|Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
|A.P.I Review:||CIRCUIT BREAKERS|
No.1 No.2 No.3
|Game Type:||Racing||Memory Card|
|Review Date:||September 1998||Analog Compatible|
Setting the Scene
Originally scheduled for release before Christmas '97, Circuit Breakers has suffered from various development delays, so they tell us, but has finally hit the shelves. Is this sequel to Supersonic Racers worth the wait and has it got the potential to knock Micro Machines v3 from the top of the heap of mini-racers? For the answers to these question and more, read on. Circuit Breakers is a racing game where you get to control some wacky looking vehicles around some equally crazy but interesting race tracks set in many different environments. While not exactly a mini-racer Circuit Breakers has the same look and feel of Micro Machines so the comparison is inevitable so I won't even bother fighting the urge to compare the two games. The biggest feature of Circuit Breakers, as with other games in this genre, is the multi-player capabilities. You can play by yourself and progress through a series of races to test your skills against seven computer opponents or grab three friends (soon to be enemies) and battle your way through up to 16 colorful and detailed levels.
Begging the comparison with Micro Machines, while it has some features that set it apart, this game fits the 3D mini-racer genre.
The first thing you will notice while playing this game is the speed. Circuit Breakers is not as fast and frantic as MMv3, but still runs at a very smooth 25 fps and always manages to keep the frame rate up, despite the amount of movement that can be going on within the screen at any given time. While 25fps is not exactly fast by modern standards the graphics are impressive enough at this speed. You have a choice between 4 types of cars to drive. Each vehicle has a unique appearance and are realistically rendered and shaded. The extenuated features of the cars you drive fits in perfectly with the feel of the game. You can drive either a mini with fat tyres, wacky racer style speedsters, crazy looking retro F1 car or an Italian looking sleek roadster. The intention of these style of cars is not to appear realistic but comical. The colors, shading and animation of the cars all work perfectly to give this effect. The different environments you race in also appear smooth and realistic at all times with excellent use of shading and texture mapping. There is no obvious pop-up or clipping as you tear around the race tracks and clever use of fogging effects give the illusion of distance as your car races into and out of the screen. Some of the tracks in the game take place on, or below, water. The graphics in these environments are just as smooth as their on-road counterparts, but with bubbles and waves in place of smoke and burn outs. The occasional lens flare also adds to the semi-realism that the game graphics are based upon. One interesting feature is the loading screens. While the game is loading either tracks or menus a darkened tunnel is displayed containing your chosen car which you can steer from left to right. It's nothing you would call really stunning but it is highly original and far more entertaining than a spinning CD or running Hedgehog. Then only noticeable problem with the graphics is the occasional slow down which happens when there are 8 cars on the screen at the same time. While not regular enough to be annoying, it is there and cannot be ignored. It would not really be fair to compare the graphics in Circuit Breakers to Micro Machines. They have an altogether different style. Overall the graphics are excellent, the cars, tracks and background are all very impressive and the speed of the game is kept up at all times.
Sounds and Effects
Imagine the music you would like to hear if you were driving a crazy looking mini cooper with fat wheels around a twisting alpine road, trying desperately to stay on the track as 7 other drivers are trying their hardest to knock you off. Now add engine sounds as the gears changes, the crunching of bodywork as you belt into your opponents and you have the music and effects of Circuit Breakers. I would have to describe the in-race music as 'Playful Dance-techno', I'm not sure that's an actual genre of music but it's the only one that fits. The thumping back beat is obvious but the tempo and other musical effects that are added serve to lighten the feel of the music and provide an excellent background for the racing action. Aside from the standard engine and racing sounds there isn't really much to sing about as far as effects go. The most impressive thing about the effects in the game is how the sound changes depending on which surface your car is currently racing on. Take to the road and your tyres will screech, onto wooden slats and you car will shudder and shake, underwater and you'll hear the rotation of your propellers as you slip through the water.
