Originally released way back in 1997 on PC Carmageddon went through several changes prior to hitting the shelves, originally planned to be racing sim called 3D Destruction Derby, developers SCi and Stainless Games then obtained licensing to create a Mad Max style title, the game then shifted to Death Race 2000. That license fell through which lead to the developers creating their own IP, known as Carmageddon.
Now 19 years on Stainless Software return with the latest iteration known as Carmageddon: Max Damage. Stainless have done an admirable job in bringing the franchise onto next gen, thirty cars at your disposal, ten tracks and three game modes is very respectable for a $70.00 (AUD) game. Career mode provides you varied events spanning sixteen chapters, you have the option to also customize your ride with a new coat of paint, some sweet wheels (2 sets to choose from) as well as 5 levels of additional armor. Freeplay mode takes those 16 chapters found in Career mode and allows you to play them as you please while Multiplayer pits you against up to five people in a battle to the death.
Each match begins with a 5 minute countdown timer, if you don't complete said match within the time frame you fail, there are copious ways to add time to your match, with blood filled destruction the order of the day. You are presented with three ways to win a match: finish the race by clearing multiple checkpoints, "wrecking" your opponents, or "splattering" all of peds (pedestrians) within the level. Checkpoints for me were an afterthought, seriously you want to race go play Forza, I was here for the gruesome stuff, and sweet baby Jesus did Max Damage deliver it in spades...
The first level I encountered in the game was an urban environment filled with multi-rise buildings, jump ramps and tonnes of foot traffic. As I zipped around the city trying to keep my car on the road (seriously painful stuff) I noticed a football stadium in the distance, being a football fan I had to check it out, naturally. As I ice skated my obnoxious yellow car towards my destination (running over various innocents as I went) I noticed there were not only football players participating in a game within the stadium, but also dozens of cheerleaders on the sidelines. I put my foot to the floor as I somehow became airborne from something within the environment, I flew into the stadium landing hard on about 5 innocent cheerleaders, the crunch noise coupled with the viscera that painted the football field was jilting for a brief moment, a moment that was quickly forgotten as my super car hurtled towards a group of grid iron players promptly exploding people across the screen, body parts and all, only to then be greeted with lines such as "jam sandwich" and "ped on ped action". This game certainly won't be winning any awards with it's deeply fleshed out storyline that's for sure.
When Carmageddon was first released back in 1997 it was met with copious amounts of controversy, multiple countries banned the game while others forced censorship on a lot of the violence, replacing humans with zombies or robots as apparently running over non-humans allows you to sleep alot better at night. No doubt Max Damage will bring with it similar levels of controversy, as I blazed my path of destruction through the various levels no one was safe, I was regularly running over members of the armed forces, dogs and other animals, the elderly and multiple wheelchair bound citizens. The PC crowd are no doubt sharpening their pitchforks over the blood filled antics Carmageddon delivers.
Unprovoked violence on this scale isn't the norm within gaming today, sure there are a few outliers such as the Grand Theft Auto series, giving you the ability to kill anyone at any time, but Carmageddon isn't a style of game we have seen for many years, even 2012's Twisted Metal was a lighter take on the car battle genre. This game isn't designed for everyone but there is a target market of young adult males amped up on Red Bull and McCain pizza who will thoroughly enjoy the havoc that exists in C:MD. You need to be able to desensitize yourself from the power violence within, you will be mowing down a lot of people from all walks of life, and if you can't switch off to that I doubt you'll last more than a single match in Max Damage.
C:MD feels like a game dragged kicking and screaming from the late 1990s into present day, the soundtrack is a mixture of White Zombie style thrash metal and Nine Inch Nails industrial rock (sadly no Fear Factory this time round), it certainly meshes well with the frenetic play style of the game. What doesn't mesh well is the control scheme, literally every single button does something unique which during the heat of battle overwhelms you pretty freaking quickly. Another annoyance was the "Recover" button, which resets your car back on its wheels after crashing, it's great in theory but finding out you can press it repeatedly even if you are already right side up, chewed into my digital wallet super quickly. You see every match plays out like destruction derby but unlike that franchise you can repair your car on the fly, it's an expensive undertaking but necessary to survive. Doing damage to everything within the game world grants you currency, the higher the body count you rack up the more money you have at your disposal, which can then be used to not only repair your death machine but also purchase weapons and abilities at any time.
You would think that a game based around car racing would have responsive vehicles for you to throw around with reckless abandon, sadly that isn't the case here. The controls feel unresponsive, while accelerating and trying to make the slightest of turns my car constantly fishtailed out of control, sure it makes for some highlight reel pedestrian kills, but when you weren't intending on doing it on purpose, the joy quickly subsides. Trying to line up my car to ram raid opposing enemies was like trying to thread a needle with my toes while drunk off kerosene, the simplest mechanics within the game were anything but. On the other side of the coin the A.I was programmed to do its best Ken Block impression, turning on a dime, navigating through traffic and debris and doing pit maneuvers into me at will. The A.I has the grace of a swan, where poor me was a new born giraffe struggling to stand.
Graphically C:MD hasn't handled the transition to next gen consoles overly well, the vehicle models, while reasonably high in detail, don't wow you like other car games do. The various pedestrian models and environments are low res and lacking polish with regular clipping present during matches. Stainless have done an admirable job bringing this game to life, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was playing on my Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. Luckily the constant barrage of chaos and carnage doesn't afford you much time to take in the sights, it's kill or be killed, the second that flag drops.
Overall Carmageddon: Max Damage isn't a bad game so to speak, however it isn't a great game either. It sits somewhere in between, aggressively revving it's engine waiting for players who have little interest in narrative or gorgeous graphics, but instead want to destroy everything that moves and not feel an ounce of guilt while they wash the blood of the elderly from their windshield.
2.5 OUT OF 5
+ Blood Filled Carnage
+ Tonnes of Vehicle Variety
- Quickly Becomes Repetitive
- Doesn't Feel Like a "Next Gen" Title
CARMAGEDDON: MAX DAMAGE WAS REVIEWED USING A "RETAIL" PLAYSTATION 4 DOWNLOAD KEY PROVIDED BY STAINLESS GAMES.