Down the street from where I work there’s a hellish intersection that drives my fury into the eighth gear. If I’m making a left there the sedan I drive isn’t cut well for seeing oncoming traffic, and my point-of-view is usually blocked off by some giant gas guzzler. I’d rather wait for the green arrow and play it safe, rather than get smashed up in a clusterfuck of metal, plastic and gore.
The people in my town, unfortunately, aren’t the nicest or most empathetic lot. They’re the types who lay on a horn the second a light turns green and the car in front of them isn’t springing to 60. If oncoming traffic is still parading across the intersection, these courteous drivers don’t think I heard them the first time and mash the damned thing till their elbows are blue. Worse, despite a clear indicator that it is not a pedestrian crossing zone, idiots wander in front of me in droves.
I try to keep from yelling while maintaining a smile on my face. I deal with all the rude crap. At the same time I’m think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to obey the rules at all?”
Carmageddon is all about rule breaking. It’s a racing game that has nothing to do with racing, but causing as much mayhem and bloodshed all the way to the player’s defined finish line. Innocent bystanders find themselves not only caught in the crossfire of a merciless bloodsport, but harvested for money and extra time. This is a classic road rager’s paradise, presented without limits or consequences.
There are no grid positions on the UI. As the manual explains, none of the other competitors are intent on playing fair. Money is the ultimate end goal, and the only way to lose is to run out of time or rack up too high of a negative balance. Otherwise there are three ways to win each race: clear all the checkpoints (boring and hard), kill every pedestrian (fun but time consuming), or disable the other cars (lethal levels of dopamine.)
The poor pedestrians range from bikini-clad women to uniformed officers, business people, football players, cows, the flagman and the much coveted granny with a walker. Running them over is essential because each race begins with a short time limit. Vehicular homicide adds to the time clock as well as the player’s bank account. Extra time and money is rewarded for creative killing.
Higher credits at the end of each race increase the player’s rank, which opens up more tracks. Money is then spent on upgrading your murder machine. Better parts increase your top speed, protect you from punishment and dish out harder hurt on other racers. You’ll also need them to deal with cops, who patrol the dystopian hellscapes in armored tanks. At first the cops are a bane on any maniac’s fun, but once your car is ubered up you can throw it back at them with ease.
The tracks are huge and spread out, providing the perfect venue for public demolition derbys. The later, higher ranked levels, particularly the acid factory settings, can be a real pain in the ass with their narrow roads and bottomless oceans. On the other hand, other racers don’t have a ‘recovery’ perk like you; pushing them off course and into oblivion is a good way to get them out of the race, and your hair, quickly. But where’s the fun in that? I’d rather crunch them like the cheapest tin foil.
If what I’ve just described sounds like a dream come true, by all means hop over to Good Old Games and grab a compatibility configured copy cheap. But make no mistake about it: Carmageddon is a nasty game rendered in shades of nihilism, cruelty and anarchy. Playing it, I was often reminded of the all those procedural cop dramas that pretend to understand video games. “Shoot the prostitute for 1000 extra points!” “The players with the most kills get the highest scores!”
I’m inclined to laugh at those wonderful episodes, mainly because most games stopped keeping ‘score’ over 20 years ago. Carmageddon, however, does have points, and the most frequent/artistic murder sprees are acknowledged accordingly. Mowing down crowds for credits is a huge hit to the brain’s reward system, akin to eating the world’s tastiest candy.
Carmageddon is the best ‘racing’ game I’ve ever played. My sessions went on for hours at a time, and by game’s end I felt that I got my revenge on those jerkoffs who have annoyed me in traffic. I may not be able to turn my real-life front bumper into a combine harvester, but Carmageddon will always be the safest outlet for telling the highway to kiss my ass.
FINAL GRADE: B