Remember back in the 90s? The era of the PlayStation reigned, and one of the first games I ever got for it was Destruction Derby. Wow! Smashing into cars was amazing. The polygonal carnage was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Obviously over the years, things have vastly improved with games such as Twisted Metal and Burnout taking vehicular combat to whole new levels. Some of you may remember Carmageddon. It caused quite an outrage thanks to its controversial premise. Gaining points by turning innocent pedestrians into mush wasn’t very well received, and naming one of the characters Die Anna in the wake of one of the most tragic incidents in British history didn’t help its case.
Developers Stainless Games have attempted to revamp this infamous title with Carmageddon: Max Damage. I wish they hadn’t.
In Carmageddon: Max Damage, you control a vehicle of your choice and take part in a series of objective-based events set in some post-apocalyptic city. Die Anna makes her return alongside her counterpart, Max Damage himself. Events range from standard races, checkpoint sprints, and Destruction Derby-type events with multiple objectives giving you freedom to complete them how you wish. Within these events, there are ways to make things more interesting. Coloured barrels can be smashed to grant weapons, points (which are used to repair yourself), aids to kill pedestrians more easily and debuff ones which make you vulnerable. Sounds like a blast, huh? It would be if the game itself wasn’t so poorly executed.
Whichever car you drive, be it Max’s Ferrari-style death machine with a spiked blade over the top or Die Anna’s pimped out Camaro look-alike, they all drive like 18 wheelers on the ice. Getting speed up is simple enough, but turning is a huge problem here. Whatever surface you drive on, in order to make a perfect turn, you need to come to almost a complete standstill to make it. On grass or dirt, spinning out happens far too easily. What’s worse is the AI doesn’t help matters. They tend to have the same problems, except a one armed blind man is behind every wheel. At the start of one race, the opponent in front of me instantly drove off the track into water. Although I found it hilarious, it soon became apparent that it’s not going to get any better.
Upgrade tokens can be found in all events which can make things a little more bearable, but even fully upgraded components don’t make a significant difference. Then there is the feature that made Carmageddon the notorious game that it once was, pedestrians. They are littered all over each location aimlessly wandering like sheep. Guys in hazmat suits, businessmen, and dogs to the more shockingly disabled with Zimmer frames and mobility scooters, every one of them gives you points if you turn them into pancakes. Using a pedestrian repulsor power up is fun, though. At the press of a button, springs shoot from your car making pedestrians near you fly away in spectacular fashion.
Speaking of power-ups, none of them helped. Mines are easy to avoid, the bubble shield is useless, and the damage boosting enhancement was almost pointless. Smashing into opponents is a chore, to say the least. Just when you think you have a clear run, something makes you change course, or the opponent seems to miraculously move at the right moment. This is especially frustrating when trying to obtain a stealable car (there is one in every event).
Carmageddon: Max Damage looks awful. Drab textures, polygonal shapes, poorly placed geometry, and a dipping framerate plague this game, all topped off with frustratingly long loading screens. Whether you’re dead centre within the city or on the coast, there is nothing that visually stuns. Buildings are poorly designed, lamp posts you assume will succumb to fate once you slam into them make you come to a sudden stop leaving hundreds of points worth of damage to your already dull car. Vehicles range from remote controlled style flip cars with huge wheels to drag racers, yet I was never impressed by any of their designs.
Developer: Stainless Games
Publisher: Stainless Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 8th July 2016