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mike_cc
23rd March 2013, 18:24
I've never reviewed a game before, but I'm sure I've had a few opinions in my time, so how hard could it be? Famous last words I'm sure...

Breathless, a review by Mike Curran

Ok I'll start by admitting something to you all, I don't like Power Computing. This is partly due to never having enough money to buy the hardware treats they dangled before me in seductive, glossy CU Amiga magazine adverts (curiously I have no problem with the current crop of vendors, despite still not having the cash to indulge!). It's also to do with the CD32 controller I paid them for that they never sent me nor sorted when I complained. Fair? I don't care, that's just how I feel.

So when a certain lightning bolt wielding logo appeared on startup of Breathless, I sucked in a deep breath and tried to put my personal feelings on hold, just in case I miss a corker of a game. I'm very glad I did.
After the logo disappeared, you're greeted by the kind of polished interface that you'd associate with modern computer and console games. Retro gaming, for all its nostalgic quirks and cute graphical limitations, often throws an almost unreadable yet essential bit of text under our noses (I'm thinking of Settlers here - you know what I mean). Not so, Breathless. A clean, crisp and straighforward menu granted access to most of the inner workings both graphical and control. After some initial eye-seering play at low resolution, where the only dithering options were to blink a lot and look at the screen in a sort of side-on shifty way, the graphics were turned up. To a processor melting 320x200. Still, at this resolution, you're going to find it easy enough to see the enemy characters who want to utterly kill you, one hit point at a time. If anyone knows a trick to up the resolution, I'd love to hear it. More about the settings later.
Within seconds of activating the slidey door, you are set upon by several of the T1000's stunt doubles, from the burning lorry scene in Terminator 2. The silvery humanoid opponents are many, mobile and more than a little malevolent, as what they lack in stopping power is made up for by shooting accuracy and dodging skills. We're not talking about unreal style rollovers here, but they never stop moving and, in fairness, mostly in your direction. Battles feel dangerous, you'll want to shoot them as quickly as possible and the first time you kill an entire room without taking a point of damage, you'll feel really good. Look out for it, savour it! Much as I liked them, it was a shame they weren't joined by a similar level of 'mob', albeit with a different look and behaviour pattern. Presumably resources wouldn't stretch to that so we'll focus on what was there rather than what wasn't. Like textures.
This is a retro review, so it's ok for me to admit I've been a little spoiled over the years by bilinear/trilinear bitmapping, real time cell shading and high polygon lovlies. Breathless reminds you that fun can still be pixelated. Around the same time that I started to get better at killing the baddies, I started noticing the walls, which is natural when you think about it, due to the extra cognitive capacity. They don't change very often, but that doesn't irk very much because they don't look bad at all. The riveted metal bricks, molded metal circles, and green tiled moving walls which comprise most of the textures in the first few levels, simply add to the atmosphere of the environment - your character really doesn't want to be there.
Some great features make you want to explore every inch of it though. For example, I didn't get hold of a new gun, but by collecting 'credits' which are carelessly left lying around, I was able to upgrade my current weapon and kill creeps faster. Knowing I wanted to save up for a better weapon or an upgrade for my current one, meant there was an element of growth with added depth and immersion.
There's more to see in Breathless than I've mentioned here. You can see the influence that other not-to-be-named pc games of the era had on the programmers, such as the wait to ambush positioning of the mobs, some of which look suspiciously Quake2like (What's up with that John Carmack?) but that's not a bad thing.
Fields Of Vision really excelled with the sound. The music is always atmospheric and never felt repetitive, although that could be because I was too busy avoiding death by plasma fireball to notice. The sound effects are great. You'll know when you scored a hit on the highly mobile villains because they yell in pain. You'll know when an as yet unseen badass mob is about to become a problem because he makes a terrifying squawk (dramatic license, leave it!). The music and sound effects add tremendously.

My only real gripe is the colour scheme of the head up display. Rather than using an eye catching colour based health meter, FOV went with a text one, in white text on a light blue background. It's never obvious how you're doing unless you stop looking at the thing that wants to kill you to death and read the bar. Not a major issue though and it's not like the display is unreadable.

In summary: I'd like to have had an amiga that could run this back in the day. I can't imagine a stock, or even partly upgraded A1200 would cut it, but even at halfway to best graphics it would have been well worth trying. This game came out 17 years ago, by my count that's at least 11 'Moore's cycles'. So what is the current equivalent? This was the Crysis or FarCry 3 of its day, and then some. Games like Breathless and Gloom showed that Amiga was keeping up with the competition. For the hardware of the time it was a phenomenal achievement and you have to hand it to the developers for coming up with such fun and challenging 3D AI opponents. I'm not going to give some sort of arbitrary mark out of ten, so I'll just leave with a parting statement.

I currently play Allods Online, several Steam games and have just reinstalled Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I'm also going to continue advancing through Breathless, because 17 years later it still manages to live up to its name. Power Computing, you're forgiven.

Justin
23rd March 2013, 19:03
great review buddy

look out for the secret areas, the outdoor spaces are nice a little later into the game, there is an 060 patch for this game as well:)

let me find a linky

some stuff here http://aminet.net/search?query=breathless

and vid of gameplay http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05j_BlsIbBM

and i'm pretty sure you could run this at 640 x 480 with 1 x 1 pixel ratio? but i will check later and report back, nope it doesn't run as high as i remember it :(

the patch adds about 20% framerate, mouse control, config saving, auto code saving and configurable controls, so worth doing imo

mike_cc
23rd March 2013, 20:00
great review buddy

look out for the secret areas, the outdoor spaces are nice a little later into the game, there is an 060 patch for this game as well:)

let me find a linky

some stuff here http://aminet.net/search?query=breathless

and vid of gameplay http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05j_BlsIbBM

and i'm pretty sure you could run this at 640 x 480 with 1 x 1 pixel ratio? but i will check later and report back

Thanks Justin, that'd be really good as any extra resolution would be a help. I meant to say more about the control options, in terms of inertia and such, but didn't want to go on for too long.

I'll check out those links now.

Geraldine
9th April 2013, 03:08
Excellent review Mike! :thumbsup: