In news that made my eyes spin around inside their sockets like a cartoon character it turns out that a new Carmageddon game may be on the horizon. Now admittedly a console-based version is probably the last thing I should get excited about considering the dodgy past of the series’ console adaptations but it’s still Carmageddon. The best game EVER!
I’ve always loved Carmageddon, it was the first proper PC game I loved – well, possibly tied with the Shareware version of Blood that was also on the same machine. I would visit my mate Stratton’s house just to play for hours, we’d take it in turns to try and get higher scores than each other while his father cried out in despair as our frantic use of the hand brake/space bar made him worry about how long this expensive bit of kit would last for with two excitable teens using it to satisfy blood lust and now it looks like it might be coming back.
The Squeenix-owned website www.carmageddon.com is currently playing host to a rather teasing countdown timer that is due to end in about 10 days but what will be revealed? An XBLA/PSN HD update of the original? A brand new fully fledged remake for the new gen consoles? A movie? A crappy licensed iOS app? A teaser trailer? We just don’t know. But know this… what ever it is it has a burden of responsibility…. a heavy, heavy burden. The hopes of an entire generation of gamers are watching. Don’t fuck it up.
Also… while we are on the subject, here is my initial review I wrote of the game was back in November 2006 for the oft-mentioned Consoles and Conkers website. Feel free to read the feature here, or there in original, illustrated format:
As a 14-year-old boy growing up in the mid-nineties, it was essential that a certain angst-ridden blood-lust was satisfied. It may, in the case of Leigh Whitfield, came from torturing frogs. Perhaps it would come from beating up first-years and hanging them on cloakroom hooks, but for me it was video games. From Streets of Rage to the Grand Theft Auto series, violence in games has always been a draw for me, as well as thousands of others, who may, or may not be corrupted in the brain, proving Jack Thompson to be a genuine voice of concern. The first ‘proper’ violent game I played, not including Doom or Duke Nukem 3D was Carmageddon. This vehicular-manslaughter simulator of extreme digital accuracy (or at least it was to a 14 year old puberty sufferer) provided a stark choice for gamers; race or maim. Very simple. I have yet to meet anyone who chose to race.
Graphics: 7 crumpled drive-shafts out of 10
Carmageddon was totally a game of its time. Grainy FMV style graphics mixed with live-action clips and ‘new’ 3D textures. From the perspective of a gamer back then it was a truly horrific vision of a not-too-distant future world, dominated by violent sports and entertainment (seeing Celebrity Love Island only makes a real world Celebrity Carmageddon more appetising). From murky apocalyptic cityscapes to toxic waste decimation the game gave a realistic, if slightly grainy view of the violent racer’s future. From massive police vehicles to fantastically over the top and kitsch vehicle design the game was, and is (if you can get it to run, CURSE YOU XP!!!!!) a homage to the films of Roger Corman and a fitting glimpse into the world crumbling around us. The in-car view was actually ‘in-car’, which makes a nice change, and even sported a grubby pair of hands. The ‘peds’ are craftily designed two-dimensional sprites, which always appear to have more depth than they did, exploding into a volcano of guts and gore when your vehicle bursts them like balloons of Pedigree Chum. These are the details we crave in a driving simulation, not realistic creases in pit crew overalls. Sigh.
Sound: 9 cows crapping themselves out of 10
Boasting a soundtrack featuring music from Lee Groves (who went on to work with illustrious artists such as Goldfrapp and ahem, Craig David) and apocalyptic cyber-metallers, Fear Factory, as well as digitised dialogue which could induce a snort of laughter from a coma victim the game’s sound was perfect. From beefy engines to crushing metal, from the sound of old ladies being creamed (not like that!) to the sound of your driver panicking as the car rolls through a pedestrian crossing, everything was pure exploitation and yet also so gloriously apt. There is little to fault, and as with many games of the 90’s you can even pop the game in the CD player of your car, if you’re a flash git, and mow down pedestrians to the soundtrack of the game that un-hinged you in the first place.
Presentation: 9 brushed aluminium dashboards out of 10
The presentation of Carmageddon is something that either took a room full of geniuses to create, or was the work of a lone socio-path. Either way it is amazingly stylised and well-matched to the gaming content. From the opening FMV, to the rather stark “Members of the public, you now have one minute to reach Minimum Safe Distance” warning included within it, through to the digitally crunching ‘bidooh’ sound when selecting buttons on the main menus it is all incredibly industrial and mechanical. The selection of two drivers, with differing cars allows for a bit of variety, and the game itself never gets too far away from the original concept. The progressive levels, including mines and cityscapes never feel like part of a plot, more a part of an inclusive world that begs to be explored. And explore you do, not because you have to, but because the rather large playing areas are open to ‘your’ decisions. Sure a route is mapped out for you, but if you have the desire, and the balls, you can go off-road, find insane jumps, herds of irresistible peds awaiting sadistic destruction or maybe a poor defenceless opponent stuck like a ladybird, wheels spinning in the breeze. The car’s exteriors are suitably clunky and filthy, no polished polygons here, just hard, rough mechanical edges. It is something that is often ignored in futuristic games, but dirt goes a long way to create a decent and believable future. Ridley Scott knew it, and clearly the designers on Carmageddon knew it too. It also came in a proper box.
