SEGA SCORCHER SEARS SPECTRUM.
One of the hottest coin-ops of all time has arrived. You begin your mission being catapulted off the deck of a beautifully-drawn aircraft carrier. Once airborne you come under attack from wave after wave of enemy jets, half armed with machine guns, the other half relying on missiles. To evade them the F-14 can bank left/right and even perform a 360 0 roll (with practice). It's also equipped with those essential afterburners for extra thrust - turn them on/off with space bar.
To reply in kind the F-14 is armed with a unlimited cannon fire and a couple of dozen extremely useful heat-seeking missiles. Extra missiles are provided by the automatic refuelling stages - either landing on a runway or mid-air refuelling. Including these stages there are 23 levels (multi-loaded three at a time). Apparently everything in the arcade game has been replicated (apart from the hydraulic seat!).
Despite the conversion's exhilarating speed Afterburner remains of dubious lasting value. The gameplay is just too repetitive, constantly dodging around the screen firing and trying to avoid occasionally indistinct missiles. But even so, to begin with Afterburner really does set your pulse racing.
PHIL … 85%
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: stunningly fast 3-D, although ground features aren't very detailed
Sound: catchy 128K title tune and ingame music which can be replaced by some hot sound effects
Options: definable keys. Choose between ingame music or sound effects
'With its breathtaking speed, amazing graphics and pounding soundtrack, the arcade game was brilliant. But what about the Spectrum version? Well, it's certainly fast. The main sprite is simply excellent. Some of the backgrounds are just as nicely detailed, with tanks and so on, but for the most part they're rather empty. Sound is well implemented with a choice of a rousing tune or FX. Yet despite the speed of the graphics, and the urge to see the next stage, it's really only a 'dodge-left/right-and-fire' game. Lacking the speed and definition of the arcade original the underlying simplicity of the gameplay is sadly revealed. Nevertheless fans of the original will, like me, still love it.'
MARK … 83%
'The one game above almost all others I thought impossible to successfully convert has arrived - and totally amazed me. The speed is fantastic. Each level of the game is a different colour monochrome with small but well-defined jets flying by and brilliant graphics at the beginning and end of each level. The Spectrum version doesn't seem to have lost any of the speed, but the graphics on the ground have been reduced from the brightly coloured houses and structures of the arcade machine to just bushes - but this doesn't effect the game too drastically, the playability is still there. The multiload is a bit annoying but nothing can be done about that and 3 owners will hardly notice it. Afterburner is a great game, you'll be a fool to miss it.'
NICK … 91%
Just like the coin-op - wobble your fighter plane from left to right shooting incoming attackers as you fly (at high speed) over different terrains. Entertaining if you loved the coin-op, okay-ish as a stand-alone game.
If US Gold was foolhardy enough to tackle OutRun, Activision must have been utterly crackers when it bought the licence to this one. With more hydraulics than a fleet of JCBs, and extraordinarily fast graphics, Afterburner is another one for the "Gosh! Wot, on the Speccy? Gerraway!" brigade. However as we all know, if it's got the right name on the box, just about any old dross can be made to sell like, well, like very fast.
Not that Afterburnerss any old dross, of course. Certainly not. But while it packs quite a punch graphically, there seems to be a gaping void where the gameplay should have been inserted. Just like the coin-op version, in fact.
Hokay, for those of you who haven't seen it in the arcades and missed the Megapreview a couple of issues ago. the game goes like this. Launch your F-14 Tomcat from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, zoom along at Mach 96 and shoot the marauding hordes of Russi... sorry, enemy aircraft who scoot around taking pot-shots at you, stopping for refuelling occasionally.
Nothing frighteningly original there, I know, but where Afterburner excels is in the graphics. Even on the Speccy conversion, the speed at which sprites are wanged around the screen is phenomenal, especially considering that as your F-14 banks, the ground and all the clobber littered about on it bank too, so all the sprites have to be rotated around. The mathematics behind it doesn't bear thinking about. But then what maths does?
As you can probably imagine, colour pretty well goes out of the window once again, making me wonder where the Spectrum got its name.
Well fast it may be. So fast that you'll often be wiped out without knowing what's hit you. The trouble is, though, that there's very little to do. Your guns fire automatically, missiles lock on as soon as your sights pass over the target, so all you have to do really is dodge enemy fire and launch the odd missile now and then. This may be fine for some people, but after a few minutes I was pounding my fists on the keyboard, demanding to see the manager.
While I can't help but quake at the sheer power of the graphics routines, hum along to the 128K tunes and snigger as yet another Comm er, baddy goes down in flames, the thing that amazes me most about Afterburner is that it's totally devoid of any addictive qualities whatsoever. Not many, anyway. I suppose that some of you might want to keep going to see all the various levels and refueling sequences, but it's not really worth playing just for the shooty bits.
