Beam Breakers is a futuristic racing/driving game for PC CD-ROM developed by Similis and published by JoWooD Productions, and released in 2002. The game is set in a future New York (renamed Neo York) where antigravity cars have surplanted traditional, ground-faring models. The roads have fallen into disrepair and the 'canyons' between the giant skyscrapers are now filled with numerous stacked layers of traffic.

To allow this arrangement to operate safely, the authorities set up a system of guidance beams, which effectively act as airborne road markings. However those wishing to ignore the laws to further their own ends have found that it can be beneficial to them to simply ignore the beams- getting from one place to another quickly, escaping from the scene of crimes, or simply having incredibly dangerous races to settle feuds. These criminals are collectively known as... (dramatic chords) BEAM BREAKERS.

The single player game consists of a selection of missions and street races, which are unlocked as you progress through the game. At first you have the slowest hovercar (the 'pizza taxi'), and are asked to deliver some pizzas (by firing them through people's windows), before being inducted to the Neo York mafia. From then on, you can obtain better cars by stealing or winning them (not dynamically, but as the objectives of set missions).

You will be sent on missions to smash up cafes and offices, to chase and destroy opposition cars, and to enter races against rival gangs. The game world consists of 10 different (unconnected) areas, 2 in each district (Chinatown, Little Italy, Downtown, Harlem, Red Light District). In addition to the mission mode, there is a racing championship, a survival mode (a la Driver) and an observation (free drive) mode. The game also supports multiplayer races for up to 6 players over LAN or internet.

From a technical perspective, Beam Breakers is quite impressive. The core of the game engine is written in assembly language, and in geared towards displaying a very high volume of traffic on screen at one time. Given a sufficiently powerful computer, the game can display several hundred cars on screen, all with headlights and environment mapping, and render the surrounding environment with little or no pop-up. The engine is also fairly scalable. A large number of factors can be tweaked to acheive the best balance between framerate and visual quality.

Beam Breakers is a simple, fun and nice looking game. However it is not without faults. The voice acting is simply atrocious, and the game structure is not as freeform or refined as something like Grand Theft Auto III. The handling of the cars is also not to everyone's taste, they don't really swoop around gracefully- it's a bit like flying a heavy bumper car around. Some of the mission types (especially the ones where you have to chase down and destroy another vehicle) are a chore and the time limits are very strict. However if you have relaxed standards and are itching to show off your graphics card, Beam Breakers is worth a look.

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