|Developer:||Stainless Games|||||Release Date:||1997|||||Systems:||PC, Mac, Android, iOS|
This week on Super Adventures you can look forward to several words on the subject of PlayStation-era vehicular carnage racing game Carmageddon! Or is that supposed to be CarmaGeddoN? The oversized letters are throwing me off.
It feels like it's been ages since I've had a racing game on the site. In fact looking back through the archives it seems like the last one was Super Mario Kart all the way back in 2013. I don't remember much about this besides what I can pull from my fuzzy memories of old magazines, but I expect it to be dissimilar.
I'm also expecting to be driving a red car with spikes running down the middle. Plus I'm sure this is the one with a picture of a bloke in the top left of the screen that makes faces when you run people over. Or run zombies over if you're playing the censored version with the green blood, which I'm hopefully not. I've had enough zombies lately thanks, no more zombies.
I'll be playing the Carmageddon Max Pack from GOG, all packaged up to run on modern PCs with nGlide pretending I've got a 3dfx card. So the graphics may potentially be a little prettier than they were back in the day, but I wouldn't bother clicking the screenshots for a better view because they'll all be 640x480 resolution or less.
The announcer announces that the race begins in one minute, and that members of the public should use that time to reach minimum safe distance. Then the intro spends that whole minute panning around 3D models of the cars as they get their engines revved up for the race, with 'Zero Signal' by Fear Factory playing in the background.
"Those who are about to die, we salute you."The countdown begins, someone rushes home, a cat leaps over a fence, and then they all race off early, with the driver of the red car heading straight for the guy holding the starting flag!
Alright, now that the game's got me hyped I have to stop and sort out my menu settings.
There's a joystick button there but I'll be using the keyboard for the sake of nostalgia. I always used to play PC racing games with arrow keys... oh hang on, this isn't letting me use the arrow keys. Well fine, I'll use L X , / then, see how it likes that. I'll need the mouse and keyboard handy either way as it doesn't seem to like me using my controller in menus and it didn't recognise many of the buttons.
Die Anna seems to be having more fun and the stats say that her car's faster, but Max Damage's car has more strength and more importantly it's the red one from the intro. So I'm going with him. I can also change his name, but why would I want to? It's perfect!
Next it let me pick my difficulty, which is always nice, so I went with 'normal everyday carnage'.
I clicked out 'Change Race' first, expecting to be disappointed, but it turns out that I have a choice of three races to pick from already. The list keeps going, but to unlock more I'll need to improve my rank so that I'm not the worst racer on the board.
So that's my personal goal for this game then: I want to complete all three starting races and do it well enough to unlock the next one. Then I'll be happy enough to turn the game off and pretend I understand it well enough to write my mini review at the end!
Also Max was smart enough hang on to his helmet.
RACE 1: MAIM STREET.
One thing I already dislike about the game is how it's still playing the menu music instead of giving a new track for the race. But then one of the racers immediately ran over the flagman just like in the intro and I forgave it. Dumbass was trying to start the race with a chequered flag.
30 SECONDS LATER.
Another problem I'm having is that the game's a bit vague on which way I'm meant to turn as well. There are barriers with chevrons on but they're kind of easy to miss from a distance.
Hang on, it just flashed up "Wrong checkpoint". What do you mean wrong checkpoint? I'm sure this has to be the right way, those road signs aren't that hard to spot.
Oh damn, I must have slipped around that other one in the last screenshot without triggering it when I crashed. Should I go back for it? It seems like there's 30 seconds between checkpoints and I've got 30 seconds left, so I might make it!
These pedestrians are a little out of my way over on the sidewalk here, but hitting them is getting me credits so even if I don't win I'll be walking away with a profit. It's all very Grand Theft Auto. Actually it's very Death Race 2000, as the game was going to have the licence at one point and it inspired a lot of the design. Before that they were going for the Mad Max licence and I guess that inspired half the guy's name.
My failure was rewarded with this clip of Max throwing an entirely different looking helmet off screen in anger... and it coming back around from the other side of the screen to smack him.
Alright, I'm going to try that again and this time I'm going to try to hit all the checkpoints in the right order.
This utter balls up did provide an opportunity to try out the reset button though, so I pressed it and it restarted me facing directly into the water on the right, then charged me for the service. So I had to carefully get the car pointed somewhere less damp, which was harder than you'd think (car don't wanna turn).