Buy it for the speed, graphics, free stickers and posters if you must, but be aware that they're covering up a serious lack of content. Damning perhaps, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.
Let's face it, the only reason you're reading this review is because you've got nothing better to read - not because you've never heard of Afterburner and want to know what it's about. I mean, everyone's heard of Afterburner! I even had an in depth discussion with my Gran about it once! But seeing as the more I write the more I get paid, let's have a quick recap.
On first play, you'll probably think "wow' and go around annoying your family by telling them how good this new game you've just got is, and then wondering why from then on every time you enter a room everyone else suddenly leaves. The graphics, if a little lacking in any colour whatsoever, chugg along at a cracking rate, and your plane dips and dives, turns and rolls as you fly into the screen very effectively. Hoards of baddies zoom at you, you fire your machine gun at them, then lock on and despatch a missile or 2. There's then a convincing explosion and a 128K explosion-type-noise (or 48K beep).
But this is just about all that you can do - for level after level. It's very easy too as there's nothing you can crash into (not even other planes - you can only be hit down by enemy missiles which are for the most part easy to avoid), and your machine guns and missiles fire and lock on automatically. You've got absolutely tonnes of lives too, so games tend to be pretty lengthy. Okay, so there are loads of levels (which load in a few at a time), including various (automatic) re-fuelling sequences, and a natty bit where you have to fly though a big canyon, but the gameplay does remain very samey throughout. It is however very addictive and cheap, so by all means scoop it up now if you didn't before.
A prime example of the sort of arcade conversion everyone said 'can't be done on the Speccy' and guess what? Yes, everyone was right! Still, that doesn't mean Activision didn't make a very brave try. Indeed, the speed with which they've got the various pretty large sprites (massive in the case of the F14 Tomcat you control) whanging around all over the screen is pretty impressive, to say the least. The only problem is - there isn't really much of a game hiding underneath the flash (and I know plenty of people will disagree with me, but I found pretty much the same thing to be the case with Space Harrier, Galaxy Force and all those other into the screen jobbies), a fault of Sega (the coin-op people) rather than the people who worked on the Speccy version.
The scenario, as you all probably know, is your slightly oudated 'shoot down all those nasty Russian planes' jobbie. There are some neat touches (the inflight refueling sequences spring to mind) but with automatically firing guns, automatically locking missiles and so on it's really just a case of dodging enemy fire (try a constantly circling movement around the screen) and launching the odd missile. Sorry, but for me this 'unconvertible' game turned out to be exactly that.
Verrroom! Swooooshhhh! Kerblaaaaammmmm! Er... KERSPLOSHHHH! And any other sound effects you can think about. Afterburner is here, and it's just as spectacular as it promised to be. After months of previews, teasers and tickles, the official conversion of the best-selling coin-op from Sega has arrived.
It was with trembling legs and dribbling chins that we loaded Afterburner and prepared to put it to the test. Would it be the most amazing convo ever? Or a complete load of old sausage-meat? Fortunately, it's better than we could have expected; just about as close to the coin-op as the Spectrum can manage.
Not much has been left out of the gameplay. Let's face it, there wasn't much to leave out. Afterburner was never about complex gameplay; it's just about zooming through the skies, gawping at the incredibly fast, detailed, colourful graphics, and blowing to hell everything that moves. All these elements are still there, bar the colours.
As your F-128 sooper-dooper transonic interdiction fighter lifts from the deck of the Sega Enterprise, you feel that you're in for something special. When you lift into the air, the horizon suddenly fills with enemy planes, and you know that you have a fight on your hands.
The speed and smoothness with which your targets come out of the distance has to be seen to be believed. Your cannon fires continuously; you just have to line up your sights, dipping and veering to keep on target When the LOCK ON notice appears on the bottom of the screen, your guided missiles have selected a target. A cursor box appears around the doomed enemy plane, and by pressing the fire button you can launch a deadly missile.
Your speed, and remaining stock of ammunition, are shown at the bottom of the screen. At the top is shown your current score, as well as the stage of the game you've achieved The first stage is relatively easy; the targets almost line up to be zapped. As you progress, though, you find yourself facing waves of missiles. The best way to avoid these is a quick barrel-roll; move the joystick over to the right or left, then give it a quick nudge. Your plane rolls alarmingly, the horizon spins around you, and with any luck you'll avoid the missiles. If you don't have any luck, your plane goes down, trailing what look like soap bubbles, which I'm sure are meant to be smoke rings.
If you survive through stage one, you'll rendevouz with a tanker which will top up your fuel and ammunition. Then it's on into the unknown, with a different coloured background, new types of planes, and a faster, more furious fight.
You must select music or sound effects during the game; the music's a jolly bouncy sort of affair, while the sound effects include some nice metallic bonglings and swooshings. The overall impression is of a game which is more than the sum of its separate parts; hence the rather strange marks in the faxbox.
