Back in 1999, when Sony had the grey block of plastic that was the first Playstation, a controversial Ubisoft title called Carmageddon was released & I bust a gut to get my hands on it. If you know anything about how the game is played, you’ll know that after recent events, I’ll probably be skipping over a few features of the game.
Carmageddon: Max Damage kicks you off with a simple menu, and there are a few humorous touches contained within it. This echoes the original PC release and indeed, the layout on screen in the game hasn’t changed that much at all. If you’re a retro-gamer, then this will no doubt be welcome news. If you’re expecting something new from Carmageddon Max Damage, then you’re looking in the wrong garage I’m afraid.
True to the original releases, the game takes you through various apocalyptic locations in order to race five other nutters in heavily modified killing machines. You can complete these missions by either finishing all of the laps before the other players, completing the set task before all the other players, wreck all of the other players or splatter all of the ‘peds’.
The campaign missions start with an incredible loading time. This is repeated throughout the game if I’m honest. Given the fact that the graphics aren’t much better than the Playstation version, the extended loading times are baffling.
Of the game modes, and there are a few, the most fun are the wreck ‘em and straight races. There’s a satisfaction to out-racing the other nutters on the grid or smashing them into the flaming wreck that will sometimes allow you to steal their points, laps or kills. The racing is pretty straightforward, although car control is somewhat hit and miss. You’ll find yourself fishtailing on more than one occasion. I find that I can forgive this a little though as this isn’t a full-on simulator and more of an arcade racer.
There are also some other ways to complete the missions. When the title was first released, there was some controversy over the blatant killing of ‘peds’. This got to the stage where the developers had to change the blood colour in order to make the game feel less realistic. Such restrictions aren’t on Carmageddon Max Damage and the gore increases with the introduction of another game mode where you have to reach a specific number of kills. These are located in various places around the arena levels and activate themselves in sequence.
Like that game mode, there is a mode where you have to hit a specific number of checkpoints before everyone else. These, like the ‘peds’ mode, appear in random points around the arena levels. This in itself is fairly random, but ultimately incredibly frustrating. This is because you find yourself having to make your way over to another side of the arena, only to have a rival steal the checkpoint from under your nose due to a lack of vehicle control. You then find that the next checkpoint appears as far away from your current location as possible. It’s a very frustrating mode.
The AI on the campaign mode is also baffling. Sometimes your opponent will completely ignore trying to race or even trying to wreck you and will barrel off happily into the distance, trying in vain to knock off all the ‘peds’. Some will even seem to attempt to complete the course backwards.
Carmageddon Max damage not only offers a campaign though. Once you’ve played and unlocked an arena and a game mode, you can pop along to the Freeplay area and create a custom game. Here you can get yourself some real experience in how the vehicles handle, and you’ll be able to collect additional vehicles along the way by wrecking specific opponents. You’ll also get the opportunity to collect upgrade tokens and thankfully, if you’re not really into trying to figure out the best ways to improve your ride, the game has an automatic upgrade option.
There is also an online multiplayer section to hone your skills. This is a little more fun as you’ll at least have an idea of what your opponent is about to do. During the racing in any mode or mission, your car will take damage. This is indicated on-screen along with a map and the amount of laps, cars, kills and credits you’ll have collected or chalked off during the race.
The credits are particularly useful. Taking damage is generally not a good thing. This will allow you to be wrecked more easily. Tapping Y will allow you to spend credits and repair the car. Be careful though, this will also happily let you to run up a debt and affects your final score for the level, especially in the campaign. This ultimately affects how quickly you will progress through the campaign.
The in-game audio introduces some trash metal to the stereo. It’s like your teenager has been introduced to punk on Spotify and thinks he can play something similar. It’s not terrible, but it’s also not the best. Finding the right volume is key here. The cars and crashes all are pretty standard. There’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. It’ll be done again in all likelihood.
Carmageddon Max Damage isn’t the leap from the original title that I’d hoped. The graphics don’t appear to have moved on much and certainly don’t feel next gen. The car controls are frustratingly ropey at best, with frequent donuts or rapid slow-down to try to get yourself back on track. The automatic switching of the camera when reversing is on the whole, unhelpful. The single-mindedness of the AI on occasion, while admirable, hampers the game to the extent where hitting B to recover, regardless of the cost, is a frequent option just to get you out of the way. Controversial as the game may be, gaming itself has progressed, and sadly, it doesn’t feel as if Carmageddon has.