It has been proven time and time again, if you strip out all the fancy graphics, trendy music from popular bands and all the media hype it's the gameplay that is really important. Some games just wouldn't sell without these props. Unfortunately it works in the reverse, some games that have brilliant gameplay will lie gathering dust on the shelves. Hopefully Circuit Breakers will not be one of those casualties because it has all the ingredients that make a brilliant game, and it would be shameful to see it go unnoticed. Let me explain... Play starts in the Vehicle Selection Arena (VHA) where you drive a little colored potato from a ledge at the front of the screen down to an arena with various silhouettes of cars on the floor. You steer your little potato mobile to your chosen silhouette and stop, your car is then selected. There are four types of car but since each car handles exactly the same there is really only one car to choose from with 4 different graphic styles. This isn't really a problem since it would be unfair to give a particular car an advantage over the rest and the game is nicely balanced with each being identical. Be warned now, if you play in a group of friends, go directly to the Mini Cooper silhouette because this is bound to be the most popular shape, the others seem a little dull by comparison (and Mr. Bean would surely be proud of you). In single player mode, after you have chosen your car, simply drive through to the Track Selection Area where you initially have the choice of 4 tracks representing 4 routes you can progress though. Once you choose a track your little car is shown driving down a dark tunnel where you have the choice of racing in a World Series or Time Trial race by steering to the left or right lane. The World Series races are fought out with seven CPU controlled opponents which you must defeat in order to progress to the next circuit. Time trial is played in much the same way except you must finish each track in a given time to progress. There are eight different environments in which you can race: * The desert sands of Egypt where you must negotiate ancient structures raised platforms and tunnels. * The Swamps, where you car is magically transformed into a boat and you must power your way through the wetlands. * Highways where you race on more traditional roads. * The Arctic presents you with either an icy track or a snow-covered road, very slippery when wet. * Dusty Canyons where you will race from great heights into deep valleys attempting not to fall off the edge and become just another statistic. * Historic Venice, where once again you car is transformed into a boat and you must navigate the tight canals of Venice. * Underwater, where you race on old shipwrecks and the oceans waters. Luckily your car has been given propellers and turned into a submarine to race here. While all the environments are fun, the best one (by popular opinion) is the Canyons. The greatest feature is the very steep drops and climbs, and the feeling of speed as you charge down a giant hill is amazing. The least enjoyable tends to be the water based ones. The submarines tracks are fast and furious but the water surface races are a little frustrating and can thankfully be avoided. Control of your little vehicle is easy and intuitive. Even the least skilled driver can pick up a controller and be competitive. The analog control support helps a little but isn't really necessary. Luckily, this game isn't about driving skills otherwise it would quickly lose its appeal to the more experienced race fans (since anyone should beat them with a little slice of luck). While skill does play a small role it takes a back seat to dirty tactics, backstabbing and plain bad sportsmanship. This is where the game begins to really shine. Using your vehicle as a weapon to knock other players off the track is the most enjoyable aspect of Circuit Breakers. However, I recommend that people who bruise easily should avoid playing this game too often since most tactics may result in physical violence of some sort. The AI for the computer players is just as evil and vile as you would expect a human player to be. Given the chance they would rather kill themselves and take you out with them rather than win a race by fair means. The CPU players also get a huge advantage at the beginning of each race. The staggered starting grid means the human players vehicle always begins at the back of the grid, which means most races are spent playing catch-up. Luckily, you're better than they are, but are you nastier? Another fun feature of the game is the track layout. From each track you can actually see parts of another track which you can race on. For example, you can race on the bottom of the sea around the hull of a wrecked ship. On another track you actually race on top of the ship and can see the other track below. An easily missed but novel detail. As mentioned before, racing is fun and furious. This is helped along by the strategic placement of power-ups, or stunts as the game calls them. Stunts are items you pick up on the track and use against your fellow racer in order to blow them up, put them off or generally cause them to have a bad day. Some of the most best ones involve make your car grow to an enormous size so you can squash the opposition or shrink to tiny size so you can take shortcuts to evade the other cars on the track.
Value for Money
In single player mode Circuit Breakers offers you two basic play styles, with 16 tracks for each, 2 for each different terrain type. Once you have finished the single player World Series there is really no incentive to play again. While the single player games are fun, the multi-player game is where all the replay value lies. The multi-player games will determine the long term appeal of Circuit Breakers, while only supporting 4 players (compared to MMv3's 8 players) the multi-players games are a great way to lose friends and earn a reputation as a dirty driver.
Breakers has definitely breathed new life into this genre. The bottom
line is that the game is as much (if not more) fun as Micro Machines
without all the baggage.
Don't expect to find a lot of depth in the gameplay as I got pretty tired and frustrated with the single player modes in a relatively short period of time but as with Micro Machine the multi-player action is what kept me coming back for more.
Circuit Breakers is more of a 'pick up an play' game. It is simple to learn, very easy to become a great driver and is definitely a party game best suited to a group of friends sitting around the T.V. (assuming you have 4 controllers and a multi-tap) .
If you enjoyed Micro Machines v3 as much as I did you will also love Circuit Breakers as much as I do. However, your mileage may vary, and I recommend you rent before you buy (if you play it with 3 friends, I can confidently say you will want to buy it).