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On the bleak streets of the 21st century street racers deive to the death. Hi-Octane puts you behind the wheel of an armour-plated Hov-Car capable of 400+mph. Race through city streets, open wastelands or deserts faster than a Ferrari and with accessories you'd never find on a Volvo (like a missile launcher and chain gun). If anyone gets in your way, remember your highwaycode....
Mirror. Signal. Fire!
  • Super-fast arcade action
  • 6 types of car in 8 different colours
  • Select from a range of weapons
  • Race through Cities, Deserts and Mountain Ranges
  • Take any route you like in the fastest time
  • Practice Mode
  • League Table to chart your progress
  • SVGA option
  • 8 player multiplay option
~ from the back of the UK box

Bullfrog, best known for top-class strategy games such as Syndicate, Populous and Power Monger, took a brief left turn in 1995. They made a racing game. A futuristic racing game. They made Hi-Octane.

In actuality, Hi-Octane was never meant to see the light of day. According to some sources, it began life as a programming exercise made by one their employees in their spare time. When Electronic Arts, Bullfrog's publishing partner, demanded either Dungeon Keeper or Magic Carpet 2 be released in just over 6 weeks when the financial quarter ended, Peter Molyneux decided not to compromise those two games and expand this pet project instead. In all essence, though, it was pretty much a whole new game made from scratch in under two months! Yikes!

Due to time constraints, the speed of each vehicle are the same despite what it says (left).
Split-screen multiplayer is a welcome addition. WipEout didn't even have that until 1999 (right).

Using a modified version of the Magic Carpet engine, Hi-Octane was a decent stab at the futuristic racer. I reckon it would've likely fared better among critics and consumers had WipEout not hit shelves that very same year. Regardless, I still think it's worth a play. You choose one of six cars to race one of nine tracks in a variety of modes that are perhaps a little more inventive than Psygnosis' hover-car game changer. Beyond the bog-standard single race and championship where you compete against decently intelligent computer opponents, you have split-screen multiplayer, a time trial Clone Race and a tactics heavy Death Match. WipEout didn't have that.

Actually, if you had played the original DOS release, this additional modes were nowhere to be seen, and the number of tracks are disappointingly down by three. I would say that the insanely small amount time they had to create the game noticeably affected the final product. It felt bare-bones and featureless with a selection of vehicles that felt remarkably similar to play despite how they looked. When it came time to create the console ports which were due to arrive towards the end of the year, the team decided to improve it by adding extra tracks and game modes. There was so much new stuff that an update for the DOS original patched it all in so PC gamers wouldn't miss out. It's a good thing too, as this original PC version remains the best one to play.

Recharging stations will replenish your shield, fuel and weapons if you can get to them (left).
Pay attention to the arrows. Looks like a sharp turn is coming up (right).

The console ports, where WipEout was still very much in the zeitgeist, weren't so well received. PlayStation owners got a decent enough adaptation, but the continued consumer association with the console and WipEout franchise would be its biggest undoing. It also suffered a little in the fram rate department. The Saturn also had both of these issues to contend with albeit in much different ways. The quick port to notoriously difficult hardware made it look and run the worst, almost making it unplayable. Vehicle textures are gone and the frame rate was so abysmal, even by early Saturn standards, that it earned the worst review scores of any Saturn game to date. At least both of these make use of CD audio, but then again they are just recorded renditions of the (still decent) General MIDI music tracks.

As for the DOS original, there is quite a bit of fun to be had. The floating hover cars can shoot machine gun bullets or homing missiles at enemies to damage them and briefly slow them down. If you wish, you can spend that firepower for a quick boost instead. Areas on the track allow you to heal up, restock ammo, or replenish fuel but a quick zoom over them won't do much. You'll have to make a decision to slow down or even stop to make sure you are strong enough to make it through the next lap, or carry on for fear of losing your position. This is doubly important for long races where you won't have enough fuel reserves or Death Matches where ammo is everything.

Skulls usually mean secret short-cuts, but beware; they're not always open (left).
Finding higher ground in a Death Match (right).

The tracks themselves are impressively designed, with a variety of terrain types and points of interest. By using the Magic Carpet engine, the draw distance is not too great with each area shrouded in a fog that's always around fifty feet in front of you. To combat this, arrows painted on the track give you ample warning of any upcoming turns. The track may split off too so these markers will tell you the correct path. The wrong way isn't always the wrong way, though; it could be a short cut. The engine allows the terrain to morph in front of your eyes allowing access to secret areas or - if you're unlucky - dead ends. There is a reason why the courses are designed this way, particularly those new ones found in the addon and console additions. It's there to provide a vibrant and varied arena for the Death Matches which are a hell of a lot of fun, even if AI opponents still treat it like a race track most of the time.

Despite WipEout being the obviously superior title (especially its sequel), Hi-Octane is still a worthwhile racer. It's a little floaty, the draw distance is a little lacking and the insane speed of its production is most definitely showing but its a testament to the skilled team at Bullfrog that it's still a fun title despite all of this. Oh, and in case you're wondering, the DOS original is still the best - by far. PC Master Race FTW!

To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses the DOSBox-X build of DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual included. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 53.4 Mb.  Install Size: 100 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ


To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses Retroarch with the Mednafen Beetle PSX, Mednafen Beetle  HW PSX, Mednafen Beetle Saturn cores to emulate the Sony PlayStation and SEGA Saturn. X-input and select other controllers supported. Manuals included. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 584 Mb.  Install Size: 785 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ






Hi-Octane is © Bullfrog Productions
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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  1. I think this is a fair review. I played the demo as a nipper. It was among the first 3D racing games I ever played so I had no frame of reference, and as it was a demo, no grounds to complain about the lack of content. I was happy enough with it, once I got used to the controls. Funny to hear the cars had identical speed, though - I guess that's why taking the tank always felt like the best strategy!

  2. Any chance we could see Wipeout XL/2097 here? It's almost impossible to get running on modern machines, even with the various patches one can find. And even if it does run, there is no sound :(

  3. I really enjoyed this game back in the day, when I upgraded my rickety PC to a Cyrix P200 (it's as fast as a Pentium 200 honest!) this was the first game I fired up and it blew me away that I could now run it in SVGA mode at full framerate.

    I can see how the game lags behind Wipeout, but I never understood how it seemed to be treated as an all out stinker. It's a fun little racer, especially with a friend!

    1. I think the console ports held it back, and unfortunately its consoles that hold bulk of gaming conversations. I still think that imperfect, its a highly entertaining game.