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.
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