Want some fries to go with that bloody cadaver on your bonnet?
Carmageddon was originally released for the PC back in 1997, and I still remember the splash it made. It was banned in the UK, Germany and here in Sweden it got pummelled pretty hard in the censorship debate. It is one of those games that is so easy to hate on, if you want to fabricate a reason to violence among the youths of the era. Alongside the Grand Theft Auto series, and the Postal games Carmageddon is perhaps the most unnecessary violent game out there. I write unnecessary in the sense of not needed for the actual gameplay. I do however find it incredibly fun to run over pedestrians, and watch the entrails smeared across a lawn. Excessive? Yes. Much like the splatter movies of the seventies, and those created by Peter Jackson with Wingnut Films blood and gore can be fun. Would it ever lead to me strapping myself into my family Citroën, and make a car killing spree across town? Nope, can’t see that happening.
The gameplay in Carmageddon is basically a 3D racer at heart, but races can be won in three different ways. The obvious is of course to complete the laps in first place. The second way is to smash the opponents into burning wreckages, and the third is to kill off all pedestrians. The race ends if you run out of time, or your car is completely toast. To gain time you have to crash into cows, pedestrians, bonus barrels or the opponents. The more deaths you manage to string together the more bonus cash, and time you receive. This actually means that you have to kill some innocent people, cattle and stray animals.
The game develops as you play it. The first races can be easily won by smashing the opponents, but soon they get harder and tougher to kill. From about the fifth race it is time to start thinking about actually completing a couple of laps to win. Earlier races can be replayed to gain more cash to use when upgrading the car. There are three stats to upgrade within: armour, power and offence. I personally go all out for offensive power to be able to attack properly. After that I go for engine power to get a good combination of speed, and smashing spikes. When in the middle of a race you can see your car getting beaten up in the top right corner. Tapping it repairs it, but you have to make sure not to run races at a loss of cash.
Killing all the pedestrians is hard due to the fact that they tend to avoid getting piledrived by huge cars. There are also quite a lot of them around, actually hundreds. A counter at the top of the screen shows how many are left. I remember trying to kill all the pedestrians when I played it on my PC back in the day. It takes a lot of time to do it, and after about fifteen minutes I gave up with several hundred kills on my conscience. The challenge is not that it is hard, but rather that it takes so much patience. And at times the opponents tend to show up for a fight as well, and all of a sudden you have managed to waste them all without even aiming for it.
Carmageddon is not that great when it comes to handling, and having played so many great racing games since the original game came out this is even more evident today. The physics is off, and it feels like the car sits on a swivel point in the middle of it. Much like spinning a plate on a stick. Taking the corners in style is quite hard, and not even using the handbrake does much to give it that rally feeling. A lot of backing up, and then taking off is needed in this game.
The controls are good with two-touch control, and one tilt setting that can be combined for steering and braking/accelerating. I personally found that having an analogue slider for steering, and a digital brake and gas pedal was my best bet for success. Most players will be able to fine-tune a setting to their liking.
The graphics are just as bad, as they were back in 1997 and I love it. If the developer had gone for a remake it would be really hard to keep the level of gore at a humorous level. Splatting cows have to be a pixelated affair not to start that censorship debate again. Some cool improvements that come with a touchscreen setup can be seen such as swiping from the left to get a full screen map. Other than that the classic is all here with the taunts, and trash talking intact.
For those who can’t get enough of gore there is a cool replay feature allowing you to record your worst splats. I can see people creating quite nasty, and funny vids using this feature.
Carmageddon has never been a great racing game, not in 1997 and not in 2012. It is however some of the most fun you can have on four wheels in a game. I have already had more fun playing this game than I have ever had in Real Racing or Need For Speed. Sure the gameplay differs greatly, but when I play games it is about having fun. Carmageddon spits at realism, farts at proper handling and pees on fair play, and that is just how I like it.
Carmageddon goes live on October 17th, but for now enjoy Nigel´s hands-on driving below.