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Activision Inc
1988
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£9.99
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes

83
Jonathan Davies
Chris Bourne

If US Gold was foolhardy enough to tackle OutRun, Activision must have been utterly crackers when it bought the licence to this one. With more hydraulics than a fleet of JCBs, and extraordinarily fast graphics, Afterburner is another one for the "Gosh! Wot, on the Speccy? Gerraway!" brigade. However as we all know, if it's got the right name on the box, just about any old dross can be made to sell like, well, like very fast.

Not that Afterburnerss any old dross, of course. Certainly not. But while it packs quite a punch graphically, there seems to be a gaping void where the gameplay should have been inserted. Just like the coin-op version, in fact.

Hokay, for those of you who haven't seen it in the arcades and missed the Megapreview a couple of issues ago. the game goes like this. Launch your F-14 Tomcat from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, zoom along at Mach 96 and shoot the marauding hordes of Russi... sorry, enemy aircraft who scoot around taking pot-shots at you, stopping for refuelling occasionally.

Nothing frighteningly original there, I know, but where Afterburner excels is in the graphics. Even on the Speccy conversion, the speed at which sprites are wanged around the screen is phenomenal, especially considering that as your F-14 banks, the ground and all the clobber littered about on it bank too, so all the sprites have to be rotated around. The mathematics behind it doesn't bear thinking about. But then what maths does?

As you can probably imagine, colour pretty well goes out of the window once again, making me wonder where the Spectrum got its name.

Well fast it may be. So fast that you'll often be wiped out without knowing what's hit you. The trouble is, though, that there's very little to do. Your guns fire automatically, missiles lock on as soon as your sights pass over the target, so all you have to do really is dodge enemy fire and launch the odd missile now and then. This may be fine for some people, but after a few minutes I was pounding my fists on the keyboard, demanding to see the manager.

While I can't help but quake at the sheer power of the graphics routines, hum along to the 128K tunes and snigger as yet another Comm er, baddy goes down in flames, the thing that amazes me most about Afterburner is that it's totally devoid of any addictive qualities whatsoever. Not many, anyway. I suppose that some of you might want to keep going to see all the various levels and refueling sequences, but it's not really worth playing just for the shooty bits.

Buy it for the speed, graphics, free stickers and posters if you must, but be aware that they're covering up a serious lack of content. Damning perhaps, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

A technically brill conversion that can't quite make up for the original's shallowness.

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Screenshot Text

Yer akchawl'flying through a canyon' sequence. Very difficult, as it twists about causing you to pile into the sides on a regular basis.