Plus if I'm reading the HUD correctly, I'm 1st of 8 right now! No I must be reading that wrong as there's only 6 of us in this race. Well now I'm just confused. Oh... it must mean 1st of 8 checkpoints, because I just started the second lap.
I'm pretty sure I've hit 21 out of 527 pedestrians though, which is crazy. Did these people not hear the announcer telling them to get off the road or they'd die? He gave them a whole minute to run away!
It's strange that the game's giving me so much space to drive around in outside the track though. It's not a sandbox city, it hasn't gone full GTA, but they've given me a lot of room to stray off the path and zero time to waste doing it.
But I didn't get a time bonus, what the fuck? Another OUT OF TIME! failure. I'm really getting confused now. What does this game want from me?
There's two types of racing games in this world: the ones I do quite well at, and the ones I never get past the first race in, and this seems like it may belong to category B. Give me something forgiving like a Need for Speed game and I'll generally do okay, but I've never gotten on with ultra-serious racing simulations with realistic car handling or bastard hard arcade games with tight time limits.
The trade off is that swerving to hit people has left me in last place, as they're awkward little buggers to run over. They like to pick a direction and sprint off when I get close, like they've got some kind of instinct for self preservation or something.
Oh damn I just noticed Max's latest expression up in the corner. The guy has all the best faces.
This Prat Cam box is more distracting than the Doomguy on Doom's HUD, but there's no way I'm turning it off, because it's also amazing.. The actor should've won an Oscar for his performance of a lunatic suffering through my shitty driving.
But then I thought back to that controls screen at the start and remembered I have a 'repair' button. It cost me 1480, but I got my car back in shape! Then he gave me another shove into the lamp post and broke it again.
Alright, next time I'm going to press 'recover' first to teleport me out of the way, then 'repair'. And then I'll give the race a fourth try because I've clearly fucked up here.
But... I... huh? Works for me though, I'll take my winnings and check out the parts shop.
Hang on, it says 'armor' on the right, but it's spelled 'armour' on the left. It's like the developers weren't even American!
RACE 2: COASTAL CARNAGE.
I fell off the bridge though, due to the massive gaps in it, so I'm mincing a few cows for extra time while I find my way back up. The game's kind of gross at times, especially as it looks like they're shitting blood in terror when they see me coming.
Though at least I can see them! People aren't so easy to spot at a distance, especially as the pop-in doesn't give me much distance to spot them in. At full speed I get very little time to react and change my aim, and on the rare occasions that I am quick enough a gentle tap of the steering buttons is more likely to send my car spinning out instead. So I'm taking it easy.
Plus the game's given me another fork in the road. I'm tempted to go right and see what's there, but I'm worried about losing the next checkpoint and running out of time so I won't. It'll have to hold onto its mysteries for another lap.
I went off-road to turn around for a bigger run up and ran into a mega-turbo barrel on the way! Extra speed in a can, for a limited time only. So I'm going to get back on track and give this another shot before the timer runs out.
The trouble is that barrels suffer from the same pop-in as the people, so I have no idea they're there until I'm right on top of them. If I was deliberately looking for them I'd have to drive into the barren emptiness and hope I got lucky.
At least I got a Cunning Stunt bonus when I landed on the roof. It's a spoonerism!
RACE 3: FRIDGE RACER.
Oh shit, there's 517 civilians on this track? Well, uh, maybe I'll just get a third of the them then.
126 KILLS LATER.
Man, I've been driving around this village for 20 minutes and I have to be honest, all this pedestrian slaughter is getting kind of tedious. I keep thinking that I'll stop and go cross the finish line already to end it, but then I'll spot someone, or a whole crowd of someones, and it seems wrong to just drive off and leave that free-roaming score bonus unclaimed.
The weird thing is that despite my low kill count, after 4 laps the place is practically a ghost town, there's barely anyone left. So either the 300-something survivors are hiding in an underground tunnel network or they're in the next town over. Or maybe I have to kill a certain number for the next wave to step out of their houses.
Alien Trilogy. If I find any xenomorphs down here I'm turning back, I don't need a molecular acid eating through my paintwork.
I've also discovered that ice is bad. At full throttle I'm barely moving on this frozen lake and the chances of me getting the car to slide towards those barrels and pedestrians seems slim. I would've built up speed and got my aim right before hitting the ice, but the draw distance means I didn't know they were there until I started skidding.
I've been treating the other racers as annoyances that'll occasionally shove me into a wall when I'm busy trying to line up with the next pedestrian (I've given them half an hour and they still haven't beaten me in this race), but it turns out that trying to wreck them is very much the opposite of a waste of my time.
