PAL PlayStation cover art
|Platform(s)||MS-DOS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn|
|Genre(s)||Racing, vehicular combat|
It is notable amongst racing games for its wide and open tracks, and the resulting freedom offered to the player, and also for its excessive speed. It suffered in the marketplace due to thematic similarities with the better received Wipeout by Psygnosis and the generality of its graphics engine made for a very short depth of view compared to contemporary racing games.
Hi-Octane is rumored to begin life as something several Bullfrog programmers coded in free time, and then decided to improve the game and market it under the auspices of Electronic Arts. Developer Peter Molyneux stated that EA set Bullfrog under pressure to release Dungeon Keeper, but they weren't able to do so within their deadlines. In order to relieve some of the pressure, they quickly developed Hi Octane.
In a Gamasutra article it was mentioned that "PC and Saturn racing game Hi-Octane, was developed in just eight weeks using the Magic Carpet engine, as a way to "fill a quarter that didn't have enough revenue"."
The game offers a choice of six hovercraft vehicles differentiated by their top speed, armour, firepower, weight and appearance: KD-1 Speeder, Berserker, Jugga, Vampire, Outrider, and Flexiwing. There are six tracks to race on, with names like New Chernobyl which hint at a dystopian futuristic world (although the game does not feature a backstory). The tracks offer different difficulties, various textures and types of landscape like wastelands and city streets.
- The weapons available are minigun and missile. Minigun has unlimited ammo but warms up while firing and locks up for some time on overheat; missiles cause more damage but their ammo is limited. Death is not permanent but kills add to the player's score.
- Fuel is spent while driving, a car with empty fuel has to wait some time until it is given a small amount of fuel.
- Shield goes down under fire, and when it reaches zero, the car is shot down and has to spend some time recovering.
- Booster allows to increase the car's speed for a short while, after each usage recharging with time. The boost uses small amounts of Missile ammo.
Certain parts of the track allow to recharge vehicle's fuel, shields or ammo, although the vehicle has to slow down in order to fully benefit of the recharge. There are also power-ups on the tracks, recharging fuel/shield/ammo (10, 100 or 200%) or upgrading the car's minigun, missile or booster, for more power. Other parts of the tracks changed in the course of racing, opening shortcuts or places with scattered upgrades for a short time.
The different vehicles display different handling values in the front end but these are just for show, the underlying stats are the same for all the vehicles. Due to the dimensions of models the vehicles appear different sizes but in fact the collision volumes are all identical meaning that you are just as likely to hit something with the Outrider as you are with the Jugga.
There are four camera views, switched while playing: three of them are from behind the vehicle with one being further away than the other, and the fourth view is from the front of the car, with no parts of the car obscuring the sight.
The graphics in the DOS version are VGA resolution of 320x240 or SVGA at 640x480 pixels, both 256 colors. Today, Hi-Octane can be run in a Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 environment using a very specific DosBox setup. It runs well in Windows 9x (speed of the game differs in different resolutions, VGA will play very fast on modern computers). An 80486DX2-66 will run the game very smooth with the least details.
Bullfrog later released an addon pack for Hi-Octane which included additional features made for the Saturn and DOS. These extra features included:
- 3 new tracks
- Ancient Mine Town (6 laps)
- Arctic Land (6 laps)
- Death Match Arena (5 laps), designed specifically for death match race
- New game modes
- Clone Race: The computer creates a clone of the player's car, programmed with the best ever lap. The best lap in each track is saved automatically.
- Death Match: Using a set or infinite number of lives.
- Split Screen: Single race.
- Hot Seat: Allows up to seven players to compete in a race at once, each player uses the same control pad and plays for the set up amount of time. The other players are controlled with an autopilot while they are not in control. The one noticeable disadvantage about this game mode is that the number of players playing Hot Seat will all have the same car, instead of separate cars. An external camera view is added, however without control of the car. The player also hears their opponent's car sound while in this view, even if there is no enemy car beside them.
Mark LeFebvre of Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the PC version an 8.2, praising the selection of vehicles, the well-balanced challenge, the secret areas, and the networked eight-player racing, though he did remark that there should have been more than six tracks. A critic for Next Generation also considered the small number of tracks to be the game's one shortcoming, and gave it overall approval for its use of texture mapping and Gouraud shading, sense of speed, and overall fun gameplay.
Maximum deemed the Saturn version "a mildly entertaining but graphically impoverished title for fans of the original only." They criticized the port's many graphical shortcomings, particularly the jerky frame rate, heavy slowdown in two-player mode, lack of texture mapping on enemy craft, and clipping polygon scenery which can cause the player's craft to become stuck. They also took issue with the control configuration and bizarre "hot seat" multiplayer mode, though they praised the additional courses and selection of cars. In contrast, Rad Automatic of Sega Saturn Magazine called it "a brilliant title", applauding the varied abilities and handling of the vehicles, the combat elements, the assortment of multiplayer modes, and the hover vehicle physics. While noting that the conversion was not as outstanding as Sega's arcade ports, he nonetheless found it of acceptable quality. GamePro concurred with Maximum that the game has a strong selection of cars and tracks but poor graphics. They also criticized the loose, unresponsive controls and the sounds. Next Generation likewise commented that "With its blocky graphics, devilishly slow frame-rate, and nebulous controls, Hi-Octane simply lacks the focus of most console games." He added that the game was very similar to, but clearly inferior to, its contemporaries Cyber Speedway and Wipeout. However, he also stated that "One truly awesome concept introduced ... is the realtime morphing tracks which add a great deal to the game's challenge and is sure to be a feature copied in future racing titles."
Reviewing the PlayStation version, GamePro said the game is "crippled by gummy controls and slow, repetitive gameplay. Flat, unimaginative graphics and sounds cause further problems. Stick with Wipeout - Hi-Octane runs out of gas." Maximum criticized that the drop in frame rate when using the new split screen multiplayer makes the game "virtually unplayable" and, like GamePro and Next Generation, they compared the game unfavorably to Wipeout: "Whereas WipeOut required genuine skill to master its cornering and overtaking, the courses in Hi-Octane have less involving [sic] and, with the exception of the odd shortcut, there's very little else to surprise. ... WipeOut and Ridge Racer have shown the potential for PlayStation racers, and the Bullfrog offering comes across as little more than a weak PC port."
- "Yogscast video interview".
- Alistair Wallis. "Playing Catch Up: Flood 's Sean Cooper". Gamasutra.
- Hi-Octane (With guide to play it on your PC!) - instructions at a YouTube page
- LeFebvre, Mark (October 1995). "PC Review: Hi-Octane". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Sendai Publishing (75): 130–132.
- "Maximum Reviews: Hi-Octane". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. Emap International Limited (2): 142. November 1995.
- "Maximum Reviews: Hi-Octane". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. Emap International Limited (3): 149. January 1996.
- "Hi-Octane". Next Generation. Imagine Media (10): 117. October 1995.
- "Hi-Octane". Next Generation. Imagine Media (17): 91. May 1996.
- "Every PlayStation Game Played, Reviewed, and Rated". Next Generation. No. 25. Imagine Media. January 1997. p. 58.
- Automatic, Rad (December 1995). "Review: Hi-Octane". Sega Saturn Magazine. Emap International Limited (2): 76–77.
- "ProReview: Hi-Octane". GamePro. IDG (91): 88. April 1996.
- "ProReview: Hi-Octane". GamePro. IDG (90): 75. March 1996.