mon 08/08/2022

Carmageddon | reviews, news & interviews



A car crash of a racing game

'Carmageddon': controversial remake of a 1990s pedestrian-flattening car racer

Controversy is a fickle mistress. When Carmageddon first appeared on PC in 1997, publishers Interplay were forced to cut its copious gore and replace dismembered pedestrians with nice, family-friendly zombies after a publicity-courting submission to the British Board of Film Classification went a bit wrong.

Despite the changes - and thanks to some easily installed patches to put the blood back in - the game was still shocking and salacious enough to sell over two million copies and spawn ports for numerous consoles plus a sequel and several add-on packs. Sixteen years on, Carmageddon has returned for iOS and now Android smartphones and tablets.

The first and most fundamental problem that the game faces is that - how to put this - it was never any good. As an exercise in annoying moral guardians and generating headlines it was A number one. Its controversy-generating abilities have only recently been topped by the Grand Theft Auto series, which perhaps owe it a certain debt. As a game, however, it leaves much to be desired.

Carmageddon is a straight "tribute" to the Seventies sci-fi flick Death Race 2000. Where the original used the idea of a murderous, pedestrian-flattening road race to make a satirical point about the media, the game is just a 3D racer in which you gain time and cash bonuses by running people over. There are obstacles to avoid, powerups to collect (in an inversion of accepted gaming norms, these are represented by exploding barrels. Take THAT, convention!) and upgrades for your choice of car, such as a protective roll cage or vicious spikes.

This is a straight conversion of the Nineties-vintage original. It uses the same graphical assets and either the same 3D engine or a faithful reproduction. This ensures an authentic retro feel, but anyone not feeling the nostalgic glow will wonder why the hapless pedestrians all run around like they have a peculiar spinal disease (thought: maybe this was intentional. Are these MERCY killings?) and why impact and explosions are seemingly unrelated to velocity in any meaningful way.

Even putting aside the limitations of a decade-and-a-half old 3D engine, the game is a confusing mess. You are meant to follow a racetrack but there are few markers telling you where the next checkpoint is and no map HUD to give any clues without stopping to call up the map screen - a bizarre choice for a high-speed racer. The result is that you just end up driving around aimlessly in the novel-for-the-era open world and listlessly murdering the odd pedestrian or cow in return for a bonus. The different courses offer some variety but not so much you would want to actually unlock many of them.

With some more thought and a willingness to update the game for mobile, this could have been a fun racer with a bloodthirsty but novel additional game mechanic. As it is, the game offers little beyond misplaced nostalgia and an object lesson in why we should learn from history, lest we be doomed to pay £1.49 for the privilege of repeating it.

Anyone not feeling the nostalgic glow will wonder why the hapless pedestrians all run around like they have a peculiar spinal disease


Editor Rating: 
Average: 1 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters