Have You Played… Hi-Octane?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I didn’t have Wipeout as a young ‘un. I had Hi-Octane. As a racing game about weaponised hovercars it was probably not as good and not as popular. But see, when you changed views, to the viewpoint of sitting in your car? You could see the bullet holes as they appeared in your windshield. That was incredible to me in 1995 (or whatever subsequent year it was in which I actually played the game). It blew my little mind.

It was made by Bullfrog, when Bullfrog was still a physical entity and had not yet dissolved and become the disembodied and vaporous thoughts of Peter Molyneux wandering around the offices of EA, like a ghost trapped in a condemned building. It had hovercars and missiles and miniguns and futuristic race tracks. You also had to drive through special refuelling areas to keep your petrol gauge filled. If you didn’t, you’d grind to a halt and have to be dragged off for an enforced pit-stop. I don’t think arcadey racers have done anything like that since then. And maybe they have their reasons.

Unlike its competitor, it has become an entirely forgettable futureracer, while Wipeout’s place in videogame history is as secure as an ancient piece of gum stuck under a desk. But I’ll remember it. And to whoever at Bullfrog did the cockpit animations – nice bullet holes.

14 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Herring says:

    This was a memorable lesson for me :)

    I was a huge Bullfrog fan and I was stunned to wander into my local game shop to see a new release on the shelves. I’d not heard anything! Bullfrog games were announced months / years in advance, making me stew in my own anticipation.

    But here was a new one! It was just… there, on the shelves!

    Obviously I bought it in a state of frenzied excitement and…

    It was mediocre. It took me a while to work through my optimism and grok that but there it was. A Bullfrog game that didn’t rock my world.

    Later on I found out they rushed it out using a version of the Magic Carpet engine in just a couple of months, part of a contractual obligation to their new, EA-overlords.

    That pinging noise you hear was another thread of my youthful naivete going bye-bye :)

  2. ButteringSundays says:

    I haven’t! But as a slightly obsessed racing game fan I went and checked out some let’s plays to see what I was missing.

    Well. Let’s just say I can see why it didn’t retain the popularity of the Wipeout series. As fun as the combat might be in Hi-Octane, the racing looks incredibly dull. Marrying track design and vehicle physics is a bit of an art, granted, but it’s rare I don’t even want a go myself.

    Speaking of Wipeout, any fans looking for a modern (but nostalgic tribute) do check out Ballistic NG. It’s FREE, on Steam and genuinely fantastic.

  3. wooster84 says:

    Hi-Octane was bundled in with the first PC my family ever bought. Looking back it was a bit rubbish, but as far 10 year old me was concerned it was total magic.

  4. PseudoKnight says:

    It’s weird seeing this here. I had some fun with this when I was young, but it felt like it was a game from some alternate reality due to the timing, look, sound and feel. I had never heard of someone playing it, let alone heard of it at all.

    As a kid, I attributed personalities the different opponents, and I think I even kept track of rivalries. I believe I still have the game saved on my backup harddrive somewhere as I kept a copy around despite almost never playing it again.

    Thanks for the nostalgia hit.

  5. Crocobutt says:

    Had this on my weak-ass PC back in the day. Lots of playing around with graphics seeing it run in high res of 640×480 at 5-10 fps. It was bedazzling! :D If memory serves, I probably played it at 320×240 with >30fps.

  6. JKing says:

    I played the demo (Thanks, PC Gamer!) till I was sick of it, but didn’t play the full game till much later. It had all it needed to be a good game, but.. wasn’t, not really. I have fond memories of it, though, and playing it again recently I came away from it having had fun, though not having been terribly engaged.

    Had it not been a rushed hack-job it probably could have been a quite good game.

  7. subactuality says:

    Man oh man, is this game ever burned into my childhood memory. I always picked the donut car, and the knockoff DeLorean was my mortal enemy.

  8. setnom says:

    I loved this game. It’s my all-time favorite. Ah, good times.

  9. vahnn says:

    My brother and I played the living hell out of this game on Sega Saturn. It was awful. Terrible. But I loved it.

  10. fish99 says:

    I played a good bit of it, without ever really thinking it was that good. I seem to remember being rubbish at it.

  11. damnsalvation says:

    Hi-Octane is for babies.
    Powerdrome is where it’s at!

  12. herschel says:

    I downloaded it from a shady BBS in, what, 1872? Took me days on dailup and I had to deal with my infuriated parents for blocking the phone. But, OH! Was it worth the ordeal. Must have spent weeks of playtime on this. The memories, the memories…

  13. haldolium says:

    Oh yes, I remember that. It was fun for a while, but didn’t compare to Wipeout. Later in the 90s, Deathkarz was one of my favorite action racers on the PC.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Waltorious says:

    I definitely played this one! I think I convinced my parents to get it for me after trying the demo from PC Gamer and reading their mostly positive review. Played a ton of it. While in retrospect it’s not a particularly remarkable game, it will always have a special place in my memory.

    I also wonder if I gravitated towards it as a game that didn’t have too high system requirements. At the time I don’t think the family PC was able to run the latest and greatest.

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