How'd you like to leap into a turbo-charged police car and bomb up the road, killing innocent bystanders and trees alike? Now you can, with Image Works' latest offering, cisco heat. Mark 'Sledge Hammer' Caswell grabbed a .44 magnum and shades to drive a bullet-riddled car at suicidal speeds.
Not content with screeching around the streets throughout the year, preparations for the annual policemen's race are underway. Certain sections of San Francisco are cordoned off, ready for police departments from all over the US to do battle. You play the SFPD's most suicidal bobby, who races against other like-minded maniacs for the honour of your department.
The first section of the race starts on Golden Gate Bridge and ends several tyre-screeching blocks away on Fisherman's Wharf. Plenty of competition lines up on the starting grid, revving their engines as they wait for the chequered flag. To avoid confusion, the jolly programmer chappies have made your car a flashy red colour.
TRUST ME, I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING
As with most racing games nowadays, the car has manual gears, so leave the car in low until you reach 100mph or so, then wop it into high.
Though the roads are closed, the Sunday drivers are out in force, not that they damage your car if you smack into them. Something much worse happens - you lose precious race seconds. Similarly, if you hit the traffic that crosses the road at certain points or pile into the scenery, another few jiffys are lost.
The SFPD's reputation's at stake here, don't let the guys down. Look on the bright side, at least you can't be stopped for speeding!
BOOK HIM DANNO, MURDER ONE
Mirrorsoft should be arrested for trying to convince innocent Speccy owners to shell out their pocket money for Cisco Heat at full price. I've seen better racing games on budget labels - Chase HQ, for example. It's not that the game's crap, by any means - the graphics are detailed, even though they're mainly monochrome - but the market (this little piggy goes to market, ha ha - Ed) is full of racing games and anything new has to have something special to stand out from the crowd.
Sadly, Cisco Heat is stuck somewhere in the mediocre pile. If it'd been released a couple of years ago the story could have been different, but before you consider purchasing it now, take my advice - try before you buy.
One type of game the Speccy's never been short of is racers. There are car, truck, motorbike, jet-ski and even push-bike racing games available - all of them a lot better than Cisco Heat. There's some sort of game in there, but simplistic graphics and terrible colour clash hide it. The action's supposed to take place in San Francisco, famed for its hills. The ones in the game are smoothly curved, they jolt up and down at drastic angles and when driving up one it's impossible to tell what's on the other side. You usually end up smashing into the back of another car, often losing yourself the race. There are much better racing games available an rerelease, check them out and save yourself a lot of dosh!
Every year the centre of San Francisco gets cordoned off in preparation for the race of races. It seems that San Francisco is a dream city for people who like to drive around in car chases all the time, and the cops have a hard time keeping up with them all. So each year they close off the city centre and race each other just to prove how crap they are.
And hey presto! That's the scene set. Pretty simple stuff, isn't it? Well anyway, the result of this is that you've got a racing game in 3D, which might or might not be like every other racing game on the Speccy. Lets have a look at it or, as they say San Francisco, let's have a look at it, man.
You start off in a typical cop-car. You know the sort, the blue and white four door with a massive bonnet and boot, or hood and trunk as our Californian cousins might perhaps say. If you're still unsure as to what sort car this is, just think back to the sort of police vehicles you used to see in The Dukes Of Hazard; incidentally, they certainly should put back into its old slot of tea-time on Saturdays.
The car has two gears, high and low. In low it'll do around 100 mph but when you slam it into high gear this will whizz up to a rather spanky 175 mph which is probably much faster than they can go in real life.
DO YOU GO ON THE BRIDGE?
Yes, well the game actually starts on the Golden Gate Bridge. You are close to the front of a pack of about ten other coppers, all in cars which look identical to yours, but are blue, whereas yours is a rather fetching shade of red.
At the top of the screen there are the usual Formula One lights, three red and one green. When the green one appears, you hit the gas-pedal. And everybody screeches past you. It's immensely annoying because you instantly lose your first place, even though you're accelerating as quickly as your car will go.
Mirrorsoft must have done this deliberately because you get so angry that you concentrate on winning; which is, after all, the idea of the game. So as most of the cars burn off up the road, you've got to knuckle down to some serious work.
First thing to do is suss out the gears. Although there are only two, it's a wee bit tricky changing between them. What you've got to do is pull back on the joystick and hit fire at exactly the same time. You'll lose a bit of speed as you pull the joystick back, but with any luck you'll now be in the gear of your choice.
At 175 mph it's pretty easy to start gaining back the places so long as the road is straight and the cars stay in their lanes. The problems start with the corners, hills and dangerous driving of the other coppers belting along in their panda cars.
