007 - Super Burnout
Published: 1995 by Atari in association with Virtual Xperience
Developed by Shen Technologies SARL
Super Burnout is 2D sprite-based motorcycle racer in the tradition of Sega's Hang-On. Published by Atari in 1995 and developed by first-time French developer Shen Technologies SARL, Super Burnout is viewed by many Jaguar gamers as one of the system's hidden gems. The silky smooth framerate, incredible sprite scaling, and tight controls stand in stark contrast to those of other Jaguar racers like Supercross 3D, Club Drive, and the infamous Checkered Flag. Indeed, it is not uncommon to see Super Burnout on the top ten lists of many Jaguar owners.
Does Super Burnout deserve its place in the pantheon of the big cat's best games? Let's take this turbo charged title out on the track and find out!
Gameplay: In Super Burnout, players race any one of six sport bikes along eight tracks against competing computer controlled bikes or a human competitor via split screen. From the main menu, players have a choice to either start the game or go into options. Starting the game will take you into the last setting used for the game, including game mode, computer AI and bike. Going into options will allow the player to select a bike, game mode, control and lap options and set enemy AI. The developers would have done well to open with the options menu but this is a small complaint.
There are multiple modes of play, including: Championship, Trainer, Record and two-player Versus mode. Championship mode is the main game and takes players to tracks in America, France, Germany, Hungary, Brazil, Australia, Canada and Japan. Unlike arcade-style racers, there is no time challenge, checkpoint or placing requirement for progression to the next race. You can finish last in each race and progress through the end of the game. Some players might appreciate that, but I like the challenge of unlocking tracks. In other modes, players can select their desired track. Trainer mode allows you to practice a track and improve your strategy; Record mode is a "time attack" against your best time; and, Versus mode is two-player, split screen action.
Each of the eight tracks has different characteristics; from long high speed runs, to gentle bends, to highly technical, hairpin turns. This makes your bike selection critical. You're stuck with the bike you chose at the outset, so choose wisely as each bike has different grip, acceleration and speed characteristics. It would have been cool to have some customization available or upgrading system, but alas...
Control is tight and responsive. Players use the d-pad left/right to steer the bike and control lean. The B button handles acceleration and A serves as the brake. If you opt to use the manual transmission, you'll need to use the C button and up/down on the d-pad to shift. I found this to be cumbersome and stuck to automatic gear selection.
Super Burnout does not reward pure speed. You cannot just put pedal to the metal and finish in the top 3. The game demands that you let up on the gas, time leans and apply the brake strategically. This requires that you spend time with each bike and each track to learn their nuances. Start a turn too late and you'll end up flying face first down the side of the road. These elements make Super Burnout easy to pick-up but difficult to master.
Graphics: Super Burnout has some beautifully rendered 2D sprites and runs at a rock solid 60 fps. Moving 2D sprites is what the Jaguar was meant to do and Super Burnout throws hundreds of sprites on the screen without breaking a sweat. Player sprites are huge and nicely done. Trees, barriers, buildings, and crowds look great and whiz by at a fast pace giving you a terrific sense of speed. Impressively, Versus mode maintains the graphic quality in split-screen, although at the cost of in-game music.
The look of the tracks are somewhat generic, with the exception of the type of tree used and some background graphics. For example, in Brazil you get palms and in Japan you get cherry blossoms. Similarly, the Sydney Opera House makes an appearance in the Australia track, while Hungary has a hillside castle - cause that's a thing unique to Hungary, I guess. These are nice touches but more could have been done to make each country more distinctive. A few of the tracks feature night racing, which is pretty cool. Otherwise, roadside barriers, crowds and buildings are reused or slightly modified from track to track. Objects on either side of the track are only one layer deep and are very repetitive.
Sound/Music: The music in Super Burnout is a high point. Each screen and race track has its own composition. The music style is hard to put a finger on, but most in-game music has a decent rhythm and funky bass. The quality is excellent and easily rivals CD audio. Sound FX are less impressive. The engine sounds are convincing but, other than the announcer and faint crowd roar, that's all you'll hear. There are no screeching tires, burnt rubber or crash sounds. More could have been done to flesh out the effects. That said, in sum sound and music are among the Jaguar's best .
Overall: Super Burnout is a solid if somewhat shallow racer. The game looks good, sounds good and controls well but it is otherwise very straightforward. Arcade-style time challenges, checkpoints and bike customization/upgrades may have done more to flesh out the game.
Final Verdict: As a technical achievement and an example of how the Jaguar handles 2D, Super Burnout is a showpiece. It's arguably the best racer on the system and is enjoyable in both single-player or versus mode. I hesitate to call it a "must-have" but if you like sport bikes and racing games, it's well worth your time.
Thanks for reading and please share your memories and thoughts on Super Burnout in the comments below! Do you think it's a "must have" for the Jaguar?
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