No so Easy Rider

Red Zone logo

PSYGNOSIS * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Keyboard, mouse or joystick * Out now

Yes, it's another environmentally unsound release from the company with the big boxes, Psygnosis. For a two disk game they have enough packaging to house the entire populous of Argentina. But less of my whining and on to the game.

It's a long time since we've seen a motor game on the market. All the programmers ran away from them with their rears on fire after the release of Team Suzuki, the game so hard they released a training program showing you how to drive the sodding thing.

The only others before that all looked and played the same, but now comes Red Zone. Read on, children, read on. I like motorbikes. I've even got one myself so this game was going to be a bit of a treat for me.

When you first boot up the game the demo is fantastic. It's some guy on a motorbike driving from the background and skidding to a halt in the foreground. Crap and boring, yes, but very well done.

Once you've battled your way through the demo it's game time and all you kiddies have to shake yourselves from your alcohol-induced haze and think. The program opens up into a icon menu where you can control all the setting for the game - it's quite extensive, really.

Because racing games and simulators in general rely on good screen updates, there can't be much going on on the screen. Asa result the programmers usually build in options that allow you to cut down on detail and the overall amount of graphics.

Red Zone allows you to do this and more - there are all sorts you can slip in and take out, such as the backdrops, clouds and the like.

But for those of you out there who are capitalist pigs, who enjoy sucking the lifeblood from the heart of the socialist working class (he's talking about accelerated Amiga owners - Ed) there are options for adding more detail to the game, such as trackside buildings and so on.

With the details switched on, it looks pretty impressive. It's got all the usually rubbish you see at Donnington - the crowd stands, bridges, Iron Maiden...

I've been avoiding the gameplay for too long, so I'd better let you into a little secret (cursory glance from side to side) - it's crap. Yep, it's bloody awful. You have to do a qualifying round to get into the race - fine. So here I am, coffee and crisps in front of my trusty Amiga, on the grid with mu pulsating sex machine, and my motorbike, the lights go to green and we're off.

The feeling you get when trying to drive the machine can only be compared to drinking 15 pints of Special Brew then proceeding to unicycle on the inside of a spin dryer with a bent drum. Very tricky indeedy.

So I thought, that's fair enough I just can't play it very well yet, so off I went, hamming away, and things didn't get any better.

When you do really go for a burton and stuff you bike into one of the walls, sometimes you can't turn around again, or if you can t takes ages and you have to use the cursor keys on the keyboard to flip around.

I actually timed it once - it took over a minute to turn around and get going again. So I eventually persevered and got round the track in about five minutes and it says "You failed to qualify" - I'd never have bloody guessed. Cyril Smith on a tricycle could have done better than that.

Racing with the other bikes was a bit mickey mouse because the screen updates are so bad you only see them for about two frames before they steam off into the distance. Meanwhile you are trying to turn around after inserting your cranium into the crash barrier.

The rival bikes aren't particularly detailed which is a bit of a let down - they look sort of like the Tron bikes only not as well drawn. Earlier in this review I was going on about screen updates, and how the Amiga is usually crap at them. Well this game is no exception - one minute you are in the middle of the road, the next you are wrapped round a crash barrier with a 750cc bike up your botty.

The whole point of getting rid of excess detail is to speed up the gameplay, but the change is practically unnoticeable.
Sorry Psygnosis but it's a turkey.

Red Zone logo

Red Zone? Isn't that an area where you can't park your car? Well no, it's the latest motorbike simulator from Psygnosis. You have the chance to become champion motorcyclist of the world, but first you must win all of your races. To do this, you must make your way around 10 tracks from around the world (Silverstone etc.) against six of the most fiendish competitors you will ever find on a motor track.

Before you race you must choose a bike, and qualify. You have the choice of manual or automatic gears. Now most people would think 'Great I'll choose auto 'cos it's nice 'n' easy' and indeed it is.

But you don't quite have the control that a manual gearbox gives you, and this is vital. Next you can set up details about the course you want to ride on, such as scenery, number of laps and things like that, to tune the game so it runs as fast and as smoothly as possible.

Once you have chosen your options, you are provided with a sort of code. This enables you to define the system more quickly the next time you play it, by simply entering the code on the options screen.

Danger zone?
So what's so special about this game? Well instead of the standard view you get form most bike sims - looking at the action from behind bend in what you think to be a decent manoeuvre, but unfortunately you seem to be travelling horizontally towards the yellow barrier at the side of the road. You hit one side, and immediately fly to the other, and back and back until you come to a stop and have to reposition your bike.

This control system, accurate as it may be, is just too complicated for a game of this kind. OK, it's realistic, but it takes a lot of getting used to. If you can stand the way it works fine, but I like a game I can get into immediately, not messing around, just boot and play.
Close but no cigar, I'm afraid.

Fahren im rotten Bereich

Red Zone logo

Denkt man an Dan Gallagher, dann an Ballereien wie "Voyager" und "Infestation" - aber denkt man auch an Motorräder? Demnächst bestimmt, schließlich sind die neuen Vektor-Bikes ganz klar Dans Meisterstück!

