Zoo Digital Publishing will release the GBA port of the Grand Theft Auto-esque Amiga title 'Payback' in Europe this October 15th, Eurogamer can reveal today, quite possibly beating Rockstar's own planned GTA handheld spin-off to market in the process. You can see find 14 screenshots of Payback on GBA here, and a series of seven movies neatly zipped up for you to download from Eurofiles here.
Developed by Apex Designs, Payback is a latter-day Amiga title originally released in 2001 on that format, which apes a lot of DMA Design's original top-down Grand Theft Auto title in visual and mechanical terms, but includes various technological advances like a 3D engine, lighting effects and a day and night cycle amongst other things. It also includes a multiplayer link-up mode for up to four players.
Fundamentally though it's the mission-based driving game the handheld has long been calling out for. There are 10 free-roaming city environments, each stuffed with plenty of vehicles to hijack (including sedans, sports cars, vans, boats, buses, remote controlled cars and helicopters), weapons to batter people with (handguns, machineguns, baseball bats, etc) and missions that range from simple collect-and-deliver-vehicle scenarios and street races to assassinations, kidnappings and more besides. It also features a 'Rampage' mode that dynamically generates missions, which ought to be good for the game's longevity.
The movies featured on Eurofiles should give you a pretty decent idea of what to expect. There's certainly plenty for GTA fans to get nostalgic about, whether it's the squeaky, indistinct voices that play over telephoned mission instructions, the way the perspective shifts, the handling of the cars or even the player sprite, which is certainly reminiscent of the nameless thug who originally kicked off the empirical franchise. There are some nice touches of individual humour, too, like an "irony bonus" for running someone over with his or her own car.
Judging by reports from the E3 version of the game and what we've seen of it in these movies, it also rockets along at a decent enough framerate, which is only dented by big explosions and the like. Visually, it's certainly doing a lot of things the humble GBA probably has no right to be doing. Which, we suppose, segues neatly into the question of whether Apex and Zoo have the right to 'borrow' so much from Grand Theft Auto. That's a question best left to lawyers though; all we know is that we've been told Rockstar and mother-company Take-Two made no legal challenge against the Amiga version, and Zoo clearly feels confident enough about the game's standing artistically and legally to handle the GBA port.
We hope to be able to bring you full impressions of Payback and more besides in the near future.
Will you support Eurogamer?