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Screamer 4x4

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Developer: Virgin Interactive
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 4 (LAN/Internet TCP/IP)
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:

When it comes right down to it, Screamer 4x4 may have some plain graphical environments at first glance, but when you consider the vast amount of space each level has, it is understandable that the ground is basically smooth. There are some terrific effects in the game, though. Lighting and weather effects help to give a great feeling of depth, while smoke and dust effects come full-circle in their own right. Car and driver models are also quite impressively rendered. Unfortunately, there is a very noticeable problem with 'pop-up' graphics is the distance. The biggest problem with this is that you will need to carefully plan a strategy for navigating mountains, but because of the 'pop-ups,' need to be close enough for the mountains to be drawn on the screen.

Screamer 4x4's sound elements are actually very lacking. Sure, you have your typical engine sound and crash noises, but it feels like there should be more. One nice feature is that as you are working your way through rally courses, your navigator (there are two of you in the car) will give some simple speech phrases to let you know about upcoming obstacles. This is helpful to you so that you can learn in advance whether you will need to drive carefully or if you are in the clear and can open the throttle and gun it.


Gameplay:

Screamer 4x4 offers 6 different (huge!) environments with many different courses on each for some wicked 4WD action. Think of Screamer as Smuggler's Run for the PC, but instead of 'running errands,' it's you against the clock (and other opponents). The heart of the game is essentially a Rally Race. Scattered throughout the huge 3D terrains will be sets of narrow checkpoints that must be navigated. Miss a checkpoint, and you are penalized. Hit a marker with one of your 10 licensed four-wheel drive vehicles, and also get set back in the standings. It takes a great measure of speed and caution to become a great driver in Screamer.

Screamer 4x4 has many options for your driving excitement. Along with the 'Championship' mode, you also can choose to take a 'Free Drive,' work the 'Tutorial,' or practice in 'Trophy' mode. Also included is the 'Pathfinder' mode, which allows you to take on a race in which you must go through checkpoints scattered farther apart in the level than normal, letting you have more control over the path you choose to get to them. But you will be spending most of your time working your way through the ranks on your way to becoming the grand champion. Along the way you will be earning much needed upgrades to your vehicles, as well as the vehicles themselves. But certainly don't think it's a cakewalk, because you'll have to navigate some of the toughest crevices, water gullies, and near-vertical cliffs ever seen in a video game to date.

Along with the main single-player modes, Screamer 4x4 also features five multi-player modes with their own unique courses. 'Catch Up' is essentially a mode where terrain domination is key. Run over the markers and hold your position to win. 'Destruction' allows for some intense smash-em-up action. Destroy your opponent's car to win. 'First to Point' is exactly what it sounds like. Be the first to pick up poles to win. 'King of the Hill' is a mode of sheer, brute force. Just like you played as a child, the object is to push each other from the hill. And, finally, 'Off-Road Rally' is your basic race through circular tracks.


Difficulty:

Screamer 4x4 actually has a fairly easy learning curve. Anyone can jump right in to play, but it will take some practice to learning the little idiosyncrasies of the game. Knowing when to put the pedal to the metal and when to drop down into a lower gear becomes absolutely critical. If you enter a steep mountain slope too hot or at a nasty angle, and you can forget about reaching its crest and may likely tumble down into a moving pile of parts. I think it's fair to say that the overall difficulty of Screamer 4x4 is much higher if you choose to use the keyboard to control your vehicles rather than a steering wheel or gamepad.

Game Mechanics:

When first testing out Screamer 4x4 with the standard keyboard controls, I found myself struggling with even simple movements like steering. Quite frankly, using the keyboard's arrows to navigate a course that requires precise controls is absurd, and you won't be able to enjoy Screamer to its full extent. Therefore, I highly recommend using an analog gamepad or (force feedback) steering wheel to appreciate Screamer 4x4's refreshing gameplay. If you're sick of the same old style that most racing games offer, then you may want to pick up Screamer 4x4.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:



Pentium II 233MHz; Windows 95/98/ME; 32MB RAM; 500MB free Hard Drive space; 4x CD-ROM; DirectX 7.0a (included); DirectX compatible graphics card with at least 8MB of memory; DirectX compatible Sound Card; Microsoft compatible Mouse, Keyboard
 

Test System:



Pentium II 400MHz CPU; Windows 98 SE; 256MB 100MHz SDRAM; Creative's 3D Blaster Annihilator 2 32MB 3D-Accellerator AGP Video Card (nVIDIA geForce 2 chipset); Ensoniq AudioPCI sound card; DirectX 8.0a; using Hewlett Packard CD-Writer Plus 9100 (reads 32x, writes 8x, rewrites 4x) as main CD-ROM; 1 gameport; 2 USB ports; ThrustMaster FireStorm Dual Power Gamepad (USB connection); 56k modem

Windows Rally Trophy Windows Sim Golf

 
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