I’ll tell you right now -- I love Carmageddon. It’s been the only racing game I actually wanted to play since the original one came out -- a tale of smashing, bashing and zombie killing. Like Destruction Derby with squishy people. When the PC reboot Carmageddon Reincarnation came out, my PC was sadly unequipped to give it the review it deserved. Unfortunately it didn’t fare too well on a fully capable PC either…
I slowly managed to log a bunch of hours in Reincarnation, but my PC still wasn’t up to snuff -- so I got excited when Max Damage was announced. Even though they had fixed it up a little, Reincarnation still didn’t perform well, so I was looking forward to playing some new-gen Carmageddon at the speed it was meant to be played at.
Which is why I was so upset to find that it still takes between 45 seconds and one and a half minutes to load races. Don’t get me wrong, it’s much longer for Reincarnation, but Max Damage isn’t being read from a disc. I was given a digital download code, so this is all on the PlayStation 4 hard drive.
That said, the maps are huge and populated by 200-600+ pedestrians (herewithin referred to as peds, which covers animals too) and five other racers. It’s not entirely excusable, given the original Carmageddon also had these things and took seconds to load (and performs the same on Android as it was on PC), but at least there is more variety in Max Damage. You may have caught one of the several pre-launch trailers showing off the different types of peds available -- cyclists, wheelchairs, old people… They’re always spread pretty well across the maps.
In a Classic Carma race, you can spend upwards of four hours searching for peds. I know this, because I did it. You can win by either racing through the checkpoints, destroying your opponents, or splatting every single one of the peds on the map. Which you can’t see on the map, you have to locate yourself -- or find the one power-up barrel that makes them show up.
There are other events, most of which require you to be somewhere before anyone else. Ped Chase sees you splatting a random ped first, and Checkpoint Race has glowing checkpoints appearing across the map that you have to reach first. There is also Death Race which required you to finish a number of laps first. All three modes can also be finished by stealing points from your opponents.
Car Crusher sees you destroying a set amount of opponents before they do, and the final game mode Fox & Hounds, which sees you being the fox, and the others having to smack into you to become the fox themselves.
One of the fun things about the Classic Carma mode is that it is basically free roam mode. As you’re exploring to try and kill all the peds, you will come across upgrade tokens, which you spend on either Power, Offense or Defense, with four upgrades available for each category on each of the 27 vehicles. I found about 30 upgrade tokens on one map -- I was practically tripping over them!
Another bonus to wasting your fellow racers, is that you get to steal their cars -- the only way to get new vehicles. If you’re able to steal it, it will tell you before the race and allow you to plan accordingly. This is the only way you can get out of your Eagle-R or Hawk-R, and experience something with more power, stronger armour or special abilities.
Both the Eagle and the Hawk have a blade along the top, which lets you slice peds, but other vehicles have different offensive capabilities. There’s one with wheel-mounted tyre blades, another with an electro-ray to blast peds, and even one with a Cutman-like pair of scissors on the front. As your opponents can’t repair like you can, taking out their wheels is a surefire way to win most races.
Honestly though, it’s not easy to lose most of the time. As I mentioned, you can repair for a price, and if you’re stuck upside down you can recover yourself -- or flip yourself pretty easily, depending on the gravity, by holding the recover button. That’s not to say it’s a simple job, as some opponents take a lot of punishment… You earn money by damaging or wasting opponents, squashing peds or popping barrels: all three of which also give you extra time in some events.
In fact, if you do go hunting for peds, and pop enough barrels, the clock will go well over 100 minutes -- and a Classic Carma bout can basically last as long as you want. See my four hour example…
One thing that I loved about the Carmageddon 2 demo back in the early 90s, was splitting cars in half. Sure, the PC I used could only do about two frames per minute (which was why I only played the demo), but it was hilarious to see it happen. Thankfully Max Damage has that mechanic in it, allowing you to split a car in half. This, in my opinion, is why the graphics look the way they do. There’s only so much deforming that an engine can do. Just look at Grand Theft Auto V -- the cars get bashed around, but are still pretty identifiable as cars, because the game has so much going on. Max Damage has peds to splat and cars to compact into mug-sized cubes!
Although there is a multiplayer mode, it really just feels like a cutdown version of the single player game. The same races are available, but there are no peds. The lack of terrified screams makes it feel very empty.
You also have the option of Freeplay, which allows you to choose any of the 45 tracks and six game modes, as well as modify them (number of laps, power-ups, that kind of thing), and have multiple events one after the other. As if the main career wasn’t long enough. There are 16 levels with up to 5 events in each, it will take you long enough, especially if you want to win the Classic Carma events in each of the three ways, and come first in every other event.
In all events, you have to keep an eye out for the police. Yes, it’s a post-apocalyptic world full of homicidal racers and cows wearing hazmat suits, but the police are still around. They come in two versions: mini and normal sized. The first several levels have the mini, which are more an inconvenience than anything, but after that you get the normal sized ones -- in big APCs that can waste you by driving you into a wall, which few opponents are ever going to manage.
Carmageddon Max Damage won’t appeal to everyone. It’s gross, the phrases used are unpleasant and potentially upsetting, and the graphics weren’t designed to be photo-realistic. The first two are stays of the franchise -- Carmageddon has always sought to be provocative without using nudity. I’m not sure what graphics engine Stainless used, but I know there are people who hate how it looks. Personally, I like it.
Unfortunately, due to the crazy loading times -- and the fact I know the graphics could be better -- I have to give it the score it deserves, rather than the score I want to give it. It’s really fun and challenging
Carmageddon: Max Damage (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
It’s really fun and challenging, but unfortunately, due to the crazy loading times -- and the fact I know the graphics could be better -- I have to give it the score it deserves, rather than the score I want to give it.