BreakNeck Review

BreakNeck's impressive selection of cars and tracks add value to what would otherwise be a straightforward racing game.

BreakNeck is a visually appealing arcade racing game that also borrows a few elements from more-realistic racing simulations. While the actual gameplay can be addicting and quite fun, the game is hampered by an inexcusably confusing interface that can make it frustrating to navigate the menus between each race. Otherwise, BreakNeck's impressive selection of cars and tracks add value to what would otherwise be a straightforward racing game.

BreakNeck's graphics are easily the game's best feature. Each track and car is modeled to great detail, and they look even better, thanks to flashy visual effects such as environment mapping (which makes the cars look shiny) and dynamic lighting (which makes the tracks look more realistic). Also, though the game's damage model isn't accurate, damage can affect the cars' appearances. Since the game generally looks good, it's disappointing that BreakNeck occasionally also has some bad-looking graphics that stand in sharp contrast to the otherwise vibrant imagery. Effects like sparks from grinding metal appear as poor, star-shaped 2D images; and trees and other peripheral scenery objects are merely low-quality sprites. Fortunately, the game moves so fast that you'll have to actively search for these unimpressive visuals in order to notice them.

BreakNeck's sound generally isn't as impressive as the game's graphics, and its soundtrack is constantly drowned out by the high-pitched engine noise of your car and the unreasonably loud ambient sounds of each track. These ambient sounds are especially flawed because instead of dying down, in typical Doppler-shift effect, they continue to play at a constant volume even as you speed away. The result is that the ambient sound effects seem as though they're coming directly from within your car.

Fortunately, the racing in BreakNeck is actually quite enjoyable, especially because of its variety. BreakNeck's ten tracks are derived from real-world locations like Egypt and Australia, and some have up to three different variations and a number of weather effects for added replayability. The arcade mode offers access to nine unique car classes that range from F1 racecars to 250cc karts, 18-wheelers, monster trucks, classic roadsters, and modern-era sports cars. There's a total of 43 cars available in all, and you can choose from one of eight custom paintjobs for each of vehicle to add an extra touch of personality to your selection. Even though the cars aren't licensed after existing models, their individual shapes and body stylings hint at which real-world vehicles they're trying to copy. Each car handles distinctly, and in the expert mode you can tweak existing suspension settings and purchase new parts to enhance your car's performance. But while all the cars behave differently, none of them handle realistically, as BreakNeck clearly makes no pretenses at being an accurate driving simulator. Instead, you can take almost any corner with the accelerator floored, and you can smash head-on into oncoming traffic and sustain only minimal damage. Some of the gameplay modes even let you upgrade your car with a wide variety of weapons, including chainguns, nailguns, missile launchers, EMP missile launchers, and landmines. There's a total of around 20 defensive and offensive weapons that you can pick up throughout each race and use to slow down your opponents or, in the deathmatch mode, to destroy the other cars altogether.

Despite the fact that BreakNeck lets you choose between playing the arcade mode or the expert mode, the two modes actually share the same physics models, cars, tracks, and most of the same gameplay options. In fact, so much of BreakNeck's gameplay overlaps between the two modes that it's initially confusing to distinguish between the two, and you'll find yourself constantly going back and forth in an attempt to find any such variance. As it turns out, the arcade mode is designed to give you instant access to BreakNeck's large inventory of cars, tracks, and gameplay modes, while the expert mode forces you to unlock most of the game's cars and tracks as you progress through a series of linked races while managing resources by purchasing and selling cars and parts. In addition, the expert mode also adds four options: a standard race, a foxhunt race, a shoot-out foxhunt, and a deathmatch, none of which is unavailable in the arcade mode. However, the difference between these four expert modes is frivolous at best.

While the arcade and expert modes might share many of BreakNeck's same features, their interfaces are drastically different. The arcade mode has a simple interface that's clearly marked with accessible buttons and icons - nothing more than what's to be expected in a standard racing game. However, the interface of the expert mode doesn't even remotely resemble that of the arcade mode. In fact, the two interfaces look like they came from completely different games altogether. While the arcade mode's interface is intuitive, the expert mode's many menu screens are littered with low-resolution icons that fail to represent their corresponding functions. The menu transitions are also punctuated by low-quality full-motion video sequences of an annoying character named Eddi, who continuously blurts meaningless comments that are probably meant to be funny and sarcastic.

BreakNeck is a racing game with a wide assortment of enjoyable tracks and cars, but it's handicapped by a poor interface and several problematic gameplay features. It's unfortunate that the game doesn't have a more robust expert mode and that the intuitive arcade interface isn't used for the whole game. Consequently, BreakNeck will be most enjoyable for players with the patience to deal with an interface that simply shouldn't exist in games anymore.

  • View Comments (0)
    The Good
    The Bad
    About GameSpot's Reviews

    About the Author

    BreakNeck (2000) More Info

  • First Released
    • PC
    BreakNeck's impressive selection of cars and tracks add value to what would otherwise be a straightforward racing game.
    Average Rating35 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate BreakNeck (2000)
    Developed by:
    Published by:
    SouthPeak Games
    Arcade, Driving/Racing
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Animated Violence