can I have a hundred pounds please?
Person One: Only if you can think of an exciting name for it.
Person Two: Hmmm... let's see... how about Hi-Octane?
Person One: Excellent! Here's the cash!
Maybe I'm reading between lines that aren't there, but after ten minutes of playing Hi-Oclane, I felt that somehow it was a bit of a swiz. It's like... well, imagine if Bullfrog were one of your favourite bands and then suddenly they released a "Christmas single". Hmmm.
Well, onto the game. You can choose from one of six "hover cars"; some are slow but well armoured, some are fast but easily damaged, while the others (as even Mystic Meg could have guessed) fall somewhere between. Then after choosing one of the six "tracks", you race the computer controlled opponents over a set number of laps (ho hum). But it's not just a question of speed, because all the cars are armed - and there are power-ups lying around to be driven over. Better machine guns, double rocket launchers, fuel boosters, you know the drill. So it's gung-ho missile toting action all the way as you race along the winding uppy-downy courses, blasting away at the car in front until it blows up.
Meanwhile there's a car behind you doing the same thing! (A certain amount of weaving can help.) Sometimes you need to make fuel, ammo and shield pitstops, but exactly when you do... again, you know the drill.
And that's just about it. except for the Championship option (which is exactly the same as the Single Race option, but you have to finish in the top three to move on to the next track).
Yes, but the screenshots...
I played Hi-Octane on a p-90 - it motors superbly even with the detail cranked up to 100% (unless you foolishly plump for svga. in which case it doesn't). I wanted to try it on a 486. but the office 486 was busted and I couldn't. Sorry.
But if you've played Magic Carpet on a 486. you'll know the kind of detail you can get away with. This'll be roughly the same, and maybe even a bit better.
I've said that Hi-Octane moves quickly, but to underline it further, it zips along like a (choose your own animal) with (choose your own skin burning liquid) smeared on its (choose your own external organ/organs).
The need for speed?
But guess what? Sometimes complete and utter speed isn't such a good thing, especially when the complexities of the graphics engine demand that constraints are put on the distance of the horizon. It didn't matter so much in Magic Carpet - because the "fogging" just added to the general weirdness of the whole gig. But if Magic Carpet had been a flight sim... hmmm, forget about it. And to a lesser extent this is the case for a car racing game such as Hi-Octane. Up close everything is just dandy, but as you're moving at such blinding speed for the most part, things that are miles away are suddenly upon you in a matter of seconds. So an approaching corner changes from being invisible into a hazy foggy thing and then into a fine and dandy thing in the time it takes to drop a 5op piece onto the floor - before you know it, it's behind you.
This doesn't matter so much when you're familiar with the layout of the track, but it's still visually ungratifying. For a racing game give me less graphic splendour and more perceived distance any day. (NASCAR with guns, anyone?)
Good explosions though, eh?
Bullfrog has always had a knack for making carnage look and sound good, and Hi-Octane is no exception. There's lots of smoke, flames, rat-a-tat ricochet sounds and big boomy explosions, but let's forget about these and get back to the game's shortfalls. We've done the visual confusion, so how about something more inherent to actual gameplay? Such as the fact that the vehicles involved are "hover cars" (fairly easy for Bullfrog to program in, I should imagine, as they're essentially magic carpets). The trouble is, though, they're too "easy" somehow, making them not much fun to drive. And while this undoubtedly makes Hi-Octane instantly playable, in the long haul it makes it a bit snoozy (in a 1.000 mph white-knuckled kind of way, you understand). Maybe it's just me, but I don't think so. I reckon slower. Mud Max style dune buggies would have worked far better.
But I say again... it's too fast, with the result that there's not enough time to "enjoy" the destruction going on in front of you. You want to see bits of metal flying off. people's arms coming out of their sockets, hair on fire, that sort of thing. I did a brief vox-pop in the office (in other words I asked Jason the Art Ed) to find out if it was only me who felt this way, and he said this: "It's a bit confusing. You can't really see what's going on." So there you have it. The two of us speak for the world! Hallelujah!
I bet there's a network option, though
And you'd be right. Bullfrog has always stuck multi-player options in its games, and hats off to them for that. Hi-Octane has the facility to have up to eight players on a network, and it might work brilliantly. If it does, then hoorah for Hi-Octane and slide over Doom and Descent - make way for a brother.
I haven't played Hi-Octane over a network, but I've got a feeling that as a multi-player game it might be iffy. The problem that could easily arise, though (if my "thought experiment" wasn't loo faulty) is everyone braking to a halt. You see. the main premise of the game is this: try not to get in front of anyone, because then they can shoot you.
Imagine yourself in a network game, zapping along at a squillion mph. when all of a sudden you're being shot to next Tuesday from behind. What would you do? Well, you might try weaving to and fro. but supposing that didn't work? The only alternative, obviously, is to brake hard, in the hope that the person behind overshoots. Then (tee hee) you can attack him instead of him attacking you. But what if that person is already aufaii with this tactic? He's waiting for you to do it, so he brakes as well, and then you have to turn around to shoot at him. And on and on.
The ultimate conclusion to this scenario would be all eight players stationary, hurling rockets at one another; they'd be better off playing Doom, as it's got more available weaponry. But don't forget, this is conjecture as I haven't played the network game. Maybe it's fab.
Again, as mentioned at the beginning of the review. I reckon that Ht-Octane is a tiny bit of a swiz. Admittedly it's heaps better than most of the toss out at the moment, but at the end of the day it's a little on the "thin" side, with that "cobbled together" feel of a rush release. Most important of all though, is the lack of involvement you feel. Hi-Octane is fine for a brief period of mindless ack-acking, but is it addictive enough to have you coming back for more the next evening?
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
2018-12-27 Hi-Octane game added.