Beam Breakers

Flashy futuristic racing games like Wipeout, Pod, and even the older Slipstream have found more success on consoles than on the PC. Undeterred, JoWooD has shipped Beam Breakers, a racer-with-a-twist that makes no apologies for lifting its cityscapes from The Fifth Element.

4The setup: It’s 2374 A.D (as if we care) and New York is now called Neo York. Skyscrapers loom like mountains, and anti-gravity technology has rendered earthbound roads obsolete. Amid the concrete jungle, rival gangs compete in five territories for turf and prestige. You can race in championship mode through 30 unique tracks, play through a campaign of 57 missions, go toe-to-toe with the Metro police in survival mode, or just cruise around unhindered as an observer. For a racer, Beam’s bursting with variety.

Visually, there’s nothing quite like it, whether on PC, console, or otherwise. You have 360 degrees of control. Obstacles come in the form of all sorts of varied connector beams, skyways, and hundreds upon hundreds of zipping and bobbing vehicles that form extensive arteries of motion in every conceivable direction. This is quite simply the most kinetic game I’ve ever seen. Power-ups are strewn throughout each level, offering turbo refills and shield technology. Missions range from delivering pizzas to knocking down properties for Mafia bosses. Races are intense and thumb-wracking, requiring you to maneuver deftly through the neon-lit maze.

Problems creep in with control issues, mediocre sound effects, and pretty awful voice acting. The cars — even the better ones — sometimes don’t respond the way you’d expect. Turns are often sluggish, and vehicles don’t move up and down fast enough to complement distance-gauging. Consequently, you’ll often clip things you thought you were under (or over). While the critical control element isn’t as slick as it could’ve been, it packs one hell of a visual bang, and it can cough up some pretty addictive gameplay.

System Requirements: Pentium 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win 95

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