Go back to Screamer

Written by: Rik

Date posted: March 31, 2014

My moderately sneery attitude about consoles ironically first came about after buying my very first one. Prior to that, I had been desperately envious of the Megadrive, SNES and PlayStation owning masses, seeing as the parental home was, barring the occasional handheld, a console-free zone. My natural assumption was that I had been denied access to many of the greatest games in the world, and when I left for university, I soon scraped together enough cash for a second-hand PlayStation and began acquiring copies of these ‘classics’.

In general, I felt let down, and many of them were left largely unplayed, to the extent that my PSX may as well have been called the Pro-Evo Station, as roughly 90% of my total gaming time on the grey box was spent playing some form of ISS/Pro Evolution Soccer (the other 10% being comprised of the occasional game of Gran Turismo, multiplayer Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding, and a single playthrough of Metal Gear Solid while at a loose end following final exams).

The biggest disappointment was, by far, Ridge Racer Revolution. I don’t know what I was expecting, but any (perhaps unrealistic) hopes of a slick modern racer were quickly dashed – this struck me as more of a quirky, almost laughable novelty, and I felt silly for having even bought it. (Some years later I was amused to read this alternative assessment in Edge magazine, which served only to highlight absolutely everything I do not like about Edge magazine).

Having played Screamer, though, I decided to return to the original PSX Ridge Racer with a more forgiving retro hat on, while resolving to deliver a slightly less-hysterical analysis. The first thing to say is that it is very obviously a direct influence on Screamer. All of the same core elements are there, including the enthusiastic shouty man, although this guy sounds uncannily like Reverend Lovejoy from The Simpsons.

Which is better, it’s difficult to say: both the teenage, console-hungry Rik (who would have said that Screamer doesn’t hold a candle to the best console racers like Ridge Racer, despite having not played the latter) and the sneery, twenty-something PC snob Rik (who would have said that Screamer knocks overrated console nonsense like Ridge Racer into a top hat, despite having not played the latter) would have been wrong.

My most recent, evidence-based assessment of Ridge Racer (and, yes, I have now played it, although probably not enough to offer any more than a few brief thoughts) is that, obviously, it seems rather basic now, with its approach to collisions and handling now rather unsatisfactory (much like in its PC copycat), and the drifting, in particular, is rather random and contrived.

What it does seem to have over Screamer is that sense of delivering a tightly-focused arcade challenge – two laps, win or it’s game over. You really are searching for that lightning-quick race, those flawless laps that are necessary to get to the front of the field in time, and when you don’t, there’s a certain compulsion to go back and refine your approach that isn’t often necessary in Screamer. I’m not sure that’s sufficient, though, to earn a wholehearted recommendation as the superior game.

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