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Payback

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Apex Designs
2001
Genre:
Action
Theme:
Driving / Fighting / Multiplayer /
Police & Gangsters
Language:
English, Italiano, Srpski, Czech, Español, Deutsch, Français, Svenska, Slovensko
Licence:
Commercial
System:
Amiga (AGA)
Views:
8519

Rating [?]

Mr Creosote:
4/6
Overall:
4/6
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payback09.png payback12.png
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Local Reviews

Mr Creosote (2013-01-27) [hide]

Avatar When do you get into legal trouble? Running over or shooting at people is a sure way. Though imitating another company's product too closely might also already be enough. You might get away with it in the latter case if you're choosing your steps carefully, as this game teaches us. It also teaches us that with some major bravado, the former can be done without negative consequences as well.

Payback openly admits to rip off Grand Theft Auto in every way. The gameplay (accepting criminal jobs on public phones and carrying them out in a mostly brutal fashion while driving around fairly confined cities) is identical, but the similarities don't even stop there: graphical perspective, controls and even some uncommon vehicle names have been 'borrowed' as well!

How to get away this? Obscurity. A game published on the Amiga platform in the third millennium was hardly something any larger company would even concern itself with. What would be the commercial damage for the mainstream original amount to if the obscure clone would be just let be? So Payback spent its undisturbed existence in its tiny corner of the computer market, with later ports being pretty much restricted to other niche systems like the GP2X handheld as well.

The review could pretty much end here, but the self-assured claim that Payback would surpass GTA in 'every way' is worth looking into. Specifically, there are two major aspects where this game arguably fails at its own standards.

First, there are the graphics (note: the screenshots show just two of the many available screen resolutions). Instead of the hand-pixelled surroundings and sprites which were already 'retro' when GTA was released, but which gave the game its very own charm, Payback went for three-dimensional vehicle models prettied up with colourful textures. To actually make use of these models, the cities all have hills and bridges showing them off in action fairly well.

This does not really work to the game's advantage, though. The vehicles as well as the whole world looks like a lot of games using early three-dimensional modelling techniques: blocky, artificial and ultimately unconvincing. The lighting effects, on the other hand, are excellent. They range from the obvious explosions to lens flare effects and they really make the world look more attractive and alive.

While the question of aestetics undeniably has got a subjective aspect to it, it is the believability of the world as a whole where Payback simply cannot shine. One thing to mention here is the world simulation. This sort of game works only if the city seems to be alive, i.e. if its inhabitants seem to be following their own agenda independent of the player. While this works reasonably well in Payback, it just happens all too often that vehicles get stuck and they simply never manage to get out of their situation anymore.

On a note unrelated note, the missions the player can take are kind of generic. In GTA, the exaggerated comic tone was actually a major part of the overall game experience. Just taking a car to the other end of the city within a strict time limit can still be fun, but it would be even more so if there was an understandable, cliché purpose to it.

Make no mistake – Payback is an impressively entertaining game on its own right, especially considering the ratio between all the sweat which has obviously gone into it and its limited market potential! When it comes to the details, it cannot quite fulfil what it promises, but that certainly shouldn't stop you from trying this entry to an underused genre – if you've got the right hardware for it.

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Comments (5) [hide] [Post comment]

Mr Creosote (2013-01-29):

Originally posted by Herr M. at 18:53 on January 29th, 2013:
Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 12:40 on January 27th, 2013:
Selecting a high resolution automatically implies that they will become tiny. This has obviously not been thought through.

A very common problem with "high" resolutions back than (and sometimes even today). My guess is that they assumed something in the vein of "The few people who will be able to play this game at such resolutions will be blown away by the fine graphics anyway, they won't mind this small details..." ;)

To be fair, the game simply let's the user select any screen mode supported by the underlying operating system. Meaning that today, you could play it in something like 3200×2048 which obviously would have been completely illusionary at the time the game came out.

Herr M. (2013-01-29):

Well if it didn't run on an original Amiga I am astonished, that there was still some kind of development on the hardware front.

Originally posted by Mr Creosote at 12:40 on January 27th, 2013:
Selecting a high resolution automatically implies that they will become tiny. This has obviously not been thought through.

A very common problem with "high" resolutions back than (and sometimes even today). My guess is that they assumed something in the vein of "The few people who will be able to play this game at such resolutions will be blown away by the fine graphics anyway, they won't mind this small details..." ;)

Mr Creosote (2013-01-27):

By the way, I made a couple of more screenshots on one of the higher resolutions. I'm especially proud of the one of jumping over another car :D

This should illustrate one problem with the free resolution selection: The standard visual elements like the city map, the weapon selection of the health bar don't scale. Selecting a high resolution automatically implies that they will become tiny. This has obviously not been thought through.

Mr Creosote (2013-01-26):

Originally posted by Herr M. at 21:38 on January 26th, 2013:
Well it might be because I am prejudiced, but I think for the Amiga the graphics look incredible, considering that most PC based games weren't that much better back in 2001. That is judging from the screenshots.
Keep in mind that this game will not really run on a classic Amiga as made in the times of Commodore. In theory, it will work on a A1200 with RAM expansion, but actually, even a regular A4000 will not run it smoothly. On a 68060, it will run well enough on the lowest resolution (as shown on the screenshots). A PPC accellerator with 200MHz or so and a dedicated graphics card is definitely recommended. Still not a lot of horsepower compared to contemporary IBM machines, but definitely not the same basic league as a typical A500 or so.

Originally posted by Herr M. at 21:38 on January 26th, 2013:
Also I can't imagine such obvious plagiarism be possible today. Has this actually been sold?
I've bought it, so… yes :)

Herr M. (2013-01-26):

Well it might be because I am prejudiced, but I think for the Amiga the graphics look incredible, considering that most PC based games weren't that much better back in 2001. That is judging from the screenshots.

Also I can't imagine such obvious plagiarism be possible today. Has this actually been sold?

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