Wegen der Vektor-Optik könnte man Red Zone zunächst einfach bloß für die Psygnosis-Variante von Gremlins "Team Suzuki" halten, doch sehr schnell zeigt sich, daß es mehr ist als nur ein frecher Abklatsch. Einmal läßt sich der Ofen hier wesentlich schöner steuern als das bei den Suzies der Fall war, zum anderen gibt es Optionen wie Öl auf der Rennstrecke.

Bloß bei der (nicht vorhandenen) Auswahl an verschiedenen Maschinen hat das Gremlin-Team die Nase vorn.

Zur Sache: Nachdem das Mini-Intro vorbei ist, hat man die Qual der Wahl zwischen automatischem und manuellem Schaltgetriebe, dem Trainingsmodus ohne Gegner, einem Einzelrennen und der komplette Saison.

Die Rundenzahl läßt sich zwischen einer und maximal dreißig einstellen, steuern kann man mit Stick, Maus oder Keyboard, der Realismus von grafischer Darstellung und Fahrverhalten ist vielfältig variierbar, der Schwierigkeitsgrad und das Ansprechverhalten der Maus lassen sich sogar stufenlos regeln, und... es ist immer noch kein Ende in Sicht! Die Optionsauswahl füllt mehrere Bildschirme, also zählen wir halt schnell noch ein paar auf: Replay-Funktion, einstellbare Sichtweite, eingeblendetes Cockpit oder nicht, ölflecken auf der Fahrbahn oder nicht, Soundeffekte ja/nein, Zuschauer sichtbar ja/nein - so, und der Rest wird jetzt einfach unterschlagen.

Glücklich und endlich auf einem der zehn originalgetreuen WM-Kurse gelandet, fährt man gegen ein Feld von sechs Konkurrenten. Und auch hier gibt es schon wieder Einstellmöglichkeiten satt: Mit den Funktionstasten kann zwischen diversen Perspektiven hin- und hergeschaltet werden, man darf eine kleine Übersichtskarte, zwei Rückspiegel und sogar eine Anzeige für den aktuellen Motorrad-Neigungswinkel einblenden, nach einem Crash kann man sich automatisch wieder auf die Strecke zurückteleportieren lassen und und und.

So zahlreich die Optionen sind, so wirklichkeitsnah sind auch die Rennen. Das Bike benimmt sich tatsächlich wie ein Bike, die Unterführungen bzw. Brücken werfen richtige Schatten, die Gegner verhalten sich sehr realistisch, die Rückspiegel sind nicht bloß nutzloser Zierrat. Kurzum, hier stimmt einfach alles! Oder zumindest fast alles, denn an die Boxenstops hätte man ruhig etwas mehr Mühe verschwenden können, die Grafik ist in der höchsten Detailstufe längst nicht mehr so rasend schnell wie sonst, und die Streckenauswahl war bei "Team Suzuki" halt doch etwas üppiger.

Leider ist auch die ursprünglich geplante Link-Option per Modem unter den Tisch gefallen, dazu ist das Game vollkommen unmusikalisch.

Aber all das ist verzeihlich, denn in den entscheidenden Punkten kann Red Zone voll überzeugen: Es sieht gut aus, bietet stimmige Stereo-FX sowie eine überzeugende Steuerung, und der Spielspaß bleibt nicht auf der Strecke - was will man mehr? (mm)

Red Zone logo

Brrrrmmm. Smash. Bang. A new bike-crash simulator from Psygnosis.

Picture the scene: It was a Monday morning> I arrived back in the office after two weeks' holiday. Mark said "Did you have a nice time?" I told him I did. "We've got a present for you," he said, and gave me a big black Psygnosis box with a picture of a motorbike on the front.

"We thought you'd like to review this," he said with an editorial twinkle in his eye. I was touched - they'd saved this motorbike game review for me because of my new-found interest in motorbikes.

"We saved this motorbike game review for you because no one except the PR bloke from Psygnosis can keep the bike on the track for long enough to complete a race..." And lo and be jiggered, neither could I. But persistence, as the saying goes, is... er... well, it's jolly important anyway.

So I stuck at it, and pretty soon I was actually able to get all the way round a course without destroying the bike. Within only half a day or so, I managed to qualify for a real race.

Red Zone is one of those polygon 3D affairs where you blast round a Grand Prix circuit as fast as you possibly can, if not faster. Because you're on a motorbike, your view occasionally tilts at bizarrely improbable angles as you bank the bike to 'take corners' (although in Red Zone, the phrase 'to take a corner' really ought to be redefined as 'to crash into a barrier in the most irritating way you can think of').

You can choose either a first or second person view and, when you first start playing, the second person view, where you can see your own bike, is the most useful. It gives you something of an idea of what happens as you ricochet around and lets you get to grips with controlling the bike a bit better.

