Playing Carmageddon on the PC as a child, I remember squealing with delight as I ran over hapless pedestrians, smashed into fellow drivers and totaled my car over and over again; what I don’t remember, however, is keeping score. And that’s perhaps the best thing about this game: you can play it however you like without worrying about honing your skills or winning trophies. Carmageddon was all about pure, unadulterated fun, and I’m glad Stainless Games decided to bring it back for audiences familiar and uninitiated to sink their teeth into it.
For those who came in late, Carmageddon is an arcade racer that brought a lot of interesting elements to the table, the most important being humorously over-the-top violent gameplay. Originally released in 1997, this title gained notoriety for being banned in several countries and naturally had gamers clamoring to see what all the noise was about — and they weren’t disappointed. 16 years later, this classic gorefest is now available for phones and tablets, retaining almost everything from the original so you can revisit your road rage fantasies in glorious 90s-era 3D!
Blood, Guts And Guffaws
If you’ve heard of Carmageddon before this review, you’ll no doubt have heard about how violent it is — but to be honest, it’s comically exaggerated fare that seems even harder to take seriously now. If you’re up for throwing caution and reality to the wind, strapping in and slamming your car into anything with a motor or heart in it, this is what you should be playing. Carmageddon is certainly worth its asking price of $2 — let’s take a look at what that buys us.
Cars, Tracks And Psychos, Oh My!
Carmageddon brings the heavy with 30 unique vehicles and 36 levels set in 11 different environments. You’ll need to first choose one of the game’s two playable characters — Max Damage or Die Anna — who both have signature cars. You’ll get to watch their reactions in the driver’s seat in a tiny window in the upper left corner of your screen. The other vehicles can be unlocked by playing through levels or via a $0.99 in-app purchase, and the same goes for levels too — although I think this won’t be necessary as the tracks are fun enough to play without forking over extra dough.
Your opponents are all off their rocker in one way or another, and their choice of vehicles reflect their respective crazy streaks.– between Ed the Android who drives an import racing coupe, a redneck named Halfwit Harry who drives a 2-ton monster truck and a crazed aviator called Screwie Lewie who drives what can only be described as a sports car/monster truck/light aircraft/mole machine hybrid, you’ll certainly have your hands full.
Carmageddon for Android retains the graphics and soundtrack from the original — which means you get to enjoy the low-on-polygons environments and vehicles as well as near-2D animated sprites of pedestrians, not to mention instrumentals by Fear Factory and hilarious in-game physics that allow you to drop hundreds of feet and suffer only a lightly damaged left tire. Even the grainy cutscenes that would play during the intro and after you finish races are here, so if you were of computing age back in the 90s, you’re going to love this.
The vehicles range from typical sports cars to bulldozers and include everything in between, with a few modifications thrown in to make them battle-ready. Each level puts you in one of the 11 environments with a mixed bag of opponents, and while there is a track to drive on, you can venture off the road to explore wherever you please — or wherever you think a pedestrian might be lurking. There are even large open areas in each environment where you can lure other drivers to either smash into them repeatedly, push them onto mines or grab powerups.
You can control your vehicle’s steering, throttle, brake and handbrake using easily configurable controls — choose from buttons that your buttons that you can rearrange on the screen, tilt control and analog-style sliders. Sadly, whichever scheme you choose will see you struggling to accurately control your vehicle, because every vehicle responds very poorly to your driving. It’s virtually impossible to make a 90-degree unless you’re chugging along at 10 MPH, and the handbrake is really only for 180-degree spins rather than for stopping quickly. While I’m not a fan of the handling, I get the feeling that perhaps vehicles that are any easier to drive would be out of place in this game.
Unlike most other racers that involve trashing opponents, there aren’t any weapons in Carmageddon except your own vehicle and your disregard for the sanctity of human life. You can win a race by either crossing every checkpoint and completing laps first, damaging other racers’ vehicles beyond repair or by killing ALL the pedestrians — the second being my favorite way to go. There are usually a few hundred pedestrians in each level, so go down that route only if you have plenty of time on your hands.
Destroying your opponents is easily achieved — in theory, anyway. Simply smash into them from a distance at high speeds. If possible, ram into them head-on and perhaps even guide them ever so gently into a wall or roadblock. Some vehicles can take more of a beating than others. You can become more effective in decimating your foes by upgrading your vehicle (armor, engine and using credits you earn from races (don’t worry, they’re liberal with these). You can relive the carnage by swiping from the right of the screen to open up the action replay feature.
Remember when we talked about powerups earlier? There are several of those in every race, and you can score everything from extra time on the clock to powerful braking to turbo; there are even surprise negative powerups (powerdowns?) that cause your suspension to turn to jelly and make your car bounce on the spot. My favorite powerups are the ones that cause pedestrians to freeze where they stand and those that make your car solid as granite — very useful when you’ve got a cop vehicle (which is built like a tank) on your tail.
By any measure, Carmageddon is one hell of a ride. Players who’ve experienced the madness of this franchise in the past will find themselves right at home, while those who are new to it are in for some quirky, darkly humorous and altogether off-the-rails fun. It’s also a great way to prepare for Stainless Games’ upcoming (and more polished) title Carmageddon Reincarnation that will take the derangement of this classic to a whole new level. If you’re not convinced, take the limited free version for a spin and see if you’re not left with a bloodlust you never knew existed.