Every once in a while a game comes along that truly tests the boundaries of what’s acceptable in gaming. Carmageddon however, is a series that takes the subconscious rule book and throws it straight out the window, unleashing some of the most unique and brilliantly barbaric moments seen on console. After a long break, those moments have finally returned to console with Carmageddon: Max Damage.
For those of you old enough to remember the classic titles such as Twisted Metal or Cel Damage Overdrive from the 90’s gaming era, Carmageddon is a vehicular combat game of similar nature – one in which thirty competitors, each with their own individual meat mincing machines, battle it out in a series of events to be the winner of the psychotic blood soaked Carmageddon tournament held in Bleak City. To achieve victory, players must progress through each of the sixteen chapters found in the career mode. Each consists of a number of different events that take place in various open-world maps. These include Death Race, Fox ’n’ Hound, Ped Chase, Car Crusher and Classic Carma with each event containing six competitors.
Each of these events have their own objectives and requirements that differ from the rest. As you progress, the game naturally becomes harder and to ensure you don’t end up as the next smashed up scrap of metal on the junk heap, you must ensure your vehicle is just as strong and powerful as all the other death machines on the track. Although simply swapping to the next high performance meat mangler each time you unlock one (something which is done by wrecking them in race) is a completely valid option, my preferred method is to upgrade my car with tokens I earnt through racing. There are three different types available with the power, damage resistance and handling of the cars all upgradeable. The tokens used for such a task are conveniently called upgrade points and to gain these players must collect silver floating coins found throughout each map. On top of these are points that are gathered for almost everything in game; whether you’re ramming the closest competitor into the nearest wall or slicing, dicing, burning and splatting every ‘ped’ in sight, points will very quickly add up.
These other points earned within a match are the key to progression in Carmageddon and at the end of each event you will see a number relating to the amount needed to unlock the next chapter of the career. The better the performance in an event, the more points earnt. For those of you with a natural tendency to destroy everything in sight, you may well find your points racking up to crazy high amounts before you’ve even noticed what the hell they are for. However, with destruction comes damage, and damage is something you will find yourself on the end of should you not keep your car repaired and opponents in your line of sight.
This is where another useful purpose for your shiny currency pops in. Due to the constant bombardment of enemy vehicles slamming you into oblivion, damage can become a bit of a nuisance. The guys over at Stainless Games don’t want you to be forced to drive everywhere in a wonky battering ram though and a simple press of a button (Y in this case) can fix any damage currently holding you back mid-event. Should you find you’ve been relying on the repair button too much, laughing about your apparent invincibility, you will quickly find yourself way down in the negative numbers, with points deducted from your overall amount should you end an event too far in the red. With game progression relying on the amount of points you’ve saved, Stainless Games have really implemented a sense of risk vs reward into Max Damage which gives a real sense of choice in how you play the game.
One important gameplay mechanic that plays a huge part in the events are the ‘PUP’s’; more commonly known as pickups. PUP’s are mostly temporary items that either aid or harm the competitor that picks them up and offer a variety of different items. Some will come in the form of mines that can be fired out of the back of the car, the chance to freeze opponents or just delicately exploding the heads of innocent peds. Some of the more uninviting and long term PUP’s can see your car literally cut in half and force you to drive around with the remaining half until you repair, as well as some that cause so much damage that your car is bent into the shape of a banana.
Gameplay in Carmageddon: Max Damage relies quite heavily on the use of PUP’s to succeed in events and whilst success is possible without them, the game becomes a whole lot more challenging should you decide your good enough without them. Before I had learnt the importance of what was laying around the next corner to aid in my destructive streak, I had experienced several occasions in which driving forwards and backwards into enemies over and over just to see the satisfying ‘Opponent wrecked’ message quickly turned repetitive due to the amount of health each car has. However, with the right amount of luck, players can see a PUP gift them one-hit kills on anything in their way. This can really turn the tide of a battle should someone who may have been winning miss the opportunity to grab the deadly items first.
One thing that really deserves the spotlight is the type of humour Stainless Games have put into the game. Whilst many may find criticism in the lack of sensitivity given to plenty of topics, there will be many that find the content rather refreshing. Events can such as Ped Chase and Classic Carma will see players hunting down pedestrians in order to take the victory, but not all the targets will be of the usual appearance found in most games. Peds in Carmageddon range from the fit and healthy to the old and disabled – some may well not even be human at all – with animals happily thrown into the mix by the guys at Stainless Games. Just five minutes into my first event I had found myself knocking down wheelchairs and exploding the heads off the elderly with nothing but a large number of points as my reward. The various loading screens throughout the game are another way in which the developers have indulged in adding some comedic value to the otherwise aggressive nature of the game with jokes and references made about various topics often considered taboo in gaming.
Even with the dark humour and insensitive content, Stainless Games have done a great job to ensure that at no point does the game feel too serious or overbearing and those long term fans of the franchise will be happy to see Carmageddon: Max Damage return – with the classic and enjoyable gameplay available throughout.
Other than the campaign, other ways to play include a multiplayer offering along with a free play mode. In free play, players are able to play through any of the levels that have been played and completed in the campaign mode once more without the hassle of worrying about saving points for career progression.
As for the multiplayer, players are placed into a lobby in which up to six players can join and take part in the various game modes seen throughout the campaign offering. Joining a game is quick and easy and takes just a few minutes to get started and thankfully things get rolling with as little as two players. That’s a plus point because as I write this, it’s rare to see a room fill up. Despite the small number of players currently online, finding a game never takes too long and with Carmageddon providing some of the most enjoyable gameplay this year it seems only a matter of time before servers start to fill out. At least I hope that is the case because it deserves to have plenty of people playing.
Overall, Carmageddon: Max Damage is a truly enjoyable experience, with quick and easy to learn mechanics along with some humorous and wacky gameplay, Stainless Games have created a truly unique experience that, although not suitable for kids, is certainly something that gamers of the slightly older generation would appreciate.