It’s fair to say that the market for sadistic science coaster simulation is far from saturated.
Well, developer Frontier Developments and Microsoft Studos aims to go some way towards remedying that with their upcoming release of Screamride on Xbox One and 360.To their credit, they’ve recently released a demo on Xbox Live; a sadly rare occurrence these days. Xbox’s new “a game’s just a game” philosophy seems to have signalled the death of the 360 arcade’s excellent trial system… but that’s a lament for another day.
ScreamRide presents itself as a game of organising and executing extreme experimentation for the betterment of mankind in the form of tortuous rollercoasters and mass destruction in a shiny, techno-future.
The demo features three levels, each from different streams of gameplay; riding, destruction, and engineering. Each of these is pleasingly different. Riding is a challenge of navigating a roller coaster car from one end to the other of a looping, spiralling, mad track. You control weight distribution in the car, accelerator and braking, and the collection and judicious use of speed boost. Oh… and at the end of the track you get to fly off the end of the track and into a building which proceeds to collapse around you. It plays as a simple racer with some timing elements.
Destruction tasks you with flinging test-subject occupied objects at a complex of buildings and explosives from a techno-trebuchet. This plays out like a puzzler. The map has several hidden or obscured paths which, if you can get a projectile down them, will set off grand explosive chains and render several building at once to rubble. The buildings collapse in rather pleasing, real-time fashion and, although it’s clear once the destruction begins, that each building is built from a stack of connected, tumbling primitives, it’s still a blast to see them crumble and to hear the passive, faintly menacing voice of the game’s announcer describe the extent of the damage you have caused.
The last section presents you with an unfinished roller coaster and challenges you to complete it in as extreme a manner as you can. I must say that the interface for creating the tracks is genuinely impressive. Whatever piece you choose to place is shown as a green ghost image (red if the track intercepts another element) with an arrow at the end and a projected trajectory of any car tumbling off the end. Changing the direction and twist of the end of the track is as simple as flicking the left stick or the triggers and all of the track between the last section and your edit point automatically reconfigures, bends and twists to match. Add to this a menu of pre-built special sections (twists, rolls, etc) and it is impressively simple to design soaring, twisting, intricate tracks. Then you get to send a car of hapless test
victims subjects down the coaster to help you fine tune the most dangerous, extreme ride you can whilst still making it possible to get to the end in one piece.
Presentation wise, the cities and coasters are clean and look good, if not actually impressive. The design is fairly generic future-city stuff, but it serves it’s purpose. The test subjects who get flung around the game are regularly shown looking utterly adrenaline high, grinning madly and throwing around thumbs up; it’s kind of cool to feel that the people you’re torturing are having as much fun as you are. There’s a sense of collaborative madness to the world that’s quite appealing.
I had a lot of fun with the various modes as far as they went, but I will have to wait and see whether Frontier Developments has enough tricks up their sleeves to keep each section from becoming a one trick pony. If it was a £10/$15 or £15/$20 game, then it would be enough, but I think there’ll have to be a bit more to it to justify dropping £30/$40 for the ride.