Crush everything that gets in your way in 'Carmageddon'

Crush everything that gets in your way in 'Carmageddon'

“Carmageddon: Max Damage” is not a game for the easily offended.

This pedestrian-murder simulator melds street racing and demolition derbies in an irreverent, somewhat obscene fashion sure to get someone’s undies in a twist. After all, you can run over nuns, cops, cows, the obese, people in wheelchairs and even dogs. I try to avoid hitting dogs.

It’s not a high-class game. But it’s what you want to play when your stress level has built too high and you need to safely blow off steam in the comfort of your living room, where you can crush a horde of virtual citizens under your simulated bumper in place of that guy who nonchalantly crossed against the green while you were running late to work.

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As “Carmageddon” is ostensibly a race game, several types of play are available. Unfortunately most are locked at the start. You’re forced through “career mode” to access the full array, with “Classic Carma” the only one available at the start.

This is probably the game’s biggest detriment.

“Classic Carma” is the general catch-all race type, where six drivers are pitted against each other on a sprawling map. Fulfill one of three conditions to win: Complete a set number of laps of the “track” to win, by going through fixed checkpoints in their proper order; literally crush all the competition; or kill every pedestrian.

The first and second win conditions are generally the easiest to achieve, depending on the map. AI opponents usually go out of their way to try to wreck you, so on a map with confined areas, it’s easy to set up their destruction. If the race is in wide-open spaces, it’s easy to just breeze past them and nail checkpoint after checkpoint. Wiping out every pedestrian is a bit harder, as there can be hundreds of folks hidden all over, including atop buildings, and many aren’t exactly eager to become roadkill.

Technically, it’s also a race against the clock, as if time runs out before you reach a win condition, it’s game over. But you put time back on the clock with every pedestrian or rival you turn into a bloody smear.

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As the player, you also have an unnatural advantage: You’re essentially invincible as long as you pick up credits (by smashing yellow barrels, doing stunts, killing folks, etc.) Anytime your car is damaged — which is all the time — or wrecked, you can tap a button to repair it for a few credits. Fallen into a bad area or trapped against a wall by opponents? Hit another button and you’re teleported to a safe spot for a few credits more.

And there’s power-ups of various sorts scattered all over the place, though not all are beneficial. Some help you take out other drivers; some let you massacre peds from a distance; others allow for free repairs; a few apply weird effects to your vehicle; some just blow you up. (You can also find upgrade tokens, used to permanently alter one of your rides between races.)

The other modes are:

— Checkpoint Stampede: A checkpoint randomly spawns on the map, with the first driver to reach it scoring a point. The first driver to reach a set number of points, usually 10, wins. In some matches, you can steal points by wrecking enemy drivers and lose points by being wrecked.

— Ped Chase. The same premise, but instead of reaching checkpoints, you’re trying to slaughter specific pedestrians.

—  Death Race: The first driver to complete a set number of laps wins. Some matches allow you steal another driver’s laps by wrecking them. Of course, if you’re wrecked, you lose yours.

— Car Crusher: Essentially a big demolition derby. Wreck other drivers for points; lose points if they wreck you.

— Fox and Hounds: A game of keep away. The player designated as “the fox” tries to avoid the other drivers, “the hounds.” If a hound hits the fox, they switch roles. The goal is to be the fox the longest, before time expires.

Fox and Hounds is many players’ favorite mode, but it’s locked away until you’ve reached Chapter 8 in career mode, which you won’t likely reach until you probably beaten upward of 50 races — a bad design decision.

Over time, you’ll unlock a variety of vehicles, all of which handle uniquely. Frankly, controlling some of them is like trying to walk across ice while wearing shoes of butter. If this were a serious racer, that would be a huge detriment. Here, though, it’s just part of the fun.

Beyond “career mode,” there’s freeplay, where you can set up custom matches against the AI, and multiplayer, where you can go online against other players. Unfortunately, the online crowd on PlayStation 4 has been pretty sparse when I’ve been playing. I’ve hosted a few matches against a small field of other players, and the games have been lag-free, but I’ve been the one hosting, so of course I wouldn’t really have that issue.

Ultimately, though, “Carmaggedon: Max Damage” is a great game for blowing off steam, as long as you don’t mind moderate gore, low-brow humor, sexual innuendo and the like. It’s not something you’ll play for hours at a time though, and it takes a little too much work to unlock the really fun modes.

Joel Leizer is The News-Gazette’s Playing Critic. Contact him at jleizer@news-gazette.com.

Carmageddon: Max Damage
PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
$39.99.
M for mature
 

 

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