Back in the old days of gaming, thrillseekers had to be content with simply building amusement rides then sitting back and watching punters’ reactions to see whether they queued up again for another go or spewed and left your premises unhappy. In the days of Theme Park and Rollercoaster Tycoon, you weren’t in actual control of the ‘coasters – you were merely a spectator. Not so with Screamride, Frontier Developments’ new Xbox exclusive.
It quickly becomes clear that the game strips out all that micromanagement we’re so used to and instead puts you in the thick of the action. You don’t need to give a second thought to how much to charge for tickets, how best to manage queues or what to feed your punters. It’s certainly a refreshing change. Screamride strips out the sim elements and offers the opportunity to simply focus on the rollercoasters themselves… whether it’s riding them, building them or blowing them up!
There’s a nice futuristic feel to the 50+ levels, which show a mysterious corporation’s efforts to stimulate and excite a disenfranchised society. ScreamWorks has developed a series of rides designed to get the adrenaline pumping and gain insight into the extent of human pleasure and stress. These ‘coasters are designed to push the occupants to their very limits.
"Before too long you’ll have to contend with loops, jumps, single rails and obstacles – which can make it incredibly tricky. Take a bend too quickly and you’ll come off the rails, sending your passengers into the rough waters below or slamming into the side of a building.
The game consists of three very distinct components: an on-rails racing segment, demolition, and a construction mode.
The racing portion, dubbed Screamriders, is a great introduction to the game and showcases the speed, humour and destruction on offer. You’re put in control of a car, willing participants strapped inside, about to head on a series of increasingly sick-inducing twists and turns. The aim is to rattle around the track as fast as possible and rack up the highest score.
The controls are easy to grasp – with the right trigger controlling the acceleration and propelling you along the track. A turbo boost button can be pressed at any time, assuming you’ve got enough juice in your power bar, to help you shave off a few seconds from your final time and advance up the leaderboards. Bonuses are awarded for riding on two wheels and pressing X when entering blue-highlighted sections of track; hit the button too early or late and you’ll miss out on vital points.
Before too long you’ll have to contend with loops, jumps, single rails and obstacles – which can make it incredibly tricky. Take a bend too quickly and you’ll come off the rails, sending your passengers into the rough waters below or slamming into the side of a building. To avoid this you’ll need to carefully control your speed and master leaning into turns. It starts off easy but quickly becomes taxing as the time between these many hazards shortens and faster reaction times are required!
"There are five different cabin types on offer, ranging from the bog-standard to those that can be bounced, steered, detonated or split into segments to maximise the level of destruction.
The visuals look as crisp and clear, big and bold – and more than a little reminiscent of last year’s Kinect Sports Rivals: great-looking vistas populated with cartoony caricatures fist pumping, back slapping and trying not to puke. The Screamriders mode is great fun and instantly accessible – although you’d be advised to take regular breaks to stave off motion sickness… the camera doesn’t half jump about as you shoot about the track!
But that’s certainly not all there is on offer.
Demolition Expert is a kind of hybrid of Angry Birds and The Wreckateer – the Kinect-based game where destroying castles was the order of the day. Rather than smashing up forts, modern-looking skyscrapers are your target this time round, along with giant screens, hoops, airships and so on. You’re put in control of a high-tech trebuchet with one of several interchangeable cabins attached – filled with those all-too-eager larger-than-life passengers – and tasked with adjusting the direction, speed and angle to ensure substantial damage to your target. At first, it seems like this is little more than a process of hit and hope, powering up the projectile and seeing where it lands – but you’ll soon discover that there’s far more too it.
There are five different cabin types on offer, ranging from the bog-standard to those that can be bounced, steered, detonated or split into segments to maximise the level of destruction. Coasters can also be launched into buildings – gliding and exploding towards their target with devastating effect.
This simple premise is made all the more engrossing because of the physics-based destruction employed by the developers. Buildings actually crumble, shatter, tumble and implode with amazing realism. Each impact affects the structures differently, making the action replays strangely absorbing and fun to watch; it’s a fantastic feeling when you hit the sweet spot in a building and see it wobble and fall into a neighbouring tower, causing a massive chain reaction. As luck would have it there are also plenty of explosive barrels lying about the place to make things a little easier.
"Engineering provides a good tutorial to the unrestrictive Sandbox mode, which lets you put all your new-found skills into practise. From here you can build pretty much anything you like and construct some absolutely amazing designs.
Again, racking up the points is all important and a misplaced shot can be frustrating. Fortunately, levels can be easily restarted until you get it all just right. The biggest hindrance is the camera, which can be a little wayward at times and make it difficult to judge distance and perspective. You can switch between different angles but it still would have been nice to have a little more control over the view.
Once you’ve had your fill blowing things up, you can always turn your hand to something a little more creative. The Engineering segment is a much more cerebral affair, providing a limited stock of track and prompting you to finish building a ride. Sounds easy? Initially, adjusting the angle and positioning of the track may seem a little alien but it soon becomes second nature, and you’ll be able to come up with some thrilling rides. Be warned though, don’t make your turns too sharp or drops too sudden as you’ll be docked points when the test car hurtles off the track or you lose a few passengers! Pressing down on the D-pad sends a car of test subjects to test your creation – with handy tags highlighting the sections which were most dangerous or intense. Adjustments can then be made until you’ve cracked it. I repeatedly fell into the trap of making my track so steep that my coaster stalled, sending my passengers to a grisly end.
Engineering provides a good tutorial to the unrestrictive Sandbox mode, which lets you put all your new-found skills into practise. From here you can build pretty much anything you like and construct some absolutely amazing designs. It takes some time to navigate the many menus and options, however – so this will be for the more committed player. As is the way with games nowadays, there’s the option to share your best creations with friends, or download all sorts of devilishly dangerous tracks to try out – adding to the game’s replayability factor.
Overall, Screamride is and entertaining romp and a nice change from the norm. It’s a game that could so easily have incorporated Kinect controls – with players leaning, jumping and motioning at the screen to earn those all-important speed boosts – but fortunately focusses instead on the good old-fashioned controller. While the so-called Career mode will perhaps fail to lure you back time and time again, the real value in this package is to be had in the surprisingly comprehensive Sandbox. Personally, I miss all that micro-management I’ve been so used to over the years but for short bursts of pick up and play appeal, Screamride will certainly have plenty of fans.
This game was reviewed on Xbox One.
Fun, fast and unique, Screamride’s various game modes offer something for everybody.
Despite the sandbox mode and level sharing, the gameplay does get repetitive quickly. Could be cheaper
A novel title but, just like the real thing, it’s best in short bursts.
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