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Flying down neon-etched tunnels at preposterous speeds is one of the time-honoured shibboleths of a gamer’s life. No, that’s actually a word. Shibboleth means ‘any distinguishing practice which is indicative of one’s social or regional origin.’ And nothing could be a better representation of the activity of being a gamer. High speed, bright light, thumping techno. So it is with Pyroblazer: a game that is not WipEout, but would really like to be.
The more you circle its sci-fi tracks and shoot other racers, the more you realise that it is simply a footnote to the long, proud history of the high-speed hovercraft racing game with lasers. While the Unreal engine environments zip by efficiently, it doesn’t look particularly up-to-date, with a definite whiff of 2003. Then there’s the clipping issue: that of connection between craft and track. Dear oh dear. From the first few seconds after your virginal THREE-TWO-ONE-GO! the game sees you scraping and grinding along things that just aren’t there. Whatever the technical reason, the practical upshot is that you’re hitting stuff you are nowhere near. The real-world consequence is shouting, and a low review score.
We’re reminded of a game called Ballistics, which had similar problems. It too failed to realise that its best asset was pure speed, and put barriers in the way of your ultra-racing, making you bump and slow down, again and again. Pyroblazer doubles this, with polystyrene-physics blocks and boards blocking the tracking, bumping and slowing you for no obvious reason. Ballistics too realised that floating disembodied from the track was not healthy for its sense of speed, and attached you to the track. In Pyroblazer however, you simply float free, unable to connect. Combine this with the randomness of the clipping and you have a game that has a fundamental gap between what you see and what you do. In conclusion: pretty, but no fun. Bye!
(If you still want to play this game, it’s only available here via download on Steam.)
Jan 9, 2009
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