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SCARS (PC) Review

Background Info

Ubisoft seems to have a lot of imagination, and with S.C.A.R.S., it really shows. Set in a future where the world is ruled by supercomputers who combat their boredom by building race cars based on animals, this title really stretches the 'Sports' description. It does, however, involve trying to get from point A to point B faster than your opponent, so racing does describe it...

Presentation/Graphics : 84
In both 3Dfx and D3D modes, the graphics are sharp, colorful, and somewhat unique. I saw a definite resemblance to the visuals in Redline Racer, although slightly more cartoonish and bright, and with more widely varied terrain. The tracks do look good, with the racing surface clearly visible most of the time, and marked by arrow signs where it isn't. The cars are definitely different--each is based on an animal, such as the Shark, Elephant, and Lion--and the structure of the car reflects this. Realism issues aside, the car shapes and textures are quite good, and provide an easy way to tell the cars apart. Particle and lighting effects are fairly well done, with mud flying and water splashing. Graphically, this is no standout, but it is a solid effort.

Presentation/Audio : 58
Nothing fancy here. The music isn't too inspired, and the cars sound flat and dead, like they never get much above idle speed. This won't be pushing the limits of that fancy new sound card.

Interface/Options : 72
Anyone who has ever sat down with a console title will feel at home with the interface S.C.A.R.S presents. The layered menus are easy to use, and effective, but not very elegant. The only problem I ran into was in the controller setup--no matter what I did, it wouldn't allow use of my wheel or programmable gamepad. I had to program the gamepad to emulate keyboard commands in order to use it. This could definitely be done better, and the controller interface seems rushed and unfinished.

Gameplay : 80
I found the gameplay in S.C.A.R.S. to be somewhat eclectic, with the ominous future setting and weaponry combined with the cartoony graphics. Imagine a hybrid of Mario Karts and Powerslide--that is the overall feel here. Apart from this personality conflict, this one seems aimed at a younger audience, and my 7-year-old was entranced--I am assuming this means Ubisoft hit the mark.

There are 9 tracks in the game, and the environments are varied from lavabeds to underwater, providing a good variety. There is nothing special about the layouts but they afford a decent challenge even so. The biggest problem is the fact that braking is almost unnecessary on all the tracks, and the AI cars seem to follow the perfect line at all times. This can make passing a touchy issue.

Each of the 9 cars is unique, with grip, acceleration, and speed characteristics. You have to choose wisely for the track at hand, as some will be much faster at a given location. The cars do feel different, and call for a unique approach to get the most out of them. The weapons are featured prominently, and allow you to make some creative passing maneuvers, but I spent most of my time in S.C.A.R.S. with them disabled. Call it personal preference, but racing and shooting don't mix.

Multiplayer is limited to 2 player splitscreen. Come on, Ubisoft, this isn't s PSX title, and any PC game of this sort needs modem play as a minimum. Not very inspired.

All that said, I really don't see this as a racing title. First and foremost it is a car combat game, like Carmageddon, but not as sinister. It is still possible to have some fun with this, and the kids will love it.

Difficulty : 88
They pretty much hit this one on the nose. The AI seems to provide a stiff but fair challenge, and I never got frustrated with the difficulty level. If anything, it could be harder, but once again I think the target audience is younger kids, and will suit them fine. The 3 difficulty levels are progressive, and will provide some replay value.

Overall : 76
I have mixed feelings about this one. I don't think it's a good choice for a racing fan, and it falls well short of the better arcade racers out there. On the other hand, it is a well produced product (other than the sound and controller issues), and can provide some enjoyment for those seeking a lighter driving experience. Where it really scores, though, is with the preteen set--if you need a racing game for someone of that age, S.C.A.R.S. may be a good choice for you.

By: Scott Moore 2/4/99

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