If you survive long enough, you'll get to see the Super Hang-On motorbike chasing you off a landing strip, an Outrun sports car and a Thunderblade helicopter. Nice to see that the programmers had enough memory space to get all the jokes in - of course, this means that the game has to be multi-load, or use continual disk access.
OK, there's not much to Afterburner; it's just continuous, spectacular blasting. Don't let that stop you investing in what must be one of the big hits for Christmas.
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Activision Lock On.
Take a game, almost any game, put it in a large, colourful and very animated cabinet then plonk it in an amusement arcade and what have you got? Large queues waiting for their turn on the latest sure-fire arcade hit.
After Burner was THE machine to play in the arcades earlier this year. It came in three versions: The upright cabinet, which is the standard arcade machine, the sit-in version, which shook and rattled as you played, and the Deluxe version, which shook and rattled enough to knock your false teeth into your lap. Now Activision bring us the home micro versions of the game - which come without a cabinet, so you'll have to do your own gyrating console impressions.
The object of the game is very simple - fly your F-14 Thunder Cat through stage after stage of enemy territory and survive for as long as possible. Chances of survival are increased by shooting down as many of the enemy aircraft as you can before they shoot you. Your plane is armed with a continually front-firing machine gun and heat-seeking missiles. A small square sight just in front of your plane indicates where the machine gun is firing, and if an enemy plane wanders into the sight, it locks on to the enemy plane. You then let loose with a missile which will rocket towards the target - meanwhile, your small sight's still out in front so you can end up with half a dozen or more targeted enemy planes at once.
Dealing with the enemy like that is not such a problem at the start of the game as long as your reactions are swift enough to bank left-right to avoid the incoming missiles. The problems start when enemy planes and enemy heat-seeking missiles start coming from in front and behind. The best way out of this kind of situation is to start using the throttle control to speed away from (or slow down and sneak in behind) the enemy. In later stages the skies are empty of enemy craft and it's a simple case of blasting away at ground targets such as oil tankers and look-out towers - occasionally you have to do this whilst flying through a narrow canyon.
Although your machine gun has an inexhaustible magazine and keeps firing away happily, the number of missiles is limited and should you be so foolish to use up all your missiles early on, you'll have to survive without them until the refuelling stage, when either a large tanker plane comes flying over and drops a cable which your plane attaches itself to automatically, or a landing strip comes into view and the plane lands and gets refuelled.
After Burner is pure sky-high mayhem, the ol' brain cells won't get a work-out but your joystick arm certainly will. It's playable stuff, but once the novelty has worn off you'll soon realise it is just a standard scrolling shoot-em-up with little in it to keep you interested and playing for any great length of time.
Reviewer: Andy Smith
Atari ST, £24.99dk, Out Now
Amiga, £24.99dk, January
Spec, £9.99cs, £12.99dk, Out Now
Amstrad, £9.99cs, £14.99dk, Imminent
C64/128, £9.99cs, £14.99dk, Imminent
IBM PC, No plans.
Predicted Interest Curve
1 min: 80/100
1 hour: 85/100
1 day: 60/100
1 week: 30/100
1 month: 20/100
1 year: 5/100
MACHINES: Spectrum/Amstrad/C64/Atari ST/Amiga/MS/PC
PRICE: Spec/C64/Ams/MSX £9.99 cass, C64/Ams £12.99 disk, ST £19.99, Amiga £24.99
VERSION TESTED: Spectrum
Arguably the hottest arcade game of the year, Sega's Afterburner has finally arrived on home computer format courtesy of Activision.
The unenviable task of converting this monster machine was given to Keith Burkhill, whose previous masterpieces include Ghosts 'n' Goblins, Space Harrier and Commando. Has he been able to work magic and reproduce Afterburner on the Spectrum? Well, the answer is a resounding yes - believe it or not.
For the arcade virgins among us, Afterburner is an aerial combat game in which the player flies an F-14 against an entire enemy airforce. The action is viewed in 3D from behind the plan, rather like a traditional race game. Formations of enemy craft fly over the horizon and attack before peeling away. Sometimes planes emerge from the sides of the screen, swooping across the F-14's flightpath, and attack from behind, requiring some nifty manoeuvring to shake off the pursuer.
The solo mission of death and destruction starts on an aircraft carrier. The F-14 takes off automatically and heads for the sky, and from then on you're on your own.
The plane is armed with an unlimited supply of bullets, which fire constantly throughout the mission, and a limited amount of air-to-air missiles. When an enemy plane comes into firing range, a box appears around it and a missile can be launched by pressing the fire button to send it haring across the sky to home in on the target. Bullets are a good means of bringing down planes that fly front of the F-14, but otherwise they're pretty useless in combat.
