Carmageddon has returned from the dead and it’s time to smash, crash, and trash all over again. I’m going to come right out and say it – you’re either going to love or hate Carmageddon: Max Damage; there is no middle ground. This is escapism in the purest sense. It’s a place to channel your aggression and problems by riding over pedestrians and blowing shit up. If you liked the game when it first appeared 19 years ago, still like hearing, “Up The Arse” when you bump into cars from behind, and don’t mind Xbox 360 graphics, then run to the store and pick up this game immediately. Everyone else can go ahead and spend their money on pretty much anything else.
Carmageddon: Max Damage is essentially a re-release of the PC-only Kickstarter Carmageddon: Reincarnation from last year, with 40% more content and slightly tweaked visuals. The Carmageddon event takes place in Bleak City, where the people seem to have real jobs but nevertheless have nothing to do but walk around trying to avoid the onslaught of maniacs in cars hellbent on trying to drive them over. These people (who are called “Peds”) turn into mush on the slightest impact. The surprisingly beefy career mode has you taking part in events (checkpoints, laps, ped destruction, general madness) in order to earn coins that unlock the next wave of events. You’ll lose coins for making repairs or resetting your position on the track – I found myself spending coins like crazy with no real consequence.
The six-player online multiplayer sure leaves a lot to be desired. For some reason the peds have been removed, taking away from the Carmageddon experience. Without these human sponges, what’s the point of racing? Without the peds, you realize just how terribly cars handle in the game. I thought this was because I had been given a real piece of shit car at the beginning and as I progressed I’d get something I could actually use to turn corners; that doesn’t seem to be the case. These cars are heavy and laborious in their movements, forcing you to smash on the brake button much more than you’ll probably want too. Good luck turning mid-jump. It’s an extremely frustrating and unforgiving handling model and it makes races quite difficult.
If you’re still with me and think this game is for you then the first thing you’re going want to do is hunt for Upgrade Tokens. These shiny coins are hidden on the maps and can be used to improve your car. After finding the Upgrade Tokens in each level start smashing your opponents – wrecking certain cars on certain races will give you access to new vehicles. The upgrades and new vehicles don’t fix the handling, but they do make the game more competitive.
The AI responds incredibly randomly. Some cars are hell bent on driving into you and forcing you to reset your position while others run off like a dog in a field. Why developers Stainless Games didn’t include a ram button is beyond me. Sometimes knocking out the competition can be extremely aggravating since you have nothing to do but move at a snail’s pace as you try to bump the other player into a wall.
The environments are huge (in most cases actually too big, especially for Ped Destruction and Checkpoints) and they are incredibly ugly. One level has a crashed alien spaceship, but despite me hunting for a solid hour, I couldn’t find any hidden easter eggs or mentions of aliens running around. I’ll give Stainless Games the benefit of the doubt that the graphics are deliberately made to look retro but it doesn’t help the fact that the world looks empty, poorly textured, low poly, and features some of the worst sky visuals I’ve ever seen. The loading time is also bafflingly long. Like, really long. I could have typed this whole review up in the same time it takes to load a level, which is odd because this looks like a budget title from 2007.
Now that I’ve ranted about Carmageddon and put all the problems out there, I’m going go take out my aggression by playing more Carmageddon. For all it’s faults and all it’s ugliness it is very fun to play. Sipping shots of whiskey and driving over people is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Maybe I should take my nostalgia blinders off, but every time I play this game I think back to 10-year-old Brock playing Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now in my neighbor’s living room with all my mates huddled around a gigantic computer screen while one of us stayed on the lookout hoping an adult didn’t catch us playing such a violent game. It was fun as hell back then, and it’s fun as hell now. Carmageddon II also introduced me to the band Iron Maiden and I owe it that.
Would I recommend buying this at full price… Not unless you’re a serious fan of the series. But when it inevitably goes on sale, pick it up if you need some mindless bloody fun.
OH AND DID YOU REALLY NEED TO ADD DOGS IN THE GAME?!!! It’s so bloody hard to avoid them.