Saturday 20 August 2016

Carmageddon: Max Damage

The trailers for Carmageddon: Max Damage were things that make you go “hmmm”, and not in a good way. They were all like “Hey, hahaha, look, you can drive through nuns! And penguins, too! Aren’t we just fucking CRAZY and CONTROVERSIAL?!?”. What you may have found yourself thinking, though, was more along the lines of “Those graphics look a bit crap. These trailers aren’t showing me much in the way of actual gameplay; is there a reason for that?”.

Yes. Yes there is.

Developed by Stainless Games and out now for Xbox One and PS4, the new Carmageddon only exists thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. I always feel bad when giving a game a kicking – there’s no such thing as a developer that intentionally makes a bad game, and even the worst ones have an incredible amount of hours of hard work and overtime behind them – but Jesus Christ is this a bad game. The low RRP is something of a warning klaxon, but I was fully prepared to give this game the benefit of the doubt.

Then I played it.

For the benefit of those under a certain age, the industry has seen Carmageddon games before, a favourite with the tabloids at one point for the fact that you are rewarded for running over pedestrians. Who die very messily. One criticism that can not be levelled at this game is that it leans lazily on its infamous history for sales. Oh, each area has “peds” – fat ones, thin ones, old ones, ones on bicycles and even wheelchairs, etc. etc. – and if you hit them at any speed, they pretty much explode. And you are indeed rewarded with points, and there’s a multiplier to build up. There are even awards for killing them in certain ways. It’s handled in a very silly throwaway fashion though, with no attempt to make things disturbingly realistic. Which wouldn’t be possible with these graphics, anyway. There’s been a real effort to make the game about more than just this but, well… the whole thing is just far too shoddy.

The theory is sound. Each area is littered with barrels to drive through, which reward you with points, weapons, or a time-limited ability such as invincibility. There are also tokens to collect for buying upgrades to your car. Sometimes, a specific opponent is identified as having their car up for grabs if you destroy it. The general idea, apart from events with specific goals, is that you can win a race in one of three ways: Finish all laps first, wreck all your opponents, or kill all “peds” in the area. There are, unfortunately, problems with all three options.

One problem that pervades the entire game is that handling is absolutely abysmal. It’s not even consistently abysmal. Your default car’s handling may be bloody terrible, but the handling of the next car that I unlocked can only be described as ‘completely broken’. Trying to keep this thing in a straight line meant fighting my own car much harder than anybody else’s. Speaking of which, wrecking your opponents’ rides is made much harder than it needs to be by these terrible controls. For similar reasons, the thought of completing an entire race the traditional way is enough to reduce a grown man to tears.

There are literally hundreds of pedestrians in a race, spread across the map, meaning that winning by killing them all is only feasible if/when playing solo, and if the AI is broken enough to prevent them from finishing the race (which it often is). I did it once, but only by spending an unhealthy amount of time scouring the map for stragglers. It’s not even particularly fun to play against AI. They’re aggressive, but very stupid. They’ll keep driving into you at very low speeds, achieving little more than annoyance, and sometimes damage themselves in their efforts to avoid you. Whether or not they make any attempt to win seems entirely random. Playing against real people online is a little better, but who would want to subject themselves to this for any length of time?

Carmageddon: Max Damage to the series’ reputation. 1/5


Luke Kemp

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