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                            Review: Breathless
                            By:  Jason Compton 
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Doom, doom, doom.

There's no denying it.  The focus of the game development in 1995 was on
Doom-ish games, whether or not a whole lot actually made it to the market.

Around the time everyone was getting excited about Alien Breed 3D, from out
of nowhere a demo started making its way around the net.  The game was
Breathless, so we were told, and the demo was an old one of the game's
texturemapping 3D engine.

The developers, Fields of Vision, quickly found a publisher in Power
Computing of the UK.  It comes in a purplish box, with your typical
mega-suited up gun-slinging texturemapping game hero and some screenshots
on the back.

That's the preliminaries.  But the storyline, background, etc. of these
games are always pretty unimportant when they first arrive.  So a quick
hard drive installation later, Breathless is up and running.

So, how does it play?  Well, the engine is a rather flexible one, allowing
control over screen resolution ranging from
teeny-tiny-you've-gotta-be-kidding up to 320x200 (out of x256, this is of
course PAL we're talking about here), with available pixel widths of 1x1,
2x1, 1x2, and 2x2.  The bottom of the screen is taken up with your score,
health, shield, weapon energy, and weaponry/key indicators.

So, how does the game LOOK?  Had you caught me with the stock Breathless
release, I would have shrugged.  The game was playable in reduced
resolutions on a stock A4000/040, but certainly nothing exciting in a high
resolution with a high pixel clarity.  The control felt sterile, the
configurability was only acceptable.

Fortunately for this review's outcome, FOV released a Breathless V1.1 patch
to Aminet.  This has increased the output of the engine, added inertia to
the player's movements (the lack of which caused the aforementioned sterile
feeling), and in general made the game more configurable.

So, how is it to play?  Well, your job is to blast away at bad guys with a
selection of increasingly nasty weaponry.  You upgrade said weapons and buy
new ones by collecting credit globes that happen to be lying around the
levels you chug through.  There are computer terminals throughout the
levels ready to vend you these weapons, health, even keys if you can't find
them.  (Perhaps the evil bad guys should remove these conveniences, they'd
have an easier time defeating you.)  There are a dozen different aliens to
blast, and after a short while you'll be sick of killing "Cyborg 1"s.

Automapping is provided, as is a sight in the middle of the screen which
may be turned off.  It comes in handy when shooting up or down (you look up
or down using the numeric keypad.  The movement in this respect is
considerably improved from the original Breathless in the 1.1 patch.)  I
was a bit disappointed in the number of times the shots seemed not to reach
their target even when they were standing dead in my sights, though.  The
math on the "look up/look down" routines may not quite be perfect yet.

Breathless' engine supports varying light, which at times can put you in
rather dark and grey looking corridors.  They also tried to support a bit
of realistic detail in the form of floor-to-ceiling pipes, but again, the
calculations fell a bit short, as the pipes look two-dimensional as they
meet the floor.  Weaponry could have been a bit more "realistic" as well.
Errant shots simply disappear as they hit the wall, and the Cyborg 1 units
seem to have silencers on their plasma guns.

But those complaints don't detract from the fact that Breathless is a fast
world to whip around in, providing your Amiga is equipped for the task.
While 320x200 1x1 pixel depth is too much for the stock 040/25 to give a
reasonable frame rate on, kicking the resolution down a notch or switching
to 2x1 or 1x2 (my preferred of the two, although things can look a bit
fringed at times) helps considerably.  There have been reports that
Breathless is stunningly slow (slower than an 030/50) on an 060, but as we
haven't received any 060 accelerators yet, we can't verify this.

I do enjoy running around the Breathless world, blasting away at the
baddies.  I find the speed tolerable, the background music (with
configurable volume) appropriate, and the goal of getting to one more level
enough to keep me coming back for a while.  And of course, it's encouraging
to see that the game continues to be developed and supported by FOV.

What Breathless really needs, though, is a bit more atmosphere.  Yes, it's
a vague complaint, but right down to the stainless steel walls, Breathless
is missing the spark that even AB3D's 2x2 chunky display had.  I'm not sure
I really CARE about this guy's struggle, particularly when all he needs to
do is break open the gun vending machine to really wreak some havok.
Improved sound effects (and more of them) would work wonders.

Copy protection is a bit weird.  It's red writing on orange paper, not easy
to read.  It's on a small card, which is another problem...and it's in
runes!  Numerical or letter protection is difficult enough, but tiny runes
are another thing altogether.  The game IS hard drive installable, but you
have to fight with a teeny little card to get to your game.

If you're toting an accelerated AGA Amiga and want to get a lot of shooting
done, Breathless is a good investment.  It's missing networking, which is a
real loss because some levels would make for good deathmathches.  It's
missing that sense of style mentioned above.  But it does have a very good,
and growing, TMap engine that I would be pleased to see in other
implementations.

Breathless also was good for a couple of chuckles, but not for the game
itself.  The manual speaks of the planet "C64-6510", an obvious reference.
The registration card lists "Magazine Review" in the "Where did you get
this game?" list.  I guess the publishers want us to register more often.

Power Computing Ltd
44A/B Stanley St.
Bedford
MK41 7RW
England
++ 1234 273000 phone
++ 1234 352207 fax