EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by William Thompson
previewed on PC
Driving cars and shooting enemy vehicles off the road as a game has been done before. One of my earlier memories on a PC was playing a game called Deathtrack with a friend of mine. It was a game where you raced your car around a track whilst also attempting to destroy opposition racers. Actually now that I think of it, I just described Mario Kart. Scraps is similar, but very different. In Scraps, you drive your modified vehicle into a combat zone and score points for destroying the enemy vehicles in thirty minute (default) skirmishes. It is a bit of fun, but as the game is in Early Access on Steam, there is still much that can be improved prior to a full release
Building your vehicle is quite simple, although a basic tutorial would be handy, giving gamers an idea on what they need to include on their vehicles and a simple round of combat to identify the basic controls. But that aside, designing your vehicular weapon is easy. You start by selecting a chassis and then adding the components on top. Components include armour, blocks (which increase the size of the vehicle), cooling, power, engines, weapons and storage tanks (for collecting more scrap). Areas where you can add parts are indicated with a plus (+) symbol, and the game does a great job of letting you know if weapon range will be blocked. Information on the right of the screen shows any deficiencies in power or cooling output.
Working out which components to use is a matter of balancing. Do you invest in power and the engine in order to improve the speed of the vehicle, or do you invest heavily in firepower in order to destroy your enemy's vehicles? All the components are necessary, as I found out quickly in one battle. I had stocked up on weapons hoping to blow the opposition away quickly. Unfortunately, I hadn't paid enough attention to the cooling of my car and it overheated quite quickly.
Hitting a target
Combat is fairly simple...aiming your weapons sometimes is not. There are a range of weapons to choose from, especially as you level up, which enable the demise of the enemy vehicles. Machine guns and a range of cannons can be mounted to your wheeled menace, but it is not just projectiles which can damage enemies. Indeed, if you can gain enough speed, ramming enemies can be a somewhat viable proposition for a quick hit. If that is your strategy, you may want to use your speed to escape from the powerful cannons as well. Weapons can be mounted so that they face different directions, essentially giving a full 360 degree protection, handy for when the opposition attempts to broadside you.
I often found that a side-facing weapon came was important, as battles usually resulted in both vehicles circling around each other as they attempted to gain the advantage. Having the side mounted weapon meant that I could put a dent in the enemy's shields before they could attack me. Of course, aiming was often dependent on which way your vehicle is facing. Especially early on, before you gain any upgrades, your weapons can only aim up or down, hence the need to circle around for the optimal attacking position. Destroying or damaging other vehicles results in spare parts being dislodged from the enemy vehicle. These scraps can then be collected in order to use as currency to purchase repairs and vehicle upgrades at an Evacuation zone.
At this early stage in its development, Scraps looks a little sparse. There are currently only three maps to choose from - a dusty wasteland that is reminiscent of scenes from Mad Max, a grassy plain, and a combination of the two. Little separates the maps though in terms of design. They each contain some hilly areas, a bridge overpass and in the case of the grassland, some tufts of grass. They each also contain a number of evacuation points whereby combatants can leave the battle to repair or improve their vehicles.
Audio too, is a little underwhelming at this early stage. Vehicles sound more like drones than the metal beasts they are. The weapon sound effects do an admirable job though, with the sound of distant and nearby machine gun and cannon fire ringing in my ears as a battle unfolds.
Performing well in the combat zone not only allows collection of the scrap, but also grants XP. Once enough XP is gained, players can then level up. Once players level up, they are granted access to new and improved vehicle components. More powerful weapons, better engines, more compact and efficient cooling and power components. Of course, one these become available in single player, the enemy AI also gains access to them keeping the game on a level playing field. And, I was forced to play much of my time with Scraps on the single player mode as the multiplayer servers are sparsely populated at this early stage.
Needs a cut and polish
Although I’ve enjoyed Scraps to a certain degree, at this point in time, the game looks and feels very much incomplete. The vehicle design works well and is quite easy to use, enabling gamers to create a multitude of designs to use in battle. Unfortunately, the combat side of things is a tad bland, as there isn’t much strategy involved in defeating enemies. The maps and landscapes do little to lighten the mood, as they too, are devoid of life. A map that has a cityscape or some large boulders to hide behind would certainly liven up the combat. I also found, when playing the single player game against multiple opponents, they would often gang up on me, which was a little annoying. I know that the developer is still working hard on improving things and I hope that by release time the game gets the touch of polish it needs.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.