Screamride Preview

Setting the bar really high. 

Jorg Neumann, the executive producer on Screamride broke it down for me. "We asked the Roller Coaster simulation fans what they wanted, and the number one thing was to blow it up." I didn't just hear this from Jorg, but from a few other journalists, who mentioned their favorite thing about Roller Coaster Tycoon had been building incomplete or dangerous coasters and watching their riders plummet into oblivion with glee.

If that doesn't perfectly describe the goals of Screamride, it's only because the game removes mortality from the equation by giving the riders cartoon character-like invulnerability. Screamride is, to try and come up with a suitable analogy, like a cross between Boom Blox and one of those VR roller coaster simulators that makes people fall down on YouTube. It's a physics-based roller coaster building-smasher developed by Frontier Developments (the same company that made Roller Coaster Tycoon 3). There are three campaign modesScreamrider, Demolition Expert, and Engineerand an open Build mode, all of which respectively highlight the game's four pillars: "Build, Ride, Destroy, Share."

Screamrider involves riding the crazy coasters, for which you control the acceleration, weight distribution, and speed boosts. Points are earned for getting up on two wheels without flying off the track, collecting boost at the right moment, and other individual track goals—which sometimes include destruction. While this starts off simply enough, in later levels it becomes a challenge to know when to boost and break, how far and long you can get up on two wheels (sometimes which you must do to avoid obstacles), and when to smash something at the right time for the right damage. 

Demolition Expert involves using carnival-esque launchers to fling the riders—inside of a variety of different "cabin" types—at buildings and other destructible structures for mass points similar to the same idea as Pain. Built on man-made islands, the buildings crumble like nothing else in a game, looking and acting like real building destruction. Frontier Entertainment rebuilt their physics engine to accommodate 50,000 individual parts, so when they collapse, even though they're blocky and made of simple shapes, there's a higher degree of realism to how they fall. As an bonus, you get extra points for flinging one of the cabins into a blimp or the incredibly fast and tiny boat that circles the destructive area.

Engineer gives the player build challenges, where they have to create a track either between two points on the map. The goal is to have the most screams from your riders while flinging as few of them from the ride as possible, while avoiding nausea. In some levels this also involves building the best track to fling the cars and riders at buildings and other structures for maximum damage. Neumann told me that the build controls had to be simple and accessible; he stated that the time it took to build in LittleBigPlanet, Minecraft, and other building games was just too long. The tools they've built are fast and intuitive, with a light learning curve and easy drop-in play.

Sceamride has mostly a soft story that takes place in the background during the campaign. In the future, people have become bored and a company, Screamworks, has emerged to give them these thrills. Neumann and Producer Erin Davis let slip that this is only partially true, that Screamworks' ulterior motive is preparing humans for the rigors of space exploration (hence the increased G-forces, etc). 

Build mode gives you not only the track, but all the tools for creating structures as well. When they gave these to their QA testers, they sent back giant buildings of characters like Master Chief. Build mode uses the same editor that the Campaign mode levels were built with, giving players the same power as the developers. Davis mentioned that they hope the creation mode, which provides a lot of power to the players (making the buildings is a lot like playing with Legos) really takes off.

Screamride is set to explode into players' Xbox 360 for $29.99 and Xbox One for $39.99 on March 3.