Following the disappointment that was Carmageddon: Reincarnation on PC, Stainless Games are back once again with another new Carmageddon title, this time one for current-gen consoles. Though, it’s not quite new, more a re-skinned version of the Kickstarter success. However, does it perform better than the PC Reincarnation, or should the past be left in the past.
Having played the original Carmageddon game back in 1997, my memory is slightly foggy. I was 9 years old playing on my friends brothers PlayStation. I don’t remember the game having any real objective, instead my friend and I just had fun racing around the game’s maps destroying as many zombies we could find.
Interestingly, my outlook on the game hadn’t changed in almost 20 years. Despite the game having objectives, I found myself having more fun seeking out groups of pedestrians and mowing them down. I also preferred to cause chaos by destroying the other vehicles too. That’s when I realised something:
The objectives in Carmageddon are supposed to be ignored and I’ve been playing the game right all along.
That being said, although Carmageddon: Max Damage is a hell of a load of fun, there’s only so much nostalgia one can take, and this game feels like a direct attempt at twanging those nostalgia heart strings, something it does well, but after a few hours of gameplay, it gets a little tiresome.
For those of you who missed out on the Carmageddon goodness back in the nineties, the game is sort of a racing game where no one actually races. Think Mad Max-style vehicles pretty much out to get each other while trying to complete objectives which no one pays attention to. During all of this, the streets are lined with pedestrians which you can mame, as well as various power-ups you can collect to make your destruction even more powerful.
Way back then, the game was shrouded with controversy due to the insane amount of gore and was banned in a number of countries. Fortunately Stainless Games decided to replace pedestrians with zombies or robots, complete with multicoloured blood to tone down the games gore somewhat.
Almost 20 years later, gore doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore and players are free to blast around the game’s arenas mowing down pedestrians, some of which trot around oblivious to the mentality, others wheel around on mobility scooters and bicycles just waiting for you to flip them over the top of your car.
It’s this childish sense of destruction which, at least for me, makes the game pretty fun. That and trying to actually win races while the AI cars are hell-bent on making things near-on impossible.
Speaking of the game’s AI, Stainless have done a good job in making sure that you can never have a good, clean race, as you’ll often find one of the little buggers just doesn’t want you to have fun and will constantly be ramming into you, smashing you into walls, or just simply pushing you around the track like an asshole. At the same time, there’s also one or two racers who are happy to complete the game’s objective, which just makes things close to impossible.
Winning or losing doesn’t really matter in Carmageddon: Max Damage, as you’ll easily find yourself progressing through the game’s 30-something chapters, each of which have around three to four races for you to complete. The races all vary too, there’s your standard lap race, an arena-style race where you must collect as many checkpoints as possible, and of course a destruction race where the sole objective is to destroy the other vehicles.
However, due to the game’s open and destructive nature, no matter which game mode you play, you’ll usually end up doing the same thing, either maming peds, destroying enemy vehicles, or trying your damnest to get out of a hole one of the asshole opponents have put you in.
Compared to the 1997 release, the game looks great. But it’d be silly to compare the two, right? Anyway. The game’s vehicles do look great, even when they’re mangled beyond recognition. The tracks and environments however… not so much. And that’s only the beginning of the problems in Max Damage.
The game’s loading times are ridiculous, for one, and the way the cars handle is borderline frustrating. For some reason, when joining a game it’ll take at least three to five minutes for a game to load, which is just ridiculous. There’s really no explanation for it either, sure the game’s vehicles look good, but it’s not quite Need for Speed quality, and the game’s levels are large, but not large enough to warrant such long loading times.
As for the vehicles. Aside from Max Damage’s own trademark red vehicle, pretty much every other car in the game is impossible to control. Nine times out of ten you’ll end up either in a ditch, upside down, or completely spinning off into a wall. This is probably the most frustrating racing game I’ve ever played as even the smallest task of reversing away from a wall can become the biggest pain in the ass, whether it’s the car just over-steering or another vehicle taking the opportunity to smash into you. It can quickly go from hilarious fun, to wanting to turn off the game and play something else.
I know no one comes to Carmageddon for a real racing experience, but with controlling your vehicle being the core part of the game, it’s a shame that it can at times be so off putting that you’d rather switch off the game than continue the slog of dragging your ass around the game. Not to mention those times where you can become seemingly glued to another vehicle as it smashes into the side of you and refuses to let go. Cue about 10 minutes of you trying your damnest to get away, until you give-in and press the X button to respawn at the last checkpoint.
While for the most part the Carmageddon: Max Damage’s lack of maturity can be pretty funny, but there are times where I found the game to be a little too adolescent and it’s clear that the game is aimed solely at 13-year-old boys. Throughout, the game often throws random phrases at you depending on certain circumstances, ramming someone from behind brings up the “Got ’em up the arse!” phrase, another is a pickup which lets your doors flap about occasionally brings up the “Get your flaps out” phrase. Finally, one that really screams “HEY TEENAGE BOYS” is the “Hot Girl on Girl Action!” phrase, which happens when you seemingly launch one female pedestrian into another.
Other things, like the Mine Shitter ability did get an audible chuckle out of me, but at times the game can feel a little too childish and can ruin the experience.
Finally, the game really shines in the multiplayer mode, as you’re no longer faced with aimless AI, instead you’re against real players with minds of their own, and it’s pretty fun to watch everyone crash in a huge heap on the first sharp corner. However, the game seems to have very little players as I only managed to find one full game during an entire weekend of playing. I’d hoped to see an improvement as the weekend went on, but sadly the online player base faded out pretty quickly.
For the most part, Carmageddon: Max Damage is only really tolerable due to the fond memories I have of the game from years gone by. If I were to pick up the game as a newbie to the series, I’m not sure I could see myself enjoying it. If you played the original, or any of the other earlier releases of the series, then I would recommend the game, for sure. However, it seems fresh eyes may not find the game as appealing.