Collision detection is a bit generous, shall we say. What seems to happen is that you can drive through other people, but your speed decreases to about 40 mph. I wish that would happen in real life, but in the game it takes some getting used to.
THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO
All would be fine, dandy, and rather boring were it not for the corners and hills that make 'Frisco an interesting city rather than corner-less, hill-less one.
The sides of the road are littered with all sorts of things like trees, billboards aid telegraph poles. Hit them and one of two things could happen; you could spin the car round, losing large amounts of speed but keeping basically on the road. Or your could rip the car right upside down. This knackers your speed completely and will almost certainly ruin your entire life. Well, as far as this attempt on the game is concerned anyway.
The race is divided into stages, and a large clock ticks away in the top left of the screen. if you get through the first stage, from the Golden Gate Bridge to Fisherman's Wharf, you get a whole chunk of extra time to blast your way hither on towards the finish line.
Obviously, the stages get tougher as you get further into the game, with the added bummer that if you go really fast and build up a bank of space time, it doesn't carry through onto the next stage. So each time you've got to go like the wind, mama!
As well as the other cars, there's plenty of traffic which will happily get in your way. Obviously the police haven't done a very good job of cordoning off the centre of the city, because there are loads of cars, trucks and buses littering the roads.
These often occur at intersections, where the offending vehicle will straddle the road completely. How you get round it is up to you. It's just possible to squeeze through on one side or the other, but if you fail, you'll be catapulted high into the air and, although you'll survive, you'll lose loads of speed and time
Mirrorsoft have remained true to the Jaleco coin-op, and have put in some wicked intersection corners. What you're supposed to do is look out for the sign-posts at each intersection. If there aren't any you can whizz straight across (avoiding any buses, trams or stranded cars). If there is a sign-post, you've got to wait until you can read it, then swerve violently in the direction it's pointing.
The bad news is that the intersections, like all intersections in the USA, are at right angles. So what you're being asked to do is go round a right angle bend at 175 mph. A tad tricky, don't you think?
Well there is a way of doing it. If you whack the gears into low just as you approach the junction, the speed slams off and you are just able to squeal round the corner. But it's dead difficult and you'll be lucky if you don't have a little argument with the kerb.
POLIT POLICE PLEASE
Another weird feature which has been brought in from the coin-op is the horn. Pressing fire (or the space bar) beeps your horn, and, because you're driving against pretty law-abiding policemen, they move out of the way. It's a bit ridiculous to try and overtake somebody who's doing their best to block you, then beep your horn and watch the silly fool pull over and you howl past.
Hmm. I think I've given you a pretty good idea of what's actually happening in Cisco Heat. But what I haven't said is what it's like to play.
Here's the bad news. Cisco Heat isn't really much cop (nice gag, that). It's a mono job, with a rather poor backdrop of a pretty unrecognisable cityscape. The road isn't solidly filled in or anything. It's just a load of flickering straight lines which scroll past with astonishing jerkiness.
This is the the game's major problem. The frames chug past so slowly you've got time to see each one and notice how not-very-good it is. I've got the strong feeling that if everything was really quick, the graphics would look much better.
The jerkiness actually affects your gameplay, too. It makes the car unresponsive, so you have to move earlier than you need. This means that as well as fighting the twisty roads and the other road-users, you've actually got to make allowances for poor programming.
Cisco Heat has got lots of stages, and if you really concentrate on the flickery screen, it is possible to get quite far into it. However, it just doesn't have the whizzy graphics or impression of speed that it needs. It's good, but its not as completely brilliant as I expected it to be. You'd be better off with Power Drift on budget.
There's nothing like a spot of racing around the streets of San Francisco and it's much easier if you do it in the driving seat of a San Fran police car.
Yes, the Imageworks' converalon of the Jaleco coin-op, has you using all your cop-like skills (crossing schoolkids across zebra crossing across zebra crossings and stuff), to get right across town and to each of the winning points. Sounds simple? Well there's a bit of skidding around the right angle corners, (cue the music.... "I left my car, in San Fran's Disco"), a bit of horn blowing when Percy Public get in your way ("You bloody road hog... Oh, sorry officer), and a wee bit of gear changing as you try to make your way past lorries and cars on your way to the police's pole position.
a cheery tune makes life slightly more bearable as at certain junctions you plough into the side of a stationary bus, sending your car flipping through the air to spin across the road and lose you even more time. And if you can make your destination before the timer reaches zero, then you've had it matey, and everyone knowns you're a crap cop and snigger a lot while you cross even more kids across a zebra.
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
ALAN: Cisco Heat will not win any graphics awards but it does manage to get you driving on the edge. The game is thus quite challenging, if a little frustrating. If you like San Francisco and you like driving then you might just find this game interesting. Hurrah!
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