Title		Payback
Game Type	General Action
Company		Apex Designs
Players		1-4
HD Installable	Yes
Compatibility	020, 16Mb RAM, 20Mb HD, CD Drive, AGA/gfx card
Submission	Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer

Payback is a violent action game that has been inspired by the hit
Playstation game Grand Theft Auto, (GTA). If you've not seen GTA, then
what we're talking about is a overhead viewpoint game, set within a
volatile inner city environment where you must perform all sorts of
anti-social acts to increase your stash of cash thereby furthering your
progress through the game. It's far more of a 3D effect than, for example,
the early Alien Breed games though; you can make your way to the rooftops,
for example, and when you are travelling along the streets, you'll notice a
proper 3D perspective on the sides of the tower blocks and taller
buildings, in particular. When you are without a vehicle, (what a carless
chap you are) it can be quite tricky to tell which way your character is
facing, unless he's carrying a weapon, but you'll soon get the hang of it,
and have him eagerly pounding down the streets in search of a new vehicle
to steal. Actually, while it can't be denied that Payback owes a great
deal to GTA, the central character's animation in both games seems to have
been inspired (originally) by the Amiga game Hill Street Blues.

You trigger the game's various missions by moving close to one of the
indicated telephone kiosks, whereupon you will receive instructions (in
addition to a convenient pointer) for your next job. This can entail
anything from stealing and delivering a taxi to good old fashioned murder.
A somewhat dubious moral structure to the game then.

The sound is generally pretty good with some imaginative touches, and
included on the CD are 16 very professional songs, one of which will start
playing (on the 'car radio') when you jump into a new vehicle, if you've
selected this option. The songs are of various styles including Rap and
fairly mellow Rock. Its well produced, but some of the language in certain
songs is pretty extreme, and there are some racist words included which I
personally find a bit offensive, but I gather are deemed acceptable if
spoken by somebody of the 'target' race. Still, you have the option of
disabling the CD music should you prefer, or indeed, selecting a CD of
your own. The CD case carries a Parental Advisory notice for the explicit
content, by the way.

These scruples aside, the game is excellently playable, and you'll soon
find yourself happily killing innocent bystanders, and taking particular
care to run over the owner of the car that you've just stolen, in order to
obtain an 'irony bonus'. I never really bothered with GTA (produced
incidentally by DMA of Lemmings and Hired Guns fame, although minus the
talent of Scott 'Genius!' Johnston) but for the purpose of this review I
did do some research into that game and I'm happy to report that from what
I can see Payback is a significantly superior product. Its quite easy, for
instance, in GTA to have your vehicle 'wedged' against an obstruction, and
it can take an age to get free. I've not had this experience in Payback,
and while your vehicle will suffer damage, and your progress is impeded by
colliding with an obstruction, as you'd expect, it never causes the
frustration mentioned above. The graphics are also sharper, and the
handling of the vehicles seems more intuitive. Payback's vehicles are
slightly 'blockier', but then they are also three dimensional, and so you
have the benefit of seeing their 'sides' as they roll in certain

There is a lot that can be done in the game without even using a vehicle
though; you can collect a variety of weapons and go on a killing spree if
you like. The multiplayer game proves very entertaining, I've personally
had a lot of fun in the two player game, and I think it was this more than
anything that won my son over from being a staunch GTA fan. Playing with a
friend actually stands up surprisingly well on its own, and you'll find
yourselves scurrying about, often on foot, trying to find a flamethrower
or some elusive weapon with which to bring about a fitting end to your
opponent. My son is unfortunately rather gifted at luring me into
situations where I blunder into a grenade attack, usually with fatal
consequences. On another occasion, while I was on foot he was driving a
large coach after me. Armed with only a pistol, in a scene reminiscent of
'Terminator 2', I managed to dodge down a narrow alley, thinking this
would slow his pursuit. It didn't, and it wasn't until I'd finally
staggered round a right-angle corner that he was unable to negotiate,
depite his most determined efforts, that I achieved a measure of safety.
Great fun.

There's a refreshing amount of polish in Payback. Little touches like the
falling snow, or the different sound your footsteps make when running down
a snowy street, or the dust your tyres throw up when skidding over grass
rather than the skidmarks left on tarmac. I've not completed Payback, but
I've played through several of the levels of the main game, and I'm pretty
sure most people are going to like this a lot. I'm only gradually getting
the hang of keeping the faster vehicles under control (and jumping them
across roof tops) and I've not even found the helicopter yet. It is clear
that Payback offers far more depth than you'd expect from a game that is
so immediately playable. This game is an Amiga success story, and great
fun. What more could we ask for?

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