Smooth is not a word that would be used to describe it

It's pretty difficult to judge distances, though, so you tend to hit the barriers even more frequently than usual and it's not really that much use for actual racing. So when you've got the hang of it you move back to the first person view. For reasons that are never adequately explored you can also choose side and rear views (when a bike's this difficult to control, why would you ever want to not look where you're going?).

When you finally manage to finish a race, you can watch a replay of it as seen from a helicopter. This really brings home the absurdly difficult control as you watch your bike slew wildly around the track looking or the 'racing line' into the next crash barrier. And in case that wasn't enough evidence, you also get statistics on how many times you hit the barrier and how many other riders you endangered (I was so good that I managed to endanger up to 11, even when there were only five other riders in the race).

It's very difficult to control, but with a bit of practice it does become slightly easier. But is it wort the effort? Well, no, frankly. 'Smooth' is not a word that would be used to describe the animation nor would anyone be very likely to say 'extremely attractive' when asked to describe the backgrounds.

The backgrounds can be pepped up by adding all the extra detail offered on the options screen, and this does help to make the whole thing much nicer to look at. But at a price. The animation moves from 'not very smooth' to 'very jerky and slow indeed' and you soon eschew scenery in favour of a bit of oomph. Doubtless there are some really great pictures of when you win the championship (the one of you in bandages when you've written the bike off and been retired form the race is quite amusing) but I can't imagine very many people putting in the effort required to get that far.

Doubtless there are some really great pictures of you when you win the championship (the one of you in bandages when you've written the bike off and been retired form the race is quite amusing) but I can't imagine very many people putting in the effort required to get that far.

It certainly isn't rubbish, don't get me wrong. Unfortunately, though, it isn't very easy, it isn't huge amounts of fun to play and it doesn't look utterly brilliant. I didn't expect to be World Champion first time out, but I wouldn't mind not crashing at every corner and I wouldn't mind if the corners looked pretty when I hit them.

Red Zone logo

Tony Dillon takes Psygnosis' new bike extravaganza for a test run. Can it out-do the likes of Team Suzuki and Super Hang-On?

With car racing games in abundance on the Amiga, it is surprising that there are not more simulations of the far more exhilarating sport of high-powered motorcycle racing. Even a fully equipped Lotus Elan cannot come close to the sensation of biking at dangerous speeds.

Since the earliest days of software there have only been two worth mentioning - TT Racer from DI and the incredible Team Suzuki from Gremlin. The former was incredibly realistic and was the first simulation to let the player on one part of a track and watch riders on another. The latter had some of the smoothest and fastest and darn realistic polygons ever used. Psygnosis are trying to reach a compromise between the two with Red Zone, but unfortunately they have not quite pulled off.

The game itself is very basic. There is only one type of bike to race, and this cannot be modified in any way. There are ten tracks to race around, all of which are Formula One racing car circuits. You can also choose to race one track or attempt a complete championship. When it comes to deciding how the race will look, things get a little more promising. There are fourteen different options to change the way the game looks and plays, and there are also two sliders governing mouse sensitivity and the skill level of opposition.

There are two levels of object detail and additional scenery can be switched on and off - and there is also the more unconventional 'sky detail' and 'trackside surfaces' which add clouds and a polygon blimp, or bushes and trees to the sides of the track respectively. As you can see from our screenshots, everything looks marvellous with all details turned on.

There is more to see than Microprose's Grand Prix, and that is saying something. However, there is a price to pay for all this detail - and that is running speed. With all options on, the game crawls along so badly that it becomes too unresponsive to be playable. How can you correct oversteer if you have actually oversteered and by which point it is too late to do anything?

With all options off, though, things improve in leaps and bounds. The tracks may look sparse by comparison, but they playability increases enormously. It is now you realise how fast you can shoot down a straight. The problem is that the update does not match the speed of the bike, and a lot of the time you need to start turning before you see the corner to have any hope of taking bends at anything over ten miles an hour.

The controls are not without problems either. Anyone who has played Team Suzuki will remember the true analogue feel of the mouse control, and how you could lean at any angle. In Red Zone, there seems to be a mere six leaning angles - and these are far from responsive. Another strange point on mouse control is that the right button, rather than the left, is the throttle. An obscure choice considering that most people are right handed.

Red Zone is very good in some areas, but limps along in others. Its biggest problem is that visually it is too slow to be anywhere near as playable as Gremlin's effort, which is why I would go for the latter, especially considering that it has just been released on the GBH label. It has been proved possible to include detailed graphics in such a sim, and to ignore such capabilities makes a game look dated and simplistic - something Red Zone is not. However, at the end of the day, Red Zone is a bit of a disappointment.


Unlike most games, it is possible to knock the opposition out of the race by slamming into them. While racing, knocking against other riders causes them to unbalance and a shower of sparks comes flying from their chassis as they hit the ground. Hit them right and they will go smashing into a barrier, effectively removing them from the race. Just to confirm your 'kills' you are told at the end of the race how many times you endangered other riders. A sim for kill-mongers!