Idea for game: drive a Land Rover slowly around some mountains in the rain at night. As pitches go, it's not quite Monkey Tennis, but neither is it a concept guaranteed to send gamers into paroxysms of unfettered joy. Unless, of course, they like Land Rovers or are Welsh (scarcely mutually exclusive characteristics).
The idea somehow managed to get through though, and essentially, Screamer 4x4 recreates the experiences of a sheep farmer, albeit with a slightly competitive edge... and no sheep. What it doesn't do is have any connection whatsoever with the original Screamer, an ancient arcade-style racer of some repute. From a completely different developer, the wholly inappropriate use of the Screamer name is simply a fairly desperate attempt by Virgin to draw attention to what is an almost unmarketable game.
That's not to say it's unplayable, it's just that the concept will inevitably fly over the heads of gamers drunk on futuristic racers and inner city carnage. Midtown Madness this isn't. What it is, however, is a change of pace. In a market flooded by identikit driving games, it's commendably different, if not exactly a laugh-a-minute madcap escapade.
Here's how it works. Taking the wheel of an off-road vehicle, treacherous terrain must be negotiated as you find your to way to a number of checkpoints. Minor penalties are incurred for clipping them, a major penalty is incurred for capsizing your buggy, and killing a spectator results in instant disqualification. To all intents and purposes, it's a four-wheel version of Kick Start, thankfully without the perennially chirpy Peter Purves.
Once penalties have been added, the quickest driver between start and finish scoops the points. You never actually see any of the other drivers; they simply appear on the scoreboard at the end of each section. It's a solitary experience to say the least, the only human contact coming with the occasional clump of static spectators that gather near some of the more tricky checkpoints. The tits.
Clearly with all four wheels firmly planted in the simulation camp, Screamer 4x4 achieves its aims comfortably. Negotiating sheer rock faces can be tricky, and on some of the more erratic sections simply keeping your buggy upright is something of a challenge. It's certainly not a game for speed freaks, however -indeed, the slightest dab on the accelerator often results in a plea for caution from your otherwise mute co-driver.
Some concession to arcade action has been made with the inclusion of multiplayer modes, such as King Of The Mill, which can also be played with computer opponents. It's the solo off-road action that the game will be judged by though, and in fairness the sturdy Land Rover is supplemented by an array of jeeps - Cherokees and Mitsubishi Shoguns. Some of the sections even take place in daylight. As an exercise in careful driving in difficult conditions, Screamer 4x4 is arguably a benchmark title. As a compelling gaming experience, it's some way behind the field.
Download Screamer 4x4
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP