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Like your racing action fast, frantic, drifty and without all that pesky realism? If so, Screamer is the kind of game aimed at you. Clearly inspired by Namco’s Ridge Racer games, Screamer made good use of the high-end PCs of the time to deliver a fast texture mapped 3D racing experience that, visually at least, console gamers of the era could only dream of.
Screamer is a MS-DOS game and cannot run natively on modern versions of Windows. To run the game, you should use the MS-DOS emulator DOSBox. Gamers who purchased the game from GoG.com can simply install it and play. If you’re using an original retail CD, you will need to set up DOSBox yourself. If you’re not familiar with DOSBox, see our tutorials here.
To install Screamer in DOSBox, follow our basic DOSBox tutorials. The installation program on the Screamer CD-ROM is called “SETUP”.
When installation is finished, you may find that DOSBox crashes, that’s okay. Quit DOSBox for now as we need to edit the configuration file. Follow our tutorial here to create a custom configuration file. There’s just one line you need to change to get Screamer to work. Find the line that reads “cycles auto” and change it to read “cycles=fixed 150000” (do not copy the quotation marks). Save your configuration file after making this change and start DOSBox again.
With DOSBox started and your drives all mounted, enter the following commands.
C: cd screamer setup
This will launch the games setup utility. If DOSBox freezes or crashes when launching this program, you need to go back and make sure you changed the configuration file correctly, as detailed above. The games setup program is shown below.
Use the arrow keys up and down and enter to change an option. Starting with the easy stuff first, move to the topmost option and make sure “Screen Mode” is set to “SVGA”. We’ll skip controls for the moment and move directly onto “Sound Card”. Selecting this option will cause the following screen to appear.
Setting up sound cards on old PCs used to be a chore, but luckily DOSBox takes most of the pain out of the process. Simply select the “Auto Detect” option and the program should choose “SB16 ST Port:220 DMA:1 IRQ:7”. Choose “Test Sound” to make sure it’s working correctly. Music should be set to CD-ROM to allow the game to play the CD audio soundtrack. When you are done setting these options, press escape. When you are done configuring the games settings, hit escape and type Y to confirm that you want to save your changes. Before you leave the configuration tool though, you may want to look at setting up controls.
Screamer is compatible with both keyboard and joystick. If you want to use keys, it’s simply a matter of using the configuration tool and setting them up to your preferences. If you want to use a gamepad or joystick, things might get a little more complicated. If you have an Xbox or Playstation style controller with analogue triggers, you can use the DOSBox controller mapping tool (Control+F1, as discussed in Step 7 of this tutorial) to map left and right on the analogue stick to left and right on the virtual DOSBox joystick, and the analogue triggers to up and down on the virtual DOSBox joystick. However, if you do this you will find that you cannot accelerate and brake at the same time. In some driving games this is essential for performing fancy manoeuvres, but we’re not actually sure how critical this is when playing Screamer.
To get around this problem and to make the game more couch-gaming friendly, we can use our old friend Xpadder. Below is the profile we created for the game.
By assigning the keys Z and A to the analogue triggers, we get around the problem of not being able to use the throttle and brakes at the same time. By binding the arrow keys to the d-pad we can navigate the games menus, and finally by putting the escape key on the back button we can exit a race and quit the game when we’re done. With this configuration all set, all you need to do is go into the games “Controls Setup” menu within the configuration utility and set the controls appropriately to match. Don’t forget to unbind the analogue triggers in the DOSBox joystick settings if necessary.
With controls configured, hit the escape key to leave the setup utility, saving your changes before you quit. You can now start the game by typing “screamer” into the DOSBox window. High detail mode should be set by default (you can check in the games Options menu) so no further configuration should be necessary.
Screamer’s handling model and its simple physics engine can put a lot of new players off. Learning to control the cars under drifting is a lot more difficult than we expected. The trick seems to be not to compensate too much as the back end of the car starts to slide out. It certainly takes some practise, but it can be mastered making this a fun little retro racer for power slide fetishists.
Click on any screenshot to enlarge it.