Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone

The latest release from JoWood games gives PC gamers the chance to ride behind the wheel of the most advanced hot rods found on the streets…of the year 2374 AD, that is. Beam Breakers takes the driving simulator to a whole new level, putting you in control of a gravity defying 'roadster', winding your way through the mega-opolis of the futuristic version of New York City (now called Neo York). Though not the most original gameplay to be seen within the driving genre, the locations, settings, graphics and situations that can be found within the playing field of Beam Breakers truly makes this particular title stand out as a gem.

For those familiar the some of the sci-fi films that have been popular over the past 10 years or so, Beam-Breakers has a style that is very similar to the futuristic scenes found in such films as 'The Fifth Element', 'Back To the Future II', and 'Blade Runner'. Players control vehicles with anti-grav units, allowing them to traverse the skyways between the mile high towers that make up Neo York City. As a member of a 'beam breaker' street gang, players get the chance to race other gravity-defying vehicles from other gangs, steal cars, outrun police cruisers, wreak havoc among businesses, and last but not least…deliver pizzas. Did we forget that the 'skyways' above and below you are filled to the brim with slow moving and angry motorists just itching to take you out with a slight nudge of their bumpers? Who ever said that the distant future was going to be a nice one?

Overall, Beam Breakers turned out be a very interesting title to play. A cross between Crazy Taxi and the classic off-beat driving game Biohazard, Beam Breakers takes a similar approach, allowing for a gameplay style that isn't completely absorbed in the mechanics of the vehicle. That in itself is a good thing, since we here at The Laser aren't too familiar with anyone that has ever driven a car from the 24th century, or is at least willing to own up to the fact. Beam Breakers consists of a 3-D driving field, allowing players to not only move forward and backwards and side to side as in more traditional driving sims, but vertically as well (thanks to the car's anti-grav unit). With that in mind, players not only have to worry about cars and other obstacles on their current plane of movement, but on other levels as well. The controls for the vehicle are simplistic, allowing players to control the vehicle with a simple game pad for the most articulate form of play. Forward and reverse thrusters (doubling as a breaking control), turbo power, and an anti-grav cut-off switch (allowing for a quick freefall) make up the four main buttons players have to access, with the remaining pad controls left to pitch and side to side movements. Again, Beam Breakers controls are simple to set up within the options control menu and even simpler to learn for even the most novice of game players.

Gameplay is made up of 5 main sections: the Missions pack, the Championship mode, Survival, Observation, and Multiplayer game (the online server was not available during the writing of this reviews, however). The mainstay Mission part of Beam Breakers is comprised of 6 individual storylines, each representing a different section of town (i.e., Manhattan, Chinatown, East Village, etc.). Each section of town contains its own unique map, featuring specialized buildings, traffic patterns, and other nasty surprises that can make your high speed driving scenario's quite hectic. Each mission contains 5 or so submissions, ranging from high speed mobster pizza deliveries, car thefts, urban destruction scenarios, and all out gangland races. As players complete the various scenarios and missions, new vehicles are made available to drive as are upgrades packages, including faster engines, longer turbo drives, and police scanners. The available cars are divided into three classes, each increasing in capabilities and functionality. Though each car has its own unique look, pretty much all of the vehicles in a given class have the same driving parameters, including speed, turbo, handling, etc. Only the upgrades made available during the game can truly change the capabilities of the car, and players will find themselves pretty much using the same class of vehicles with the given upgrades until a higher class (either 2 or 3) becomes available later in the game.

The other game versions of Beam Breakers basically take their cues from scenarios that occur during the Mission aspect of the game. In the Championship Mode, players take on the other gangster drivers in a racing marathon, spread out among the 6 different Neo York city locations and must defeat the other drives through 5 different stages in order for their gang to win the trophy. The Survival game thrusts players in the situation where they must flee and keep clear from the pursuing forces of the police and their disabling weapons for as long as possible in order to gain the best time. Thankfully, the Observation Mode is slightly more laid back than that, however, allowing players to casually travel around the city without the hassle of a mission, cops, or time constraints. Basically, you can give yourself a tour of the huge and detailed cities that the makers of Beam Breakers have designed. Not a bad way to wind yourself down after hours of furious racing, car theft, and running from the cops.

Kudos to the designers of Beam Breakers for giving us a game that not only is fun to play, but one that also stands out visually. It was surprising to see a game with so much background content render so well, even during the high paced race scenarios where tons of objects are flying past you at break neck speeds. The overall graphic design was also well done, blending the realistic cityscape of NYC with the ultra-futuristic surroundings that make up the game. When you cruise around the East Village or Chinatown, you actually can see some of the trademark buildings that have become synonymous with the streets in those particular neighborhoods. The only real problems that we saw with the gameplay in Beam Breakers came in the form of only minor annoyances, and could easily be forgotten during the rush that the game brings as you're playing. For example, the viewpoint of the game can only be changed from the options menu, where most games give you the ability to change the view on the fly. Also, pitch control was a tad bit less realistic than we would have liked; a button that only controlled your vertical position would have been extremely helpful, although the anti-grav cut-off switch did come in handy and added a bit of dimension to your flying ability in the end. Finally, not having the Multiplayer server up and running for the game was less than satisfying, and definitely left us wanting to see what the ingenious designers of Beam Breakers have in store for the online gaming community. I guess we'll just have to wait and see when the game is released later this month. In the meantime, we'll continue to run through the streets of Neo York, ditching the cops, and crashing into cool looking buildings.

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