Driving with violence.
Any gamer who has been around for a while will remember Carmageddon and the disapproving frowns that it attracted from non-gamers and the more serious game players out there. A game that celebrated deliberate violence towards non-combative civilians, and also suggested that welding spikes onto your car was a good idea, it is no real surprise that Carmageddon sported such controversy. Carmageddon was great fun, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. But that was nearly 20 years ago now, and gaming tastes have changed.
But perhaps they have not changed that much, if Stainless Games’ successful KickStarter for a new Carmageddon was anything to go by. Whether it be a need for a combat-based driving game in the market, or just some sense of nostalgia, Carmageddon came barreling back onto PC in the form of Carmageddon: Reincarnation and, with a few tweaks to the reboot, has now come to consoles in the form of Carmageddon: Max Damage.
So, the appeal of Carmageddon, or the shock value if you like, comes from the chance to drive around wide open environments, which were something of a novelty back when the original game launched, and simply run over pedestrians, or “Peds” as they are known, in various different weaponised vehicles. This returns in its most basic form in Max Damage, with a huge variety of different Peds to drive into, launch into the air, or simply explode. From bikini-clad beach-goers and cows, to Nuns and the wheelchair bound, there are no depths of depravity that Max Damage won’t stoop to in the search for entertainment. Of course, it is all very tongue-in-cheek and manages to be so over the top and silly that it almost ceases to be shocking.
A nice variety of different events face the player when they play Carmageddon: Max Damage, so there is always a point to the senseless violence. The levels in which the game plays are largely of the wide open variety, although there are a few smaller arena-style levels to enjoy as well. Anyway, players may find themselves simply racing through checkpoints, targeting specific Peds, or just taking out the opposition. Or they may be given the chance to choose their own way of winning, with a choice of win conditions that give the player a chance to explore the open levels. These classic Carmageddon events are easily the most enjoyable, with the player able to choose between completing checkpoints, running down every Ped in a level, or taking out all of the opposition to win. Whichever event the player ends up in, one certainty is that it will be absolute chaos.
And a lot of this chaos comes from the vehicle handling in Max Damage. There are loads of different vehicles to unlock in the game, each offering a slightly different driving experience. But they all have one thing in common, they don’t handle well. I am not sure if this was intentional to ramp up the madness in the game, but it really does feel like driving on ice most of the time. Something as simple as taking a corner can cause vehicles to spin out, so you can imagine how frustrating it can be trying to hit specific targets or perform any other precision driving.
The craziness is further enhanced with the different mods and weapons that players can use during their matches. All manner of spiky things, razor-sharp blades and even flame-throwers will make short work of Peds or other racers, and then there are more exotic ways of messing with the Peds, such as making their heads explode or launching the vehicle into the air and landing on them from above. There is certainly the scope for experimentation in Max Damage, and no-one can doubt the developers imagination.
But all of that imagination can’t make the game look good. Unfortunately, the visuals in Max Damage are a bit of a mess. It certainly doesn’t look like a current generation console game. In fact, it only barely passes for a last gen game, with a lack of detail, ugly textures and regular glitches making the game so unattractive. This in itself is not too much of a problem, as many gamers have a place in their hearts for retro gaming, which is what this effectively is. But it could have been so much more.
Carmageddon: Max Damage is a game that seems far too much like the original source material. It doesn’t look good and the vehicle handling leaves a lot to be desired. However, the main appeal of mindless violence in vehicles remains, and for those who have the sense of humour required to enjoy this type of thing, there is fun to be had in Max Damage. However, for the average gamer who doesn’t remember the original game, Carmageddon: Max Damage is probably best avoided.