A game can be defined in one of two ways:
1) How much you enjoy the game,
2) How much your mates want to play it.
This game ticked both of those categories with a bloody huge hammer soaked in entrails and mangled flesh. The repeated slamming of a space bar to create the ‘perfect handbrake turn’ and the occasional honking of the horn mid-jump Dukes of Hazzard-style made this immensely re-playable, and ultimately the title that will persuade Jimmy Bingham to stop hitting you in the groin and join you in a bit of vehicular vasectomy. The thing with it was that despite the graphics lacking the smoothness of some games of the time, it was gritty, dirty and deserved to be kept under the mattress along with the three pages of Razzle you bought off a bigger boy for a fiver. This was mechanical masturbation material, exactly what EVERY 14-year old boy craved, and you could do it in the same room as your Mum without being told to wipe the cat clean afterwards.
The gameplay was simple; win the race, kill every pedestrian in the zone or destroy every opponent. As I mentioned before you would have to be the human equivalent of a marshmallow to think of just racing through the level, whilst killing all the peds took immense patience and blood-lust, so most plump for taking out the enemy head-on. Each win bumps you up a position, unlocking a couple more races and you continue the pattern until you are the bloodiest battler of all. That’s it. Simple. Occasionally you are ‘challenged’ to take another player’s position, which is always advised as it normally will give you a better shot at mowing down the starter official, all flags look better with a bit of spilt blood on them, I know this because Hulk Hogan told me. The simplicity of the game means one thing above all else; there is nothing other than pure anarchy to worry about. No stealth tactics, no ‘turn on the shark display’ missions that marred the third Carmageddon title and no blocky zombie rag-dolls to run down here; just two dimensional digital pedestrians, cows and American football players to mow over, under and on top of. Can’t find a jump? Launch from a direction marker then, or better still, from the front of an opponent. Nothing says satisfaction more than making a digital character scream in fear as you pilot him and his little red (or ‘her’ and ‘her’ little ‘yellow’) car off of a jump at 200mph into oblivion (or any other RPG).
I think it warrants a mention that after a few hundred goes on the demo version on Matt’s PC his father was extremely concerned about the survival of his space bar as we slammed it over and over, spinning the car, sliding around corners and generally creating blood infused skid marks all over the road. Some people need their priorities corrected. You would still be able to read this article if suddenly all the spaces went. Well, that, or you would just look at the pictures. Are you even reading this?
Overall: 9 Infuriated Lawyers out of 10
Carmageddon was and is a legendary title, that due to XP being incompatible with 90% of everything vaguely PC related, has sadly slipped into the great gaming void alongside point ‘n’ click adventures and Build-engine ‘Doom games’. With a rather rubbish third title being the easiest to run, it is that title, TDR 2000 that is frustratingly the poster boy for the Carmageddon franchise in the 21st century, and much like Driv3r it has ruined what was an immensely fun and unique series (I am deliberately ignoring the existence of Carmageddon 64, hoping in vain that one day I will step out of the shower, Dallas-style and discover it was all a dream that something so shockingly shit should appear on any machine, let alone a Nintendo one). Ultimately those who played it back in the day will have incredibly fond memories and those of you who didn’t I can only recommend the PS1 version, that at least managed to feel something like a Carmageddon game. The game was a Daily Mail/Jack Thompson nightmare on a CD, but for the rest of us it resembled the best thing since Page 3, and that takes some beating (mind you, so did the Page 3…), as it was not just a nudie woman, it was a glimpse into the life of a nudie woman thanks to the editorial note at the bottom of the picture. Who knew that topless models had such diverse interests? Perhaps some of them played Carmageddon? I like to think that they did, topless, whilst a slightly-balding old man shouted ‘I’d buy that for a dollar’ through his basement flat window. Ah, the joys of a media saturated mind. You can keep your Grand Theft Autos and your Saints Rows, Carmageddon was the original drive-over-em-up and I won’t let you forget it. After all, ‘I was in the war!’ *
November 2006 – Bouncybhall
* I wasn’t in the war.