The first Carmageddon was released just less than 20 years ago. If memory serves me well, it was always part of the video game violence controversy, and was banned in certain countries for its encouragement of taking lives and rewarding you to do so. However, 20 years is a long time, with times changing and increased desensitisation in all kinds of media, can Carmageddon regain the impact it once had?
Carmageddon: Reincarnation was crowd funded just over 4 years ago, and was released last year on PC. The console version of this has been subtitled Max Damage, and is a beefed up version of the same game.
There is no story to speak of, although the only selectable option to begin with is the “Career” mode. Playing through this unlocks cars, levels and game modes for the free-play mode. I found this quite frustrating; artificially locking the content away in this way is a very retro way of doing things, but I suppose it does force you to play through a lot of the game. The career mode is broken up in 16 stages, each one needs to also be unlocked by earning enough points in the previous stage. Again, this was annoying, despite getting first place, you might not have enough points to progress, which is simply bad calculating on the developers’ part. It is made worse as the challenges within the mode don’t vary greatly, especially at the start of the career mode.
Classic Carma, Death Race, Checkpoint Stampede, Ped Chase, Car Crusher and Fox ‘N’ Hounds are the six modes you will be playing over and over again in the single player mode, with the last three unlocking later in the Career mode. My favourite by far was Checkpoint Stampede. As with every mode you race against five other computer controlled cars rushing to pass through a randomly placed checkpoint. It can be incredibly thrilling when all players are rushing to the checkpoint from multiple directions.
By far the best designed part of this game are the levels. They are brilliantly designed with loads of hidden paths, areas and filled with quirky characters and settings. Not only are the stages fairly open, they also contain a good amount of verticality, and in some levels you can even drive up walls! The large levels sound like a good idea, however, when you are only racing against five other players, it is hard to find them and combat them. I found myself either pulling ahead of the pack and then never seeing them again, or falling so far behind in races that a restart would be required. This leads me to the load times; which to put it simply, they are horrendous, ranging from 40-seconds to a minute and 11 seconds.
Despite the level design being pretty good, sadly, the graphics are not. Bordering on last generation visuals, and poor sound design, there really isn’t much here that will grab you from an aesthetic stand-point. The cars are interesting, but there are only 27, which you can unlock by “wrecking” a specific opponent in one of the events. Although I found I played half of the game before I even got one, due to the fact that racing to the finish line is the fastest way to finish and win an event. As mentioned before, you will find yourself pulling so far ahead that your opponents are nowhere to be found apart from when you lap them, or for some reason one will pin themselves right behind you for minutes and it is nearly impossible to get away without using the “reset” car feature, which can be abused to get better times in races. The power-ups or “PUPs” are completely useless too, the weapons feel limp and weak and are scattered in location on the maps that are so far away from where the other players are you rarely get the chance to use them effectively.
The controls are a little loose too, and the game doesn’t give you the feedback you desire when two large vehicles collide, and the instant repair option takes away any threat or sense of challenge presented in this simple game.
Carmageddon: Max Damage is a dull and unattractive game, and a game that plays poorly. There are worse games out there, and if you aren’t a fan of the series you may regret the purchase. Perhaps there was a reason no publishers were willing to fund this game. If you aren’t a big fan of the Carmegeddon series, I’d recommend you avoid this game. PC games who played Reincarnation will not find much reason to purchase Max Damage on consoles either if they own them
- Replay Value