Turbo Esprit

by Dave Cummings, Mike A. Richardson, Tim Hayward
Durell Software Ltd
Your Sinclair Issue 6, Jun 1986   page(s) 20,21

Durell Software

I was cruising North View looking for trouble when the message came - "Armoured car seen on E 17". I glanced at the map and saw that a right turn would take me one street south of the drop. I glided across the lanes and prepared for the turn. The lights changed - I revved the engine and let go, hurled back by the acceleration of my Lotus Turbo Esprit...!

This sort of amiably silly plot makes good movie and TV thrillers and now it's made a great computer game. Let's face it, if you're tailing drug dealers through crowded city streets, a flashy sports car hardly helps you fade into the background. But as a hero you have an image to maintain and your boss has agreed to let you have four of the expensive autos in case you crash one. He's also given you a useful map which unlike the average A to Z indicates both your position and that of the drug barons too.

Your mission is this: the drugs are brought into the city in an armoured vehicle and soon after, four smugglers' cars drive into rendezvous at the drop (dontcha love all this criminal slang? I've seen French Connection too, you know!). At this stage you have to keep out of sight or you'll scare them off. Then the drugs are handed over to one dealer after another and that's where you leap into action, intercepting them before they reach their secret hideaways. After that it's time to pick up Mr Big in his armoured jalopy and win the eternal thanks of all good citizens. But be warned, there are hit cars riding shotgun who will try to ram you off the road.

Jamming all this into a standard size Spectrum has led Durell to a novel solution. The lower part of the screen shows your dashboard and vital instruments but the windscreen doesn't provide a true Pit Stop view because your car actually appears in front of you. This means that turns into new streets are achieved with a flipping of screens rather than a continuous perspective view. It all works well though and the 3D graphics are reasonably smooth and fairly crowded with pedestrians, other road users, zebra crossings and the like.

The controls are admirably simple too, Joystick or keys accelerate and decelerate with a maximum speed of 150 mph and an automatic gearbox. Left and right alone shift lane in the direction chosen but with fire they actually turn the car for changing streets. This calls for a little skill, particularly at high speeds. If you don't want to drive into a wall, but there's a Learner mode for everybody who thinks BSM stands for Be-like Steve McOueen!

Pressing fire alone activates your gun and you can always blast away at the enemy though you'll gain more points for ramming them or driving them into a cul-de-sac and forcing them to surrender. This is the only way to stop the delivery car anyhow because of its armour plating. The only other control is M to call up the map, which shows the city chosen from the four initially offered (choosing a new one unfortunately calls for a reload) and can be scrolled to locate the position of the dealers in relation to you. Further help is from messages which appear at the bottom of the screen to keep you in touch with pursuing hit cars and the like. These hired assassins are great fun, suddenly zooming up from behind and delivering a broadside - real car chase stuff. They are purple while the supply car is red and the delivery cars are blue. All other vehicles are black, yourself included, which can cause slight problems if you round a corner into a crowded street - just which one are you?

The only other thing to watch out for is fuel consumption. Nothing makes a hero look less heroic than grinding to a halt with an empty tank. There are various garages around town to provide refills assuming you can reach the pavement next to one in time.

The great thing about Turbo Esprit is that it plays so smoothly that you're never left searching for the key to do something vital. In fact, it should become as effortless as driving a real car. The plot is classic chase stuff too and quickly becomes involving. It's a novel game which works well and anybody who has ever thrilled to Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman or our very own T'zer McQueen's driving will want a go.

Graphics: 8/10
Playability: 8/10
Value For Money: 9/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue 5, May 1986   page(s) 47

Durell Software
Car Driving

Mix a little Death Race 2000 with a large pinch of French Connection and add a little Cannonball Run to taste. They are the ingredients of the Durell game which is destined to rise to the top of the charts.

If, like me, your annual salary would not even make a down payment on one of those sleek machines, this is about the nearest you are likely to get to driving a Lotus Esprit. Better than that, it has reinforced bumpers and, naturally, a machine gun. On the mean streets, in one of the four towns provided, your job is to break up the local drug racket. It is no simple shoot-'em-up but a beautiful blend of driving simulator and strategy game with an arcade element included.

Car games have always been notorious - they opted either for simplicity or reality at the cost of all playability. Author Mike Richardson has found a compromise. All the controls are on the joystick. Accelerate, brake, fire, turn left and right. All the street intersections are right angles; if you move the joystick left and right, you change lane on the multi-lane highways; if you do that with the fire button down, you initiate a 90-degree turn. If you do it at a junction, the view snaps round instantly to show you the new street along which you are driving.

The graphics obviously owe much to Richardson's previous game, Combat Lynx. All the buildings on the street move past you in true perspective. Other graphic detail includes traffic lights, pedestrian crossings - with pedestrians - window cleaners and, of course, other cars.

Once you have become accustomed to the car and finished admiring the scenery in the practice mode, it is time to tackle the game proper. Select from one of the four skill levels and away you go. A message indicates where the drug van is. You call up the map and determine a route. It is best to stay on the main roads if possible, as overtaking is easier. Once you are near the drug van, you wait for the pushers to make their pick-up. Once that happens, the race is on. In true Gene Hackman style, you tear after the pick-up car. Eventually, with a little luck, you will catch him before he reaches his hideout - but mistakes are easy. It is all too simple to be delayed in the traffic while the baddies get away.

Getting the most from your car is an art. The faster you take a corner, the wider the car turns, and precise timing of a turn is essential. It is often difficult to resist taking your like in your hands and trying to overtake in another lane and seconds later a car bears down on you from nowhere. It is fortunate you have four lives.

Perhaps the only gripe is the way when you switch to map mode you cannot see the road; a split-screen approach would have been far better. That is particularly frustrating when in pursuit. You lose sight of the enemy, who turns off as you go hurtling past; realistic but annoying.

Amongst the slough of martial arts and arcade adventures, this kind of game is like a breath of fresh air. Original, well-thought-out and absorbing, it is great fun. You can even play the maverick, machine-gunning innocents and running-down pedestrians piling up the penalties.

Graphics: 5/5
Sound: 3/5
Playability: 4/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Overall Rating: 3/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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