Review – Carmageddon: Max Damage

From Gameronomy (site currently down)

This was a hard review to write. I came into this wanting to be wrapped, snugly, in a warm blanket of nostalgia. Maybe Carmageddon: Max Damage manages that, maybe it really does play out like Carmageddon of old and it just hasn’t aged well. Or, maybe, this really is a poor execution of an old licence that suffers only fleeting glimpses of fun but, essentially, is not a game you’ll feel the urge to return to very often – and, for the current price tag, that’s not a great thing at all.

The first thing you’ll notice, unfortunately, is the long loading times. This will sap anyone’s enthusiasm nowadays – I remember a time when you could start a game loading, go off and have your tea, come back and still have time to peruse a copy of Smash Hits or Kerrang before a game would finish loading but, in this day and age, I would expect better. Fine, ok, I understand there are lots of assets to load, but still…

Then, from the moment you see TOOK IT UP THE ARSE! flash across the screen when you bump into another car from behind, you know Carmageddon: Max Damage revels in its vulgarity and will know whether or not the game is for you on that count. I mean, how could you not know that? This is a game where you can happily drive your car into onlooking pedestrians, spraying blood and bits all over the show, and gain bonuses from doing so. That’s the whole modus operandi of the Carmageddon series and, if you weren’t expecting that, then you’ve walked into the wrong show, buddy.

However, the actual driving element is a mess and I’m not sure if it’s meant to be or not. If driving on any road surface is supposed to be akin to skidding on ice then this has it nailed, spot on. Upgrading your cars is limited and doesn’t appear to fix this issue. Having said that, it is fairly uncomplicated and easy to get to grips with how to handle the unhandleable… Which is now a word, if it wasn’t before.

Power Ups can be confusing as hell and basically fall into two camps: passive and active. Active kicking in on pickup whereas passive being activated on command, stored abilities being selectable via an onscreen gauge – if you look at it for more than the briefest of milliseconds, though, you will crash or find yourself driving up the side of a building or on the bottom of a lake or one of another multitude of possibilities.

The career system isn’t really a career at all but maybe I’ve been spoiled by a lifetime of racing game career modes having at least some form of ranking system or league. It’s a progression of sorts and points equate to unlocking more sandboxes to drive in. Upgrading of cars requires hidden tokens to be found during each race while new cars can be acquired by trashing a nominated car, which seems to be picked at random at the start of a race. It all reeks a little too much of pay-to-play systems on mobile games…

As well as the slow loading times, graphics are frequently hindered by popping, parts of cars can randomly vanish and the collision detection is questionable at times. Despite the many negatives, very rough edges and lowest common denominator mentality, it really can be fun to play, very much in a stress relief vein, but only in short bursts which are unfortunately eaten into by the loading times and certainly not with a thirty quid price tag.

At the end of the day, games can be judged by how much you want to return to them, by how much you feel the pull, the urge, to jump back into their universes and, unfortunately in the case of Carmageddon: Max Damage, I’ve just not felt the urge to go back.