Carmageddon Reincarnation was an attempt to revive the franchise. Funded quite successfully through KickStarter, the game took a few years in development, and was met with less than favorable reviews. Now its been rebranded as Carmageddon Max Damage for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners, and the resulting title is a bittersweet dose of nostalgia.
Game – Carmagaddon Max Damage
Platform – Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer/Publisher – Stainless Games, Ltd
Release date – 7/8/16
Price – $39.99
Remember those slew of unique demolition derby/racing games that came out for the PS1 a couple decades ago? Twisted Metal. Rogue Trip. Vigilante 8. And, of course, Carmageddon. There was a time when I would have dropkicked my friends’ faces if they wanted to play anything else. They were incredible, and when their popularity tapered, there was always a tiny piece of my gamer core missing.Carmageddon Reincarnation was not the revival of the genre envisioned by its Kickstarter backers. That’s why Stainless Games went back under the hood to build and rebrand the game as Carmageddon Max Damage. Here are all its challenges and rewards.
The goals in each level are simple: wreck ’em, beat ’em, or kill ’em. Choose between destroying the opponent’s vehicles, beating them in the race, or cause a ridiculous amount of damage by smashing barrels, killing pedestrians, and steal objective points. The game rewards players with a massive amount of vehicle upgrades, skins, and playable cars. Unlock cars by taking out select vehicles during different races (bounty style). It’s the best way to beef up the garage and compete with the stronger vehicles as the game progresses. The Career is incredibly beefy and features well over 36 variants of different in-game levels: basic races, capture checkpoints, and kill token pedestrians. Coupled with Freeplay and Multiplayer modes, Carmageddon Max Damage has a mountain of content.
The game features a point system that loosely resembles in-game currency. Special stunts, wrecking players, popping barrels, and close calls are all ways to earn extra points. During the Career mission, the player can use points to purchase the power ups (PUps) used to gain the advantage. The player also uses the points to revive or repair the vehicle after taking damage. Play better and progress faster through the missions since the next area is only unlocked after enough points are accumulated. It keeps the player honest and engaged.
Carmageddon Max Damage is loaded with all of the goodies that make a destruction derby/racing game a blast. Tokens hidden in each level can be used to upgrade vehicle features in the garage. Unlock vehicles (racers) and skins through level progress. There is a ridiculous amount of PUps with a wide range of modifiers that give the player a formidable arsenal. The pick ups are geared towards different styles of play. Some are based on racing and give the player turbo boost. These are also given to the player in order to navigate some of the level specific obstacles and ‘hidden’ areas. There are often rooftop PUps accessible through Kangaroo jumps or Wall climbs (yes, you can drive up walls with the right PUp). And there’s nothing quite like using 3 kangaroo jumps in quick concession, launching the vehicle miles into the sky.
Most are centered around PVP powers that help destroy neighboring vehicles. There are even wildcard modifiers that make the player weaker against other racers. The modifiers that effect the pedestrians might be the funniest part of the game. Make their heads pop off, launch them away, suck them up into tornadoes until they come unglued. Or make them dance… and then run them over. There is no shortage of creative PUps to be found, and the effort to include them are noted and appreciated. It’s the gameplay itself that’s the biggest turnoff.
The struggle in Carmageddon Max Damage boils down to its central makeup, and I can’t even say it’s anything all too different than its genre’s origins. Decades later and the problems it faced on the PS1 are still rampant. There are clunky, wonky controls that don’t offer the fast-paced handbrake turns found in today’s racers. There is a constant dry-land hydroplane after a couple turns that make it difficult to regain control. There are saving graces, however, that need to get a bit of the spotlight. The game features some decent vehicle armor physics that can be rewound through the Points-for-Health system. Wheels can get crushed under the well or pop off, which render the vehicle immobile until healed. Meanwhile, PUps can be used to completely sever the top half of the car. Ram a car into a wall just right and it will break clean in half. All of this would be even cooler if the player could have better control of the screen.
The camera can’t make up its mind when the player is spun out (it’s disorienting, and not in a fun, realistic way). R3 is designated strictly for camera direction, but it’s spotty at best. Once turned around, there’s really no bearings on what direction the screen may go. It’s an unflattering flashback to the games of its time. In fact, even the environments are a bit angular and polygonal. There is a fatal dose of nostalgia all the way down to its lengthy pregame load times! There are minor points where these things are intentional, but the title’s growth seems stunted, which is flabbergasting when you think about how long it took to bring this back to the console. All these unresolved issues suck the air right out of its tires.Carmageddon Max Damage is too mature in content for younger gamers, and it’s framework is too underdeveloped to pacify older gamers. This is not the great revival fans wanted, but it’s also good enough to draw some laughs. It can really be summed up by one sentence: Carmageddon Max Damage would have made a near-perfect Sega Dreamcast title.
Avoid if you were expecting a genre reviving experience. Play if you’re not picky and need to get your hands on a bloody, crunchy derby game.