Microsoft recently unleashed a demo of Frontier’s upcoming ride/destroy/build ‘em up ScreamRide for both Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners. The game’s seemingly loose narrative appears to be centred around the game’s “terrifying structures that will ensure a brighter future for mankind”, so we’ve had a look at exactly what that entails.
You’re introduced to the first area Populous Labs, where they conduct work under the guise of Screamworks, investigating the human capacity to withstand excitement and physical stress. Ultimately what this boils down to is pushing the boundaries of human experience through the medium of extreme entertainment, ie. rollercoasters and a few other rides which are purely designed to elicit screams from their inhabitants.
Carrying the tagline ‘Build, Ride, Destroy’ the demo offers a glimpse of three game modes: Screamride, Demolition Expert, and Engineer. Each of these sections offers a widely different experience to the other two. Screamride sees you steering a rollercoaster car around a track, collecting boosts while trying to cause the riders to scream without actually launching them and the car off the track – until the end of the ride that is.
You do this by using boosts at the most opportune moment, or by having the car up on two wheels, with extra points awarded for perfect starts or collecting a full quota of boost. If ever the phrase ‘on-rails experience’ was accurate it’s here, though there’s definitely fun to be had as you career around the loops, while your riders excitedly egg you on.
The Demolition Expert mode channels the spirit of the Burnout series’ much loved Crash Mode, with an added dose of Angry Birds for good measure, as you try to cause as much damage and mayhem as possible. In the demo level you’re provided with a number of pods that contain your riders, some of which are simply large balls, whilst a second type is capable of splitting into three in order to cause extra damage.
You then set your throwing contraption’s speed, aim where you want it to go and then launch your pod and its sorry inhabitants at the biggest structure you can find. Luckily the game goes into slow motion when you hold down the launch button, as at the highest flinging force you’d more often than not simply throw the pod behind you. Even with the slow motion this occurs a little too often if you’re not completely on the ball.
This was definitely the mode I had the most fun with, as the structures crumple quite spectacularly, showcasing the advanced physics engine at work. In the demo the base of each building was also lined with explosives, causing chains of destruction. In one instance I thought I’d completely missed causing any damage, but with aftertouch I was able to gently steer the pod a few metres to a nearby explosive, which then took out the whole building, much like in Burnout’s Crash mode where you think it’s all over but for chaos, and high scores, to be mere moments away.
The final mode, Engineer, tasks you with completing a half-finished rollercoaster using the available tools. As track editors go it’s relatively easy to handle though sometimes it took a bit of wrangling to make it go in precisely the direction I wanted. The editor includes some pre-made pieces, many of which are authentically named and constructed, which really help your ‘coaster to look the part. Having completed your design you then test it out, which I found useful for finding where you needed boost plates to get your car round, particularly as I liked making ridiculously high sections to drop my participants down.
Generally, I found it hilarious as the riders pop out of the horrendous coaster you’ve designed, though luckily the little sadists all jump up and want to do it again rather than appearing as mush on the ground after each ride. I’m still not entirely sure whether the aim is to keep all your riders in, but I had a lot of fun either way.
The closest comparisons design-wise the game has are firstly with Trials Fusion, which matches its future world aesthetic along with thumping electronic music, whilst each level urges repeated attempts in order to top your previous high score and I assume compete against your friends in the full release.
One of the biggest annoyances that the game inherits from its spiritual cousin is the robotic commentator, who offers ‘witty’ one-liners as you go about trying to beat your previous high-score or meet all of a level’s bonus categories. Luckily there is the option to turn it off. Beyond that, shades of Burnout, Angry Birds and Rollercoaster Tycoon all wrap together with a somewhat maniacal glee and I’m definitely interested to see what else the game has to offer when it arrives next month.