The first few formations of planes are merely cannon fodder, but the jets that follow launch missiles at the F14; one hit is fatal and the plane plunges to the ground and ploughs a great furrow as it comes to a standstill. As the player progresses the missiles become faster, more numerous and very accurate, and swift reflexes and good hand-to-eye co-ordination is needed to fly the plane safely through the seemingly unceasing assault.
Occasionally a plane or homing missile approaches from behind with the sole intent of destroying the plane. This frantic situation prompts only one course of action; a spin. This particular manoeuvre is tricky to master, but essential if the player is to complete the mission. A short tug of the joystick in one direction, followed by a quick switch sends the plane - and the horizon - into a complete rotation, shaking off the aggressor in the process.
At regular intervals a big tanker plane flies in and the F-14 automatically docks in mid-air for refuelling and rearming.
There are 23 levels in all - like the arcade game - the majority of which involve aerial combat. There are two canyon runs, where the plane is guided down the middle of a steep-sided valley to strafe ground targets that litter the plain. The sides of the canyon have to be avoided, so its useful to slow the plane down as much as possible - that way there's more time to pick the juiciest targets and notch up as many points as possible.
There are also two friendly airfields to land on, where the plane is quickly serviced before resuming combat; it provides a very welcome breather from the frenetic action. The programmer has included the little Hang-On bike and Outrun car which follow the plane up the runway as it takes off - it's good to see that sort of attention to detail.
The original arcade game had lavish and very fast graphics. Unfortunately the colour is lost on the Spectrum - the playing screen is always a combination of two colours to avoid attribute problems - but the speed has been retained, and the game is as fast as its coin-op big brother.
The main sprite is clearly drawn and the 3D update on the enemy planes is smooth. There are few ground features, the majority of them seem to be bushes, but you tend not to notice when you're flying - there are far more important things happening on-screen to spend time gawping at that scenery. The canyon section is well executed, and again the update is convincing.
More importantly, the game is extremely playable. The plane handles beautifully, and targeting and firing missiles is easy. My one single gripe is that it's sometimes difficult to see incoming missiles due to the colour restrictions - but it doesn't ruin the game. Play is exciting, and the frenetic action keeps you on your toes constantly - the only time you can ever afford to relax is when the plane is on the runway!
The difficulty level is set quite high, and even though the game is started with a generous number of lives, it doesn't take long to blow up all the planes. Nevertheless, this small fact didn't stop me playing it incessantly!
Afterburner, is an excellent conversion, and while Keith Berkhill goes for a stroll on water, Spectrum owners at least can revel in one of the fastest and most impressive arcade games to appear in the six-year history of the machine!
And now that Activision has proved the seemingly impossible, the ball is now in US Gold's court. Will Thunderblade shoot down Afterburner? Or will Afterburner leave Thunderblade in its jet wash? One thing's for sure: Thunderblade will have to be exceptional to beat this.
This conversion of the hit Sega coin-op puts you in the seat of an F-14, pitted against hordes of enemy aircraft. Its all really very good, considering the machine's limitations. Fans of the coin-op, grab three quid and check it out pronto!
THE GAMES MACHINE TRASH
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £12.99
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
Atari ST £24.99
F F F FOURTEEN
The Grumman F-14 Tomcat - capable of Mach 2.34 at height, armed with the longest range air-to-air missiles in the world and the US Navy's premier carrier-based fighter. Sega - Japan based maestro in producing top quality coin-ops. Activision - one of the most successful software houses in the UK. These three leaders in their field join forces to bring you home computer conversions of the 1988 top grossing coin-op - Afterburner.
Afterburner stormed its way into arcades around the world and became Sega's biggest selling machine to date. Featuring three megabytes of superlative graphics, sound and heart-rending action, how could Activision be expected to convert it to home computers?
For those who failed to notice the blanket promotion for the game, it is a flight-combat shoot-'em-up set over 23 levels. Your F- 14 is ready, waiting and armed with unlimited cannon shells for close combat and a lock-on fire-and-forget missile system. To destroy MiGs, lock-on target, squeeze the trigger and watch your missile heat-seek home.
Through war torn skies you pilot the F-14, taking on, and hopefully defeating, a seemingly endless enemy force of fighter planes. Enemy craft and a salvo of heat seeking missiles rush toward your plane in an attempt to stop you - its a case of avoid or die!
The basic theme is dodge enemy missiles, launch your own and survive to the next level. Added to this mayhem are canyons to negotiate - hit the sides and your mission comes to an explosive end.
At certain stages you refuel in mid-air and also land at secret airbases to top up your firepower. Running out of missiles is not a good idea.
Afterburner may not seem awesome from the plot - in fact the coin-ops success comes from the incredibly fast action and marvelous graphic quality. Actual gameplay is limited and can even become repetitive.
Ironically, home computer conversions have had to make graphics a secondary priority. The most important requirement was to feature the simple gameplay of he coin-op.
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