So basically every assumption I had when I started playing was the exact opposite of right.
Right, I've beaten three races and gotten the rank I need to unlock the fourth, so I've achieved my goal and I'm done with the game. Though I quickly want to try the first race again to see what it's like when I play it properly.
RACE 1: MAIM STREET (AGAIN).
I'm trying to remember the name of that power up I picked up a minute ago. Whatever it was, it was awesome.
Then something happened I didn't expect: the other cars turned up to join in! I don't usually see the other racers, aside from when one decides to ram me into a lamp post. They don't gang up on me and they don't kill each other either, so they've been easy to ignore. But in this confined stadium I can turn this into a proper demolition derby and wreck all of them!
Huh, wrecking them all is another way to win? Well I'm glad I found that out before I turned the game off, that seems kind of important to know.
RACE 2: COASTAL CARNAGE (AGAIN).
Of course I have a map, I set a key for it back when I first started playing. I also set a key for wheelspins and that’s something I didn’t think to try until now either. It’s like a handbrake turn I can use when I'm going slow! Though it's a bit hard to aim when I'm using a tiny window in the top left corner; The game could use a minimap.
I learned about the map after getting a power up which sprinkled a million tiny yellow dots over it, each showing the location of a cow or pedestrian. With this power I could finally get them all! Also I now I know where the road that forked to the right goes: right past checkpoints 2, 3 and 4.
RACE 3: FRIDGE RACER (AGAIN).
It's was bit of a surprise to me to learn that the car has a proper dashboard, and more so to learn that Max and Die's cars have a different look. Max's inside view also has a big blade running across the windscreen though, which isn't necessarily what you want when you're driving.
Right, I'm done now.
I'm not entirely sure what I expected from Carmageddon, but I guess I was thinking it was something like Destruction Derby except with less emphasis on wrecking cars and more on flattening bystanders. And it is kind of in that ballpark, except I severely underestimated how much freedom the game gives you to screw around and entertain yourself instead of focusing on winning.
In fact it wasn't until I stopped trying so hard to be first and slowed down to hit a few pedestrians that I had any success at all. By the time I was exploring off the track and taking my time to eradicate all life wherever I went I was jumping multiple ranks in one race! Trouble is that if you get lured into hunting down the civilians it becomes a tedious collect 'em up. You can spend half an hour or more in each level just running people over as long as you're getting more time back than you're wasting, so it can become a test of endurance, to see how many you can get before you get sick of it and finish off the last few laps/cars instead.
I wish I could say whether the driving physics are any good, but I don't honestly know. I'd believe you if you told me they were good for the time, and better than expected for a game like this, but it seemed to be take an unusual amount of effort to get the car travelling the way I wanted it to. It definitely felt like a 'driving aids: off' situation, but I don't stray into the deep end of racing games often so I'm not sure. Though I got better with practice, and I eventually switched over to my Xbox controller and started handbreak turning and wheelspinning all over the place. Sometimes even on purpose!
It surprised me to learn that the game predates Grand Theft Auto by a few months, because I figured it must've been inspired by it. The two games are all about finding the fun in flattening pedestrians and causing mayhem, but this is a little more sophisticated graphically. In fact I think it looks pretty good for 1997, with the cars deforming as they take damage and the Prat Cam showing what you think about that. They're all made up cars mind you, no licensed Porsches or Lamborghinis here, but the designs are pretty cool. It's halfway to being Wacky Races, if Dick Dastardly ran over 150 people each race and then destroyed his competitors by repeatedly slamming each of them against a wall until their cars exploded (while Muttley's on the Prat Cam laughing his tail off). You can even review your murder sprees in their entirety with the built in Action Replay feature, which is cool, though they forgot to let you save your replays.
Out of curiosity I checked out the other games with Carmageddon on the box and it turns out that the console ports released a couple of years later aren't ports at all. Even the Game Boy Color game is dramatically different, if you can believe that, and the N64 game seems more like a (terrible) port of the sequel.
Plus I scanned through a walkthrough and it seems like the game's got over 30 tracks, and cops eventually turn up to make your life miserable, so there's plenty of room for it to get frustrating/satisfyingly challenging later. But I liked what I played just fine, and I'd definitely play it some more, so it's definitely earned a Not Crap badge for me.
And it's got me wanting to rewatch Death Race 2000 so there's also that.
Coming up next on Super Adventures... I have no idea. I'm hoping it's something good though as it'll be posted on the site's 6th birthday.
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