There's Something I'd Like To Get Off my chest before I get any further into this preview. It concerns 3Dfx, PowerVR and every other graphic accelerator out there at the moment (there is a link here, so please bear with me). We've all marvelled at the stunning visuals in 3Dfx versions of F1 from Psygnosis and Tomb Raider from EIDOS to Quake from the idmeisters. We've seen the fantastic-looking Ultimate Race for PowerVR, but then we've also seen Die Hard Trilogy looking totally abysmal and running at a snail's pace when unaccelerated, only to be transformed into a good-looking and perfectly playable bloodfest under Direct3D courtesy of the Matrox Mystique. And this is where my problem lies. How do all these games perform without the help of the 3D wonderchips?
Well, I've seen them all, so let me enlighten you. They look awful. They jerk ail over the shop. Basically, you're back to where you were with 3D games before the graphic card explosion started to ignite. I might be wrong, but it seems that when software houses get their games looking so hot on the 3D card of their choice, they're less inclined to put any effort into optimising the unaccelerated version. So what if you haven't got a 3D graphics card? Blue Byte have the answer to that one right here: you play Extreme Assault. Take a look at the screenshots on these pages and tell me this game doesn't look absolutely gorgeous. And wait till you see it running. It looks so smooth you'll swear blind that it must be using some kind of acceleration. In terms of gameplay, it's basically a 3D helicopter shoot 'em up with sub-levels in which you zoom around the place in a tank. We obviously can't vouch for the gameplay until we get the review copy of the game in, but we can assure you that everyone in the office has been completely blown away by the visuals.
So how did Blue Byte go about creating this gorgeous blastfest without the help of 3D acceleration? Erik Simon, game and level designer on Extreme Assault, puts it all down to clever programming. "Christian Jungen is one of the programmers on Extreme Assault and he's very much into optimised assembler routines. This is quite unusual nowadays, as most developers write their game engines in C. The fact we've written our engine in Assembler is partly what makes Extreme so fast. We also used highly optimised texturemapping routines, and Christian has many programming tricks up his sleeve that he uses to speed up the code."
Games by gamers, for gamers
Speed issues aside, in the light of the recently released Archimedean Dynasty from Blue Byte (an underwater shoot 'em up) and now Extreme Assault, it would seem that the German developers have slightly changed tact, as most PC gamers will associate them with strategy classics such as the Battle Isle and Setters series. Christian says this is not the case. ''That's not how we do things at Blue Byte," he maintains. "There was no internal decision to move away from the strategy genre. We're a games company first and foremost and if someone on the team comes up with a game idea, we're happy to listen, whatever genre their game falls into.
"In this case. Rainer Reber, our main programmer, and Janos Toth, one of our graphic artists, decided they wanted to do a 3D shoot 'em up. It's a genre they're really into and they felt they could produce something special. They sat down, put their ideas on paper and then took them to our boss, Thomas Friedmann. Thomas believed their enthusiasm would carry the project, so he decided to do it."
In fact, Thomas is producer on Extreme Assault, and is just as enthusiastic about it as the rest of the team. "We wanted two things from Extreme Assault. First, we wanted a very high-end shoot 'em up with mind-blowing action.
It's important to stress that we were never attempting to make a simulation of any description; our focus was entirely on action, pure and simple. Second, we wanted a game with graphics that would amaze everyone who saw them. We think we've achieved both these things and hope the games-playing public agree when the game comes out."
I don't think anyone will be arguing with Thomas there, but one thing did cross my mind when I saw the game in action. Even though it undoubtedly looks fast and impressive, and I'll be one of the first queuing up to play it when it comes in, it's not exactly, er, original (cough). I threw this tricky little number in Erik's direction. "No. it's not terribly original," he concedes. "But that was never our design goal. We wanted a shoot 'em up that was both levels and sub-levels gave the player a feeling of freedom that until now has been missing in a game such as this.
"I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I'm not normally entirely satisfied with most of the projects I work on, but as regards Extreme Assault, I'm really pleased with the graphics, and the mission design has come together exactly the way we thought it would. It would be nice to create something completely original, but at the end of the day Extreme Assault is great fun to play - and you can't say even that about most PC games."
And on that bombshell, we'll leave you to drool over the screenshots with the promise of a full glorious review in the next issue.
Download Extreme Assault
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Extreme Assault Screenshots and Media
- Heavy Gear II
- MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries
- MechWarrior 3
- MechWarrior 4: Vengeance
- Wild Metal Country