PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Here's the first thing I've got to say about this game: who in hell came up with the name? I don't know about you, but round my way 'screamer' isn't a particularly polite way to describe someone, as in: "Look at that bloke, he's a bit of a screamer." Is it politically incorrect for me to mention this? Oh well, if that's the case shoot me. I'm just reporting facts.
The second thing I've got to say about the game, in a crap Jon Pertwee Wurzel Gummidge type voice, is: "Blimey guv, them's some smashin' graphics and no mistake." Yup, glance at the screenshots and you'll see that Screamer looks pretty much like an arcade game - therefore it won't come as a shock when I tell you that the only real difference between Screamer and, say, Ridge Racer, is that you don't have to keep fishing pound coins out of your pocket. (Well, apart from the thirty you need to hand over to the shop assistant when you initially buy the bugger, of course.)
Screamer has six different tracks, six different cars (manual or auto), and three different skill levels - yes, like a coin-op. And just like a coin-op, there are also 'checkpoints'. But more of these later. For now let's get back to the tracks and the cars.
Courses for horses
Screamer's tracks are a treat to look at, and I'm not just talking about the tarmac and the buildings. I'm talking about all the little 'details' - all those things that Ridge Racer and its coin-op ilk enjoy. Like the aeroplane taking off, for instance - Screamer's got one. And the helicopter - Screamer's got one of those too; it almost lands on the roof of your car once a lap for god's sake. (You can always pretend it's being piloted by Noel Edmunds and shout, "You smug bastard, I hope you die!" every time you pass beneath it.) And the subway train, doing its small overland stint in the built-up city scenario? Yo-ho! Screamer doesn't pull any punches there, either -it sounds as good as it looks. You'll get the urge to hit the brakes, pull over, and just watch it choo-chooing along, on its way to wherever it's going (which is nowhere, but who cares?). There are bridges over the road, too, full of traffic. (The same traffic every lap, incidentally, but who's counting?) And there's heaps of other stuff as well.
But 'neat touches' do not a game make, they just add. So what are they actually adding to? And the answer is, frankly, quite a lot. Which sort of brings off dyna to the handling of the cars... bear with me. Okay, so Screamer doesn't offer you anything like the dynamic realism you'll encounter in EA's The Need For Speed, but you can take corners sideways, which is what we're all after (isn't it?). You have to be careful though, because occasionally the back of your car will pop off in the opposite direction to the one you'd intended - and through no fault of your own, I might add. Or so it seemed to me. Or maybe I'm just a crap driver, in which case I await a slagging and am prepared to eat humble pie.
I Whatever the case, the fact remains that the cars handle in such a way that you can tease extra seconds from a lap time in more ways than just sticking to what looks like the most ergonomic racing line. And this, funnily enough, brings us back to the tracks again. There are three excellent ones, two fairly enjoyable ones, and a boring one. But even Screamer's boring one is better than an IndyCar oval.
I haven't got a Pentium...
Sod off then. Mind you, having said that, neither have I, or not at home anyway - I reviewed Screamer. But let me add this: it zips along like a ferret with an electrode jammed up its chaff. When the speedo says i8omph, you tend to believe it. Or, to put it another way, the 'game engine' is obviously rather good. One of Screamer's main rivals would have to be Fatal Racing, and, in terms of speed, Screamer not only shits on Fatal Racing from a great height, but looks much better while doing so. All the same, it's still time to upgrade. (And yes, I know you know. How about we get together and go out on a ram-raiding spree? I'll drive, you load the boot.)
So where were we?
Let's have a quick recap: Screamer has an 'unfortunate' title; the cars don't handle particularly realistically, but do give a nod in the right direction: the tracks look great, and for the most part offer an interesting challenge. And it's all very arcadey. Very, very arcadey. Er, hang on a minute, this isn't an arcade game magazine, is it?
Which means you'll be playing Screamer at home. You'll be spending more than just 20 minutes a week on the thing. Meaning you'll soon start to become critical of the computer controlled drivers - are they any good?
What's their ai like? The sort of stuff, which, let's face it, is pretty important if you're in for the long haul.
So let me break the news to you gently. First off, forget the easy mode -even my nan could beat it. Medium is easy, and hard is hard for a while, but not for as long as it should be. The computer-controlled drivers don't differ in speed to any great degree, and tend to drive around in a pack (they're pretty much glued together even after 25 laps, which is maximum distance).
But the weirdest thing is that your own car appears to have some kind of uncannily powerful magnet on the back of it... as soon as you take the lead, all the computer cars seem to be continuously right up your arse. It seems bloody impossible to pull out a substantial lead. Or at least that's how it appeared to me, anyway, and for my own peace of mind I did check it out on the replay.
At the beginning of the review I mentioned that, just like arcade racing games, Screamer has 'checkpoints'. Fail to reach a particular point on a track within the given time limit and it's a case of Game Over Man! But why? This is so bloody stupid that words fail me. Arcade games have checkpoints for pretty obvious reasons: they want you to put another quid in the slot. Fair enough, we know the score.
The checkpoints in Screamer, however, stop you doing the things you most want to do when you're getting bored of a track. Taking it backwards for example. Or stopping and looking at the subway train. Or just generally mucking about, going for some squirlies or whatever. I could go in-depth here and do an anti-checkpoint 'think piece', but I can't really be bothered. Checkpoints stink. That's all there is to say.
Extra, extra, extra...
Screamer has three sub-game options, which can be played on any of the six different tracks:
Sub-game one is 'knock over the bollards'. It's you versus the clock but hit a bollard and you gain an extra seconds' play - and it's bloody hard.
Sub-game two is similar to the first one. It's slalom time, with extra seconds for negotiating the 'gates'.
Sub-game three is the kiddie, though. It's excellento, and you may well remember it from Hard Driving. You complete a lap against the clock, the computer remembers your route, and you then race against a 'ghost car' of yourself. The computer continues to remember your fastest laps. It naturally i presents a damn good challenge, and if you carry on facing against yourself in I this mode, you can eventually become 'infinitely good'.
At the end of the day
All in all. Screamer is pretty smart - it certainly looks and sounds the business, anyway. But there are heaps of car games about at the moment, so how does Screamer fare by comparison? Its main rivals (both already mentioned) are going to be The Need For Speed and Fatal Racing, and to be quite honest there's not a lot separating the trio.
Where Screamer does score well is in its instant gratification, its good looks, the fact that it moves like the clappers, and that it only costs 30 quid. The only thing I'm dubious about though is the longevity of the game. And those bloody awful checkpoints... Jeez. Still, they can't be that bad as the game seems to have got everyone in the office hooked.
If you've got the sponds, then buy notj only Screamer but the other two as well, If you're a tad skint then maybe flip a coin (but use a double header, and rig it; so The Need For Speed wins).