Super Burnout

A few weeks ago I looked at the Jaguar's only motocross title, SuperCross 3D, and came to the conclusion that it is a flawed gem of a game. It's got massive frame rate issues and they taint what could and should have been a cracking dirt bike sim. Enter the 'other' Jaguar motorcycling title: Super Burnout...and boy, what a parallel! Super Burnout is everything Supercross 3D isn't: smooth, fast, and unashamedly a 2D, sprite-based arcade racer. Taking cues from Sega's Hang On, Super Burnout is a super-fast circuit racer that throws the polygons out of the window in favour of solid 60 frames per second undulating, silky smooth goodness...and by God does it succeed where others have failed. I read somewhere that Super Burnout was actually programmed by a couple of guys who rented out a Jaguar development kit on weekends, and when Atari saw what they had achieved with an early build of the game, a dev kit was bequeathed unto them full-time just so they could finish it and release it as a full-blown retail title. That kind of thing just doesn't happen in this day and age, and it gives Super Burnout an extra air of 'special' because of the way it came into being. You would expect a major development studio to be able to pull off a game as fast and smooth as this...but a couple of young hobbyists? Mind: blown. I admit that I don't know how much factual basis there is in that tale...but if it's even half true, then I doff my cap to Shen Technologies, and to Atari for a rare (in the Jaguar's case) glimpse of sound talent spotting.

Onto the game itself though. Super Burnout, as I said earlier, is a circuit-based Moto GP style game in which you get the chance to race a full championship against 6 other riders across 8 tracks around the globe. There are the standard 2-player, practice and single race modes too. There isn't an official license, so the tracks (which are easily recognisable by their layouts) aren't named by anything but their country (and there's a glaring omission when it comes to UK tracks...), and the bikes all have bizarre names like Sliding Thunder and Killing Turtle (eh?!). All the bikes have different attributes and are suited to different tracks (which are also divided into either 'speed' or 'technical' classes), so it makes sense to carefully choose your bike before heading onto specific tracks. You can't actually change your bike after you've chosen one in Championship mode, meaning that for at least 50% of the races your bike will be woefully unsuited...but hey, no game is perfect (well, except for Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time...but that's for another blog on another day).

Once you actually start racing though, you'll realise that Super Burnout is a special game. It all moves so damn quickly, and the steering of the bikes - even if they are just 'sliding' across the track - feels so satisfying. The frame-rate, as I mentioned above, is pretty jaw-dropping even in this age of Xbox 360s and PS3s, simply because of the sheer number of sprites being thrown around on screen. I read (again, I forget where) that Super Burnout regularly displays over 1000 sprites on screen at once, and it never, ever slows down or judders. Bear in mind that this is triple (yes, triple) the number of sprites the Neo Geo could handle on screen at once and you start to see where Atari went wrong when marketing the Jaguar. If they'd positioned it as a 2D sprite-whoring beast (which it evidently is) instead of a 3D machine, maybe we'd be playing Jaguar 3s now instead. Ho hum.

Super Burnout doesn't just impress with it's visuals and gameplay - the music too is of extremely high quality. The tunes are very well suited and they, and the sound effects/voice overs are crystal clear and easily as good as any contemporary CD-based sounds or music.

I knew that Super Burnout was going to be decent before I even played it, but having now done so, I can honestly say that it is without doubt one of the best 2D racers I've ever played. The Jag never got the chance to host a Hang On or Road Rash port...but with hindsight it didn't really need either: Super Burnout, with its blistering speed and sublime handling more than holds its own against the big boys.













You can probably see by the blurry pictures that Super Burnout moves at a fair old pace. Highly recommended if you want to see what a turbo-charged Neo Geo would look like in an alternative universe!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome game, just awesome, one of the best racers i have tried.

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