by Robert A. Jung
Atari Corp., for the Atari Jaguar
For some reason, while the Jaguar is in need of more sports titles, Atari has opted for "secondary" pastimes like skiing and auto racing, instead of mainstream ones like baseball and basketball. Their latest offering is Super Burnout, a cartridge rendition of the asphalt-peeling world of motorcycle racing. Pick from six bikes and eight international tracks, then hit the road and try to finish in first place. Other options allow for three difficulty levels, manual or automatic transmissions, and up to seven laps per race. Four racing modes are available, including a record-breaking mode and two-player simultaneous play. The best average and individual lap times are saved to the cartridge, along with the controller and game settings.
Super Burnout is a game that can be taught in ten seconds. Like Ridge Racer or Suzuka 8 Hours, the emphasis is on driving fast and finishing first, not on buying upgrades or qualifying for higher levels -- just point your bike and hit the accelerator. Of course, it's a bit more complicated than that; the different motorcycles have vastly different performances, for instance, and negotiating sudden curves and hairpins requires good racing skills. There is a very good variety of bikes and tracks, though devoted fans might have wanted a few more courses to play with.
The difficulty is just right, with reasonable intelligence for the six drones. They block pass attempts, start turns on the inside, and behave as skilled opponents; finishing first is thus a difficult, but not impossible, challenge. The near-perfect controls have only one problem: shifting gears with the manual transmission requires simultaneously holding a button and pressing up or down, which is a tad clumsy. Fortunately, this game supports the Jaguar's new six-button controller. Gears can be changed with 4 and 6 on the keypad, which correspond to the index buttons.
Ultimately, however, Super Burnout will appeal largely to die-hard racing fans. More casual gamers may find the one-player mode to be a little tiring in the long run. Aside from setting new times or getting a better ranking in the championship mode, the game doesn't have that much more to offer. Racing with another person is better; unfortunately, the drones are absent in the two-player mode, which reduces the appeal a little.
The graphics on Super Burnout have plenty of great points that are marred by a few drawbacks. Game visuals are mostly scaled sprites with a few texture-mapped items, all flawlessly flying by at incredible speeds. Numerous on-screen objects and a seamlessly weaving and bobbing track simply add to the appeal, while subtle cues like the dark marks on the track give critical racing information. But while the graphics are detailed, they lack variety -- a tree-lined lane would consist of the same tree image copied several dozen times. Also, in the two-player mode, roadside objects aren't rendered as far along the horizon, which creates an annoying "pop-up" effect.
The primary game sound consists of the roar of your bike's engines, at the expense of most everything else. There are cheering crowds and a small thud for crashes, but they're almost inaudible over the bike itself. Fortunately, the digitized voice that announces race information comes through loud and clear. Music consists of numerous well-done background tunes sprinkled throughout the game. Most of the tracks' themes are appropriately peppy and fast, though a few are oddly sedate, and the two-player mode doesn't have any in-race music at all.
Super Burnout is a game for players who want an uncomplicated, arcade- style racing challenge. While it lacks innovative technology or complicated details, it makes up for these shortcomings with lightning-fast action and pure, simple fun. With precise controls, a healthy mix of options, and crisp graphics and sound, this game is highly recommended for devoted racing fans.