Review: Super Burnout (Jaguar)

The Jaguar. The butt of many jokes and a prime target for ridicule. For my first Jaguar review, I'm not going to look at well known classics like Aliens vs. Predator, Doom, or Iron Soldier. Nor am I going to rip apart Kasumi Ninja, Checkered Flag, or Club Drive. Instead, I present a game that few talk about or remember.

Super Burnout is a 2D third person racing game for Atari's Jaguar. It was Shen Technologies SARL's first game, and was inspired by Sega's classic Super Hang-on. While other Jaguar games were trying show off the Jaguar's polygon power, Super Burnout goes in the opposite direction and shows of the machine's sprite crunching capabilities. The results are stunning. This is the fastest and smoothest third person 2D racing title I have ever played. For starters, the frame rate is locked at 60 FPS. No matter what is happening on the screen, it never drops.

Super Burnout utilizes the Jaguars sprite scaling capabilities in a way not seen outside the arcades. Instead of roadside objects jumping and skipping all over the screen, randomly getting bigger and bigger as they get closer, the roadside objects in Super Burnout are smoothly scaled from a small speck in the background to a giant object as you race past it. This, combined with a solid frame rate, help create the best looking game of this type.

Not only is Super Burnout fast and smooth, it is very detailed as well. Rather than a few trees and rocks scattered here and there, this game constantly has objects littered along side the track. The grandstands, fences, and tire barriers look especially good, and almost 3D like (see the screenshot gallery below). The road itself is well detailed and textured. There is even a racing groove simulating rubber laid down on the preferred racing line. While gamers in 1995 were oogling over 3D racers like Daytona USA, Ridge Racer, and Sega Rally, this stunner went almost unnoticed.

Along with the excellent graphics are excellent controls. There are 6 bikes (plus a hidden one accessible via cheat code) available to race. They are ranked on grip and acceleration (high, medium, low, very low) and top speed (between 148 and 227 mph). When you first start playing Super Burnout you will want a car with high grip to get a feel for the game. After that, you will work your way up to the faster, but worse handling, bikes. Even better, the 8 tracks are varied between high speed courses with plenty of straightaways to very technical tracks. Each track has 1 or 2 cars which are perfect for it.

Super Burnout features 8 tracks spanning the globe: America, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, and Japan.

Once you find a bike the works best for a track, Super Burnout really gets addicting. Record mode (which should be called time trial mode) lets you race against the clock to beat the games fastest time, and later your own best times. After you get comfortable with the controls, you start pushing it through turns shaving seconds off of your lap time. There are so many turns in the game that can be taken flat out if you do everything just right, like turning in it at the correct time and hitting the apex of the turn. If you enjoy doing time trials in game like Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo, you will appreciate how fun this can be.

Super Burnout is the only 2D racer I have played that feels like a 3D game. Most third person racing game feel like you are just pressing the left and right button as the graphics beneath the car change direction. As your race along the tracks in Super Burnout, you get a sense of where you on the track and what is coming up next. The excellent graphics and handling help cement this feeling.

In addition to the records mode, there is a championship mode, versus mode, and trainer mode. The versus mode is a split screen mode so you can race a friend. Sadly, there are no AI oponents in this mode, but the game still moves along like butter. In fact, the only sacrifice is the draw in distance of the road side obstacles. Instead of smoothly scaling in from the background, they pop up much closer your bike. This is a good compromise as a frame rate drop might hinder the action.

The trainer mode lets you race against 6 AI opponents on the track of your choosing. The Championship mode takes you through all 8 tracks consecutively. This is Super Burnout's only flaw. Since the tracks each demand a different kind of bike, there is no chance of winning all 8 races in the championship mode. Additionally, there is no real way to win the championship. After completing all 8 races, you get to see how many points you accumulated during the season and then it ranks you. Scoring under 100 points earns you an E ranking and it works its way upwards from there.

The soundtrack in Super Burnout is also quite good. The music tracks all sound CD quality, despite being a cartridge based game. The motorcycle engine noises are also spot on, featuring a nice high pitch whine. After completing a lap, an announcer will chime in and indicate "Best Lap," "New Record," or "One Lap to Go." The voice is crisp and clear. The sound in Super Burnout is a clear step up from 16-bit racers.

I can't say enough Super Burnout. Everything about this game screams quality. While the game wasn't the system seller Atari so desperately needed, it is a bright spot in the Jaguar's otherwise underwhelming game library. Racing fans will appreciate the fine control and excellent track design. Casual gamers will appreciate the high speed visuals. This is a must own title.

Graphics 8/10 - 64-bit? No, but I don't care
Sound 8/10 - CD quality soundtrack
Game play 9/10 - Could use a stronger championship mode
Overall 9/10 - Superb