Scraps: Modular Vehicle Combat is just what it says on the tin: build a car, fight, collect scrap from your fallen foes, hit the evac point with your pickings, repair and revise your vehicle, then get stuck back in.
Notice that's "revise," instead of "upgrade"? You aren't just limited to what you started with in a match. If your current strategy isn't working well, and you have the scrap reserves to pay for it, you can redesign any or all of your vehicle before rejoining the match. Up to seven other players, and/or bots, if the host wants, will be doing the same.
The way you build and operate your vehicles is a lot like Kerbal Space Program: click parts to attachment points, check your center of mass, fiddle around with it some more, and then go out to learn how it actually fares under the dictates of the physics engine. If your chassis or cockpit are destroyed, your vehicle bites the dust, but if you try to turtle up that's what you'll end up with—an unmaneuverable, slow beastie of a target.
Which, if your design is good enough, might actually work. It's up to how you want to drive, how good you are at it, and how well you can put a vehicle together that will do what you need it to.
Want a ramming machine? Try "The Mullet," with spikes (the business) in front and multiple engines (the party) in back. I shouldn't take credit for it, though; that's one of the suggested designs you'll see in the short and informative tutorial screens. Not the name, though. That particularly shameful reference is something I'll just have to live with.
Or you could take a shot with turreted plasma cannons atop a light, manueverable number, and try to wear down the armor-hogs while weaving through their return fire. For both ballistic and energy weapons you'll probably want to invest in power generators and cooling sinks, though the energy side is really what's dependent on them.
Regardless of what and how you play, the unintrusive HUD shows your speed, selected weapon, a running tally of collected scrap, plus bars for damage, heat and power levels.
Scrap collection is central to Scraps, being what you use for repairs and upgrades both during and between matches, essentially the eponymous game currency. But it doesn't just appear in your account if you run it over, like you see with the play mechanics in a lot of other games. It goes into your inventory, and if you get killed before you can reach an Evac pad, it becomes part of the wreckage other players get to farm off your aluminum corpse.
Controls are the exceptionally simple WASD standard, with mouse movement for weapons with controllable arcs (e.g., turrets) and left-mouse to fire whatever you've got selected. There's also a choice of two camera modes and the option to use console-style controllers.
During a match, you also score points for kills, with multipliers piling on if you start racking up a streak. Assist points are also built in to lessen the sting of having your kill "stolen."
So how's it play? During my first match, against two medium-strength AI, I didn't think I was doing very well. My first stab at a custom design—with three linked light-MGs up front and two in the back, plus twin engines and a single layer of armor everywhere I could put it— took a hell of a beating. My guns were shot away ... then the armor ... then I lost an engine. I found myself dodging, spinning around the AI—which was very tenacious, whether they went after me or each other—and making opportunity ram attacks even though I hadn't built for that.
It can be grueling. "Repair" doesn't mean "replace stuff that's been completely blown off." That's all just GONE, and you have to buy it again at full price ... if you can afford it. Over the course of half an hour of charging in, ramming, grabbing what you can, putting a new gun on and sniping until it's shot off before running for your life again, you'll find your vehicle slowly whittling down to a bare nub of what it had been to start.
Yet I won that match, hands-down.
See, that multiplier for not dying kicked in, as did the assist points. Failing to make kills isn't as important as not being killed, so it turns out that "tenacious bastard" is at least one viable play style. If you're killed outright instead of escaping via the evac pad, you come back in a brand-new copy of your vehicle, or you can choose from a list of others, but it really costs you.
Combat also earns you experience, unlocking new parts to use for more interesting vehicles and new strategies. Initially, your choices will be quite limited, but equipment unlocks will begin to take place even before your first match is over.
Of course, no one's going to want to fight bots except for practice. So how's the multiplayer?
Well, there's options for going either LAN or online, and anyone can host a match. You can even launch the game in server mode, so you're not reliant on anyone else keeping server farms up if you want another match ten years from now. Official servers exist for Western and Eastern United States, as well as New Zealand. Here's where Scraps truly shines, since there's no such thing as a modular-play gamer who's going to settle for stock layouts! Your mettle will be tested in a forum where anyone on the Internet can demonstrate how much they hate you via use of a creatively-placed autocannon.
Naturally, here's where the big fat disclaimer about "early access games" goes.
You are not getting a polished, end-product game, and it shows. The in-game music is catchy enough and the menus are easy to navigate, but the sound effects of "vrumm" and "ert!" are clearly placeholders, as are many, if not most, textures. Arenas can be somewhat claustrophobic, with some prone to developing chokepoints that even the AIs will keep scuffling over unless you taunt them into a chase. You might find turning on the "low gravity" option puts a nice twist on things, but otherwise the maps are pretty simplistic right now. Combat will be samey until you start unlocking parts and leveling up, so this is a game you'll need to invest some time into before it starts to sink its hooks in.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. If you're looking for a game that rewards tinkering, planning and twitch-based execution, you could do worse than try out this scrappy little contender.
What, you thought you were getting out of this article without a rotten pun?
DISCLOSURE: The author obtained this game via a review key made available to TechRaptor by Moment Studio.