FORMAT: PC CD-ROM
DATE: June 1995
Since its creation, Bullfrog has never failed to produce high quality games with great originality. Most of them were based on the idea of a 'god game' where you control things to get either more powerful or richer. This was the case in Populous I & II where you had to increase your population to gain more power and eliminate your opponent. In Powermonger strategy had more influence, but basically the game was built over the same concept. Later with Theme Park, instead of a population, you had to build a theme park to attract hundreds of kids and force them into spending their money so that you never have to worry about cash ever again!
Hi-Octane is a racing game where you control a futuristic car. You have a choice of six vehicles differentiated by their characteristics (speed, armor, etc...) and their appearance. But Hi-Octane is not only a racing game where you must position yourself in the best rank, but it also features combats with missiles and guns. If you ever wonder why the game includes these heavy weapons, just think that it is sometimes easier to blow up the car in front of you than trying to pass in front of it. Of course, this argument is only valid in the game, not in the reality. Do not forget it when you drive on the highway on your way back home!
The historical background seems to be set in a gloomy future in the 21st century according the box, but there is no other information about the time period in the manual. When you start the game, an introduction shows partially a pursuit between two vehicles, but it does not answer my interrogations at all. Why do I have to race and destroy the other drivers? It is not that I really want a detailed explanation, but I would prefer to know in which context the game is set up and what is the scenario behind the action. Let's keep this aside for a moment and go back to the game.
You will find six tracks in Hi-Octane with curious names like New Chernobyl which adds to the historical background, still unknown, a dark shade where this world seems to be plunged. They all offer different difficulties, various textures and types of landscape like wastelands and city streets. During the race, I forgot to mention, your vehicle flies over the road as it is often shown in science-fiction movies. Do not ask me what is the technology involved here, I had enough problems with electrical motors when following engineering courses at the university! All I know is that it should be faster than our time's vehicles as there is no contact between the wheels and the road. However, the game does not meet my expectations regarding speed and playability. Where I expected to find speed and fast pace action, I only got boredom after a while. How can this be possible with a Bullfrog game?
All I know is that the game is based on the Magic Carpet engine which was perfectly adequate for a flying carpet over a series of islands, but not for a racing game. Magic Carpet had a story behind the action, Hi-Octane gives only a taste of action because of its inability to provide emotions to the player. After a few hours playing the game, I had the feeling that it was not completed, that something was missing.
The game looks like it was designed in a rush, to exploit the Magic Carpet engine so that it was not only made for one game, like Doom II was for Doom I, and I think that for the first time a Bullfrog game will not encounter the same success as other titles from the company. Another example is the manual. It is nearly inexistant and consists of a three page folder whose half is occupied by copyrights and epilepsy warnings. I regret I have to say all this about a game from a company I consider being one of the best, but it has to be said.
However, there are things that deserve to be highlighted. Hi-Octane is nearly a true plug-and-play game with no worries about installation. When you insert the CD, just type HIOCTANE to run the game. No needs to indicate in which directory you want to install the game, nor which sound card you have in your computer. Everything is taken care of by the program and I sincerely hope that other developers will follow this trend. The other thing is that Hi-Octane is also a multi-player game (in the long tradition of Bullfrog) that supports up to eight players on a network. Sorry there is no support for modem play, but if you really insist, maybe an upgrade will be made available by the company, though I doubt it is in the Bullfrog's projects. Finally, the SVGA support offers high-quality graphics, but only a few players will experience this mode because of the CPU power it requires. On anything less than a Pentium 90 with a VLB or PCI graphic card, the game is unplayable.
Overall : 79%
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