Windows - 1998
Description of S.C.A.R.S. Windows
When it comes down to hype and pretentious PR talk, the games industry is beaten in these stakes only by the car industry. There are those weird adverts you get in computer mags for a start (like the mad crocodile/tongue ad for Unreal). They have very little to do with the actual game and are in many cases completely unfathomable.On top of that there are the press releases. Most punters don't get to see these foul things, but I can assure you that they aren't exactly inspiring and usually include a huge list of the features to be found within the game in question. This is okay if the press release is for a game which is actually halfway original - but if it isn't, as is usually the case, you get pages and pages filled up with lists of the most rudimentary features you'd find in anygame. I halfway expect to see a press release one day that boasts 'The main character has a GUN!' 'He moves AROUND!' 'He can be controlled with the KEYBOARD!' 'He has a HEAD!' and so on. And that's not even counting the ones that are just downright incomprehensible. However, I now believe that I have found the most bizarre game quote in the known universe in the manual for S.C.A.R.S., the new racing game from UbiSoft. It says that the cars in the game are all ' based on various creatures from the wild' . Erm, yep - that'll be in the same way that my toaster is based on the physiology of a highland cow, and my video is modelled on a kangaroo. I can only suggest that a manual writer somewhere seriously needs a break.
I think what the aforementioned writer meant to say was that the cars in S.C.A.R.S. resemble certain animals. As far as I can tell, they don't inherit any of the characteristics of the animals they are derived from, so you can select the shark car without worrying about it flailing about gasping for air as you try to shove it round the track or find the insect style car being trodden on by a giant foot. This is handy since S.C.A.R.S is actually a pretty decent racing game and it'd be a shame to have it marred by such blatant gaming oversights. S.C.A.R.S is a vaguely cutesy racer, as you drive one of several animal-fied cars around a series of brightly coloured tracks. It's a weird cross between Ubisoft's own POD and Mario Kart, with some extra bumpy and colourful courses thrown in. In fact, it bears a certain resemblance to Gremlin'sequally colourful race-em-up Buggy - with one major difference: S.C.A.R.S features weapons. Lots of them. These are scattered around the track and can be picked up by driving over them, enabling you to fire merrily away at your opponents.
Vroom with a view
But you may discard the images in your head of large scale violence, car and animal parts flying haphazzardly and general Carmageddon 2 style carnage. I should point out that flying giblets and metal bits are not found in S.C.A.R.S. The weapons are cartoonish and cutesy, including electric fences, giant magnets, red missiles and other odds and sods. In fact, the whole game is kind of cartoonish and otherworldy - playing S.C.A.R.S. is a bit like visiting the mystical land of The Magic Roundabout, stealing Dougal and co's cars, then belting around at great speed (though without the opportunity to run Ermintrude down). S.C.A.R.S. follows a similar format as other race games (barring Carmageddon), and your progress through the game depends upon your ability to speed around the courses faster than your opponents. You must beat an average of four computer opponents on each course, all driving similarly animalistic cars. Opponents will do their best to kick your virtual face in using their sometimes superior driving skills and the aforementioned weapons. They will fire these at your car or drop them on the track for you to smack into, causing you to lose valuable racing time in the process.
Fortunately, the computer controlled cars are as vulnerable as you are to well placed mines and weapons. Should you find you're dragging behind the pack you may grab a weapon and use it to take out some of the opposition. Like you, they can not be destroyed, but can be knocked over, giving you the time to nip past them laughing like a maniac before coming a cropper yourself. The game's colourful and well designed courses present plenty of opportunity for smacking into a wall or careening past the pack, depending upon how well you know the courses. This is one game where practice is definitely compulsory. The later levels can be quite hard indeed and you won't blast through them in pole position the first time. Unlike Pod's flat levels, the courses in S.C.A.R.S. are bumpy, brightly coloured and varied. You can't race off the track (a la Carmageddon 2), but that's not surprising since S.C.A.R.S. is primarily a racing game and not a demolition derby. Once you've finished playing a track you can try racing through it again under different weather conditions. Your choice of buggy also affects your finishing position on each course. You can play as any one of six animal cars (as well as two hidden cars which become available later) and each vehicle has different characteristics (speed, grip, and so on). The animal style cars have more character than anonymous cars found in Gremlin's title.
Should become bored zooming around the tracks, a multiplayer mode allows you to race against an opponent and annoy them by repeatedly letting loose electric mines and generally behaving in an unsportsmanlike fashion. S.C.A.R.S. ' split screen mode means you don't need a room of PC networks to use the multiplayer mode. In fact, even if you do have one you can't use it, since S.C.A.R.S. doesn't support TCP/IP or IPX gaming and you can't have more than two players in one game. I think the programmers could at least have made the extra effort to add such an option. S.C.A.R.S. looks nice, with plenty of slightly surreal in-game scenery. It ran smoothly on my P233MMX (faster than Buggy!), plays acceptably on a P166 with a 3DFXcard, and there is no noticeable slowdown in split-screen mode.
When it comes to gameplay, which is really what makes or breaks a game, S.C.A.R.S. easily makes the grade. It's a lot of fun to play - the track design is better than Buggy's or Pod's and the addition of weapons makes things a little more interesting (though racing purists may not agree). Nevertheless, S.C.A.R.S. is a hugely entertaining game. S.C.A.R.S. has plenty of tracks and vehicles to mess around with, a replay mode and a time attack mode. The two player mode should keep you busy for quite a while. S.C.A.R.S is colourful and chaotic, and above all, fun - and that's what really counts. In the arcade racing stakes, S.C.A.R.S. is second only to Carmageddon 2, and is well worth picking up. And when you do get to play it , remember - the game really is that weird, you're not tripping...probably.
Review By GamesDomain
Captures and Snapshots
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