Have You Played… Screamer?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Some games, years later, I can still remember what was remarkable about them. I played Screamer when I was very young, but the truth is I’m not sure there was anything remarkable about it. It was a fast and attractive arcade-style racing game on PC at a time when there weren’t many of those, I think, but what made love it was the rivalry it inspired between my brothers and I.

My brothers are both substantially older than I am, which means the rivalry was mainly between both of them. I was on the periphery, playing the game a lot but without the dexterity to compete with the times they’d set on each laps.

At first, anyway. I think what I lacked in skill I made up for in tenacity. Probably this is because I was the younger brother and so it mattered much more to me that I be taken seriously, but I spent hours and hours over days, weeks and months playing Screamer and trying to get closer and further than their times. I succeeded, if memory serves, but only after the point where both of them had lost interest.

So how much credit does Screamer deserve for my memories and fondness of it, and how much of it was simply a case of the right game appearing at the right time? It was definitely fast moving and I liked that. The screenshots of it look colourful now, like a somewhat grimier Ridge Racer or Outrun. But the truthful answer is that I’ve no idea. It doesn’t matter to me.

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22 Comments

  1. ikehaiku says:

    Rroooar (engine revving) …rrRRRRRRWhooooo (guitar whammy bar). The intro music will probably be deep ingrained in my head till the end of time. The entire soundtrack was awesome…in its cheesy 90’s FM rock way. And you could put the game CD in a audio CD player, and it would play the soundtrack. We found it so cool with my brother.

    If I remember correctly, the main issue with the game is that it launched about at the same time than the very first Need For Speed…which did, well, more. Screamer was a bit limited in scope.

    • ikehaiku says:

      A quick check give me October of 1995 for Screamer, and August 1995 for the DOS version of Need For Speed.

    • hanshanshans says:

      The trouble with Need for Speed was that the graphics made an awkward attempt at photorealism and didn’t really convey a convincing sense of speed. Screamer felt much faster and smoother. I still loved NfS a lot, though. NfS II tried and failed to find a middle ground between the two. Stupid 1997 me bought it at full price at launch. Get off my lawn.

  2. GWOP says:

    Wow, look at the amount of body roll on that Porsche.

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      He was doing 329 km/h, to be fair :D (But yes… my god!)

  3. fish99 says:

    Screamer was alright. Screamer 2 though was freakin fantastic! Why are there no racing games like Screamer 2, or POD, around these days? :(

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      Good question, that.

      Incidentally, wasn’t POD one of the first games to use the MMX instruction set?

      • LionsPhil says:

        I remember them making a big thing of that, yes.

        (Which probably means it was technically incorrect, and some game nobody’s heard of beat it to the punch.)

        • spacedyemeerkat says:

          According to Wikipedia it was one of the first to support the instruction set, and was given away with some computers for that very reason.

          The article also reminded me of 3DFX; breathtaking at the time. Gah, having two different graphics cards, that’s right, with a pass-through cable.

      • fish99 says:

        POD was also the very first game I saw with 3D acceleration (shortly followed by GLQuake and Tomb Raider) on my new Orchid Righteous 3D, and it was the first racing game I played online.

        It was a cool game actually, good track designs with multiple paths, nice sci-fi aesthetic with cutting edge visuals, techno music, fun handling etc, plus they released loads of extra cars and tracks for free.

    • Optimaximal says:

      This. Screamer was a graphics-demo (I remember a lot of big name publications in the UK giving it extra graphics plaudits because of the skybox reflection) but Screamer 2 was a much better game.

      It still had the graphics but also had the handling model and AI to make a game out of it.

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      yhancik says:

      I remember playing the Screamer 2 demo a lot lot lot lot lot – even if it was just one track :p
      But I played even more POD. I don’t know if it really was a great racing game, but I was totally taken by the aesthetic and the music! link to youtube.com

  4. spacedyemeerkat says:

    I remember playing Screamer on release. The graphics were amazing back then.

  5. Megazell says:

    I own this game from a Humble Bundle but I’ve never played it. Looks like it works on Linux, so I am going to install it tonight.

  6. der_Zens0r says:

    Screamer was one of the first games I owned on PC and it was hard when I first couldn´t start it because of too little extended memory…

    But the game was so great. I found it to be so much better than NFS because it ran at insane fps, NFS didn´t. What was also remarkable were the tracks for me. They were no boring raceways but beautiful tracks with different themes and planes, helicopters and things like that moving above or near the track while you were racing. I still miss tracks like these in racing games today :(

  7. thaquoth says:

    I just now realized that Screamer is what was released in good ol’ Germany as “Bleifuß” (literally: lead foot. yknow. pedal to the metal. driving fast with things.) which I played a bunch as a wee lad.

    And it’s on GOG! Rejoice! Now that old question if I want to just preserve that memory or not…

    • Konservenknilch says:

      For the longest time, I thought it was a german game because of this. I remember being blown away by the smoothness and the graphics on my new Pentium 100 back then (jumped from a 386). The aforementioned P.O.D. was another huge leap in graphics. I’m not a driver, but I miss this kind of funracer.

  8. jonfitt says:

    Oh man Screamer, that takes me back. It came out the summer after I got my first PC. It was a time when Sega Rally was at every arcade and this kind of arcade racer was really cool.
    Racing games really started to take off when they could be fully 3d.

  9. Raoul Duke says:

    Screamer was ok. Screamer Rally was a goddamn masterpiece.

  10. Simbosan says:

    Screamer 2 and Screamer Rally were both intense white knuckle stuff and also had storming soundtracks. I still have the soundtrack and play it regularly, it’s that good. I’ve enjoyed few driving games as much since, finding the ‘perfect line’ was such a joy in both these games

  11. Thispose09 says:

    NICE GAME!

  12. Michael Fogg says:

    if only someone made a draw distance mod…