You shitbag. You turd-encrusted f**klump. Toasted semen biscuit. Tossy arsebag dickhead, good-for-nothing little pus-sucking wanker. I'm going to smash your teeth in. Come and have a go if you reckon you're hard enough. Fish-fisting, butt-munching, portillo-faced, fratage cheeser.
All things I've shouted at rivals during the course of various two-player games. Two-player games, are, as everybody knows, the best, since they a) allow you to compete against a real, live, human being, and more importantly b) give you an excellent opportunity to shout offensive words, like the ones I've listed above, at each other at the top of your voice. Unfortunately for us, however, two-player games are pretty thin on the ground on the pc. Sure, all the Doom-a-likes, and a few flight sims support multiplayer games, but unless you've got access to a network of ninja computers, that's about as much use as a rowing boat made of Disprin.
So hats off to Gremlin Interactive for producing Slipstream 5000, a futuristic 3D racing/ combat game which, as well as being pretty smart for the solo player, features a splitscreen two-player mode. Hoorah. Let our joy be unconfined.
Horses for courses
Anyone taking a quick glance at the screenshots could be forgiven for mistaking Slipstream for Descent. Both games involve a lot of zipping through tunnels, and both place you inside futuristic spacecraft. That's where the similarity ends. Whereas Descent was a peculiar hybrid of Doom and Tie Fighter; Slipstream is more like Road Rash meets Top Gun.
First of all, you choose a character that appeals to you. Since half of them are women with absurdly large chests, this may not be too hard. Each character has a different type of craft, each with its own flight characteristics - small light ones are manoeuvrable but lack oomph, and the big, scary ones have got oomph in abundance but can't corner for toffee - you don't have to be Dr Stephen Hawking to work out which is which. In fact, you can't be Dr Stephen Hawking at all, since he isn't one of the characters featured in the game. More's the pity.
Up pops a globe, and a choice of tracks. There are ten in all, each representing a different part of the world. Most of the action in each course takes place in a set of twisting tunnels, but there's also plenty of pretty scenery to see along the way. The next stage is to customise your vehicle. This is rather like upgrading your pc, since it usually costs more money than you can lay your hands on, and you'll need to win races to earn more moolah. If you have got enough cash, you can make like Dick Dastardly and equip yourself with enough missiles, mines, and turbo fuel-injectors to make Penelope Pitstop soil her knickers with envy. So, you're all tooled up,and it's three, two, one... go!
Smooth, mate, smooth
The Slipstream engine is really quite im-pressive. There's plenty of detail, yet everything zips along nice and smoothly. It's one of those games where you find yourself craning your neck to peer round corners, and leaning back in your seat every time you pull up to avoid a collision. It makes you look like an arse to anyone else who's watching basically (which is all the more reason for a two-player mode really). Those of you with girly (ie not phenomenally expensive) pc's will be relieved to learn that you can fiddle about with all the detail settings until everything's hunky dory.
Some of the levels look particularly gorgeous. Norway is one of my favourites - all majestic glaciers and perilous cliff faces. Egypt sends you hurtling through a set of convoluted corridors inside the pyramids. New York features a picturesque Statue of Liberty, and Tokyo has enough neon lighting to make your eyeballs feel like they've just been rubbed down a sheet of glasspaper. Even France looks nice. Now there's an achievement. The sound's excellent too all the other contestants regularly spout insults and threats at you over the airwaves, for instance, and should you skim the surface of a lake or river too closely, you'll be rewarded with a satisfying sploshy sample. The way the crowd cheers you on as you cross the finish line is particularly inspiring, even if you're finishing in tenth place. Finishing tenth, incidentally, is something you will do many a time - the other racers tend to do a "Shane" and disappear over the horizon with unsettling ease.
What's more, there's the option to view the action from outside your ship from several different viewpoints, including the obligatory chase view, but also a rather nifty "TV camera" mode, as seen in NASCAR Racing, except smoother. In fact, the external viewpoints are so appealing, you'll probably find yourself sneaking the odd look at yourself mid-race, marvelling at the cinematic manner in which you're shooting round a spectacularly unforgiving corner, and then letting out a torrent of abuse when you run slap-bang into a wall 'coz you couldn't see where you were heading.
Two to tango
So then, the two-player mode. Hmm. To be honest, it's not quite as good as I'd hoped it would be. Everything still runs fairly fluidly, but the fact that each player's view is restricted to half of the screen makes it hard to see what's going on. Still, with a little practice and patience it soon turns into a bit of a laugh-and-abuse fest. Unless you've got a splitter or a second joystick port, however, one of you is going to have a pretty crappy time playing on the dreaded keyboard. Neither of these quibbles are Gremlin's fault, though, so I can't hold it against them. There's also the option to play head-to-head via a modem or serial link, or even up to eight players on a network. So, the headlines in brief: it's a rootin', tootin', shootin', racin' game. It's nice to look at and listen to, and it's fun to play. Perhaps a little too simple for some people, but for anyone else who fancies a bit of good, old-fashioned fun, it gets the thumbs up from me.
Download Slipstream 5000
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP