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                           Review: XTReme Racing
                            By:  Jason Compton 
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For a while this autumn, it seemed racing games were all the rage.  First
came Virtual Karting from OTM and published by Guildhall, which was tepidly
reviewed in AR recently.  Then came XTReme Racing, from Silltunna and
published by Guildhall (I see a pattern here...).

XTR's tradition goes back to Pole Position.  You race a car over various
tracks, with a camera view that defaults to just behind your vehicle.
There are a number of other cars on the track and, of course, you want to
beat them.

The camera angle and horizon can be altered at will.  Ok, so now we've
moved to Virtual Karting status.  Now it's time to talk about the stuff
that's much better than any racing game I've seen on the Amiga so far.

If you're a masochist, you can use a nasty black dithered screen with which
to view the road.  This is aimed at un- or minimally-expanded A1200 users.
(However, the masochist comment still applies.)  Thankfully, you can also
adjust pixel width and height (1x1, 2x1, 1x2, 2x2) and turn that godawful
dithering OFF.  Yes, real, honest 1x1 full screen display is possible.
Tack on the capability to add different camera views (either for more
players than just yourself, or to track a different car or area), and
you're talking about something significantly improved from Virtual Karting,
and which doesn't bear much resemblance at all to Pole Position.

The XTR courses also offer some very unconventional (and unrealistic, but
hey, this is a game) features, such as random power-ups (including
missiles!), turbo acceleration pads, and people and Lemming-like creatures
to run over.  You can also drive on such courses as floating cities,
meaning that plummeting to your doom is a very real possibility.
Fortunately, your car reappears shortly after any demises you may incur,
but this tends to set your chances of winning the race pretty much out of
the question.

You have your choice of several different "characters" with different cars
to drive (shades of Power Drift here), and can race in a cup, league, or
single events.  There are also three levels of difficulty, but...

...man, is this game hard.  I mean, it's not impossible, but you'll need
some serious learning time to get the hang of driving an XTR car.  Since
the best pre-race idea you can get of the track is a very simplistic look
at its layout (No Virtual Karting helicopter flyby or Roadkill practice
lap), you may want to race, say, with minimal computer competition on a
track a few times before competing for real, because the tracks can be
confusing and treacherous.

The levels themselves range from fairly pedestrian to rather neat, in
particular the beach and floating city tracks.  The beach graphics are very
nicely done, and the floating city is fun to look at.  It does look pretty
strange when your car falls, though...it looks like it's shrinking, not
falling.

The game features a small selection of music tracks for your listening and
racing enjoyment.  Take them or leave them, they're decent intense driving
music without a ton of complexity.  They're pretty annoying when you're in
8th place, though.

The game allows you to play with up to 4 people on the same machine, but
the screen gets pretty crowded beyond two different views.  An option is to
use the serial link (null modem cable or real live modem, 19200 baud
suggested), which spreads out the processing demands, joystick
availability, and monitor real estate.

If racing isn't your thing, you can race in Deathmatch mode (networked or
no), where the object is just to blow up the other players more times than
they get you.  This makes the power-up missiles a lot more satisfying to
use...

As those familiar with AR may be aware, our standard AGA test machine is an
A4000 040/25 and we make no apologies for using a machine closer to the
high than the low end.  Other than the necessary switch to PAL, the game
runs without complaint or incident.  XTR runs like a charm in 1x1
fullscreen.  CyberGraphX support is reportedly not forthcoming.

The documentation for the game is a bit thin, they don't even describe all
of the powerups (intentionally, they say, but I suspect it might have
something to do with printing deadlines...).  Functional, yes, and the game
is fairly self-explanatory, but still...

The game suffered some compatibility problems, but most of these have been
remedied by a free patch.  (There are reportedly still some problems with
Warp Engine 040s)  A future upgrade promises a track editor, more tracks,
support for 4-joystick adapters, and other in-game features.

Those of you lucky enough to have an Amiga store nearby that carries XTR
will notice a quote on the back from yours truly.  That rather glowing
quote was based on a pre-release version of XTR I played, and I do stand by
what I said.  XTR is a good blend of arcade action and driving realism
(except the missiles, sheep, floating cities, etc) and really is a quality
game.

XTR is hard drive installable (Extremely highly recommended), takes
advantage of accelerated machines (again, highly recommended) and is AGA
only.

Guildhall Leisure
15 Guildhall Industrial Estate
Kirk Sandall
Doncaster
DN3 1QR
++44 1302 890000 phone
++44 1302 890010 fax
ted@blitzuk@demon.co.uk e-mail