No driving game round-up would be complete without one of the enormously popular Screamer titles. The last to grace our screens, and arguably the best, was the highly acclaimed Screamer Rally, released just over a year ago. Packed with every feature you'd expect to find in a driving game, Screamer Rally has more built-in longevity than Cliff Richard's sperm.
As well as the three levels of difficulty and one-off arcade and championship modes, you can participate in time trials against ghost cars of your own best times, and there's also full-on network support and a splitscreen mode. Once you've won on all the courses and bonus courses, found the bonus cars and won the championship at the hardest level, the tracks become mirrored and you can race them all again.
It may be starting to look a little dated, but Screamer Rally still stands up well against the other games reviewed here, so if you haven't got kick-ass kit you can still enjoy it without the frame rate suffering too much.
There are eight cars, plus bonus ones; they have made-up names but you should recognise them. You can alter the set-up of your car(s) and save them, though this doesn't seem to have much of an effect. The detail isn't up to the standard of the other games on test here, but the cars handle well and quite differently on different surfaces, though their appearance isn't affected by collisions.
There are six traditional courses in all: China, Canada, Italy, Arizona, Sweden and, er, Wales, as well as a stadium-based course that looks like something out ot Super Mario Kart. Once you've won everything, the tracks are mirrored and you can race them all again. Track detail is pretty high considering the game's age, but it's not going to make you go: "Ooh! Look at that!"
As well as a six-player network option, there's a rather nice split- screen mode that enables you and a chum to race mano y mano. It's obviously not as good as playing over a network, and the frame rate sometimes suffers, but don't knock it.
Originality And Fun Factor
It's fun, if a little old-looking, but a bargain at this price. Multiplayer network play is a real laugh, and because the tracks are quite tight and the cars slide all over the place it's pretty easy to catch up with the pack even if you spin off. If you've got a PC that was entry-level a year ago, then Screamer Rally really should feature in your collection.
Download Screamer Rally
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Rallying Seems To Be Right Up There on the Things To Do For Developers list at the moment - the new version of RAC Rally, International Rally Championship, is on its way soon, the much-hyped V-Rally has appeared on the PlayStation to much applause (and the odd stifled scream at the handling), and now we have another version of Screamer - and it too has gone all-out for the rallying angle. Those who remember the first version will realise that this completes the gradual evolution from the first Ridge Racer-style game to a Sega Rally-type offering - which for most people is still the definitive rally game (in its Saturn version, at least).
Although it's very much a rally game, there won't be any of that stage-based stuff that made RAC Rally so popular. It's still unashamedly an arcade game, with time limits, and raced around a circuit rather than down winding cart-tracks. So, no change there then. And although you might assume that Italian developers Milestone are a new name to the business, they're actually the old Screamer developers Graffiti, except with a different monicker. They even have exactly the same team working on it. So if all this is the same, what's new?
Everything must go
Everything else, basically. There's hardware support for 3Dfx, the Matrox Mystique and the 3D Blaster, which means that all the cars look a lot more like the real thing than they used to. It also means Milestone can go a bit mental with the backgrounds and the courses, which in turn means the tracks are more varied. "In previous versions, although perhaps less than in most of the other games out there," says producer Marcus Iremonger, "there was an element of Scalextric about the track design, where sections of track are strung together to form a circuit; all the barriers at the side of the road are the same height; and so on. This new version does away with all that - there's a lot more rise and fall to the tracks, the backgrounds are more varied, and the trackside banks are individually created and unique." This has an inherent effect on the racing itself, with a lot of nasty lumps, dips and mounds dotted about the place - usually in the bits you don't want them. Get things slightly wrong and you'll be somersaulting off down the road like an audition for the new ITV police-camera car crash-based series, 'Ho Ho Look He's Dead'.
"You'll work out pretty quickly where the ideal racing line is," says assistant producer Tony Hinds, "because it's the bit without the bumps. Anyone outside that line will be in trouble and just bouncing around. This will make multi-player games very interesting, because you'll all be fighting for what is in effect a small area of the road." And giving the game its own version of 'Road Rage' The Al's been tweaked,'too," adds Iremonger, "so you'll find that in the one-player game the cars will be less bunched together - there are now drivers of differing ability and they're by no means perfect, so you're more likely to be able to capitalise on their mistakes."
But wait, there's more
The tracks are also a lot more varied in the surfaces you'll be racing on - one track might have tarmac, dirt and even ice. "Each surface behaves differently too," says I remonger, "so you'll have to keep your wits about you" And there are more courses to play with. Just as this year's real World Rally Championship has gone to China for the first time, under-mining the nervous systems of peasants in paddy fields by thundering past at 150mph and crashing headlong into their oxen, so you too will be able to visit hitherto unvisited areas of the world (see box). There will also be another range of indigenous animals to stare at as you zoom past, running over their offspring in the process.
Alright, so it's another sequel. But when you add more, better and harder tracks, nicer-looking cars and impressive background graphics to new sound and music, serial and network multi-play options and secret cars, you end up with a slick, challenging, and different game - even if you can't say that it's breaking totally new ground.
As well as new versions of the England and Colombian courses, there will be these new splendid places to visit and crash in. There's also a secret course. In a secret location. But they wouldn't tell us where it is. It's a secret.
Ha-hah! Your chance to do to small Chinese villages what the Chinese are planning to do to Hong Kong. (Very topical - Ed) Actually, the circuit's based on a race around the side of the Great Wall Of China. Depending on which side you're on, that either makes you a civilised member of Chinese society, or a Mongol horde. I know which I'd rather be.
You too can be a member of the chattering classes, a holiday in Tuscany, and wittering on about "... the exquisite wine we drank from the actual vineyard where we actually stayed, five cases of which we brought back and no, you can't have any of that, we're saving it, have some Tesco's Chilean - it's just as good for the likes of you." Sorry about that. Er, this bit's in a small Italian town, with cobblestones etc.
SNOWY GRAND CANYON
That's not 'Snowy's Grand Canyon' - sorry to disappoint, but you won't be driving around inside Tintin's dog's arse. It's that big hole in the middle of America, where you have to stand on the edge and say "Wow". And it's in the winter, which means there's snow all over the place. And rocks, and cacti, and snakes and prospectors in wide floppy hats with sores on their thighs.