Friday, July 8, 2016

Carmageddon: Max Damage (PS4)

The original "Carmageddon" game was no stranger to controversy in it's early days. If memory serves me well it was actually banned in some countries (Germany? ...) for the gore, violence, and crude subject matter. Seeing it come back in this very same unapologetic form both delights me, and kind of worries me at the same time. Don't get me wrong though. I love my violent video games. The features in this particular game however could easily be offensive to many gamer types. Things like the running over of animals, the elderly, the handicapped, the obese, and the use of certain descriptive words (Babyshit Bronze, Pink Penetrator, Spotted Dick ...) for applicable skins definitely show a sort of tastelessness or lack of common decency. Not that I'm complaining (Freedom of Expression FTW!!!). Despite this potentially frowned upon formula parts of the game really stood out as being polished for a game bearing such a price tag ($39.99). At least to me ...

Coming back in all it's lewd, crude, and rude glory "Carmageddon: Max Damage" returns with it's cybernetic antagonist named 'Max Damage' who is once again focused on wreaking havoc on innocent bystanders, and fellow death race participants. The races which come in three carnage heavy flavors give the gamer some unusual options for winning as the homicidal maniac himself, or as any of the other racers in the league. In the campaign specifically the "Carnage Carma" mode allows the player or racer to win through either the killing of all pedestrians, the destruction of all other racers/racing vehicles, or the usual completion of laps via checkpoints. In other modes you'll also be racing to capture marked points to meet a point quota, or racing to the finish line with vehicular combat in mind during a proper death race. There are plenty of armored, and weaponized vehicles to unlock (25), upgrade, and deal damage with ranging from Max's spiked sport's car to drift cars, dragsters, and even a transfer truck among others. The catch is you are timed, and the damage done to your vehicle is only reversible if you obtain the credits by performing "cunning stunts", killing peds in different stylized manners, or by running over barrels in a fashion similar to the Mario Kart games. There's even PUPs, or Power-Ups which will give you options outside of wrecking, and racing. Again, like "Mario Kart". Customization is an added bonus as well which to an extent will allow players playing with the same vehicles online to make their vehicles more unique in comparison to others ...

So, how does "Carmageddon: Max Damage" stack up in comparison to modern-day PS4 releases? Not too shabby, if I might say so. Not too shabby, but not too great either. The graphical details, the vehicular combat, and even the tasteless killing of pedestrians makes for some oddly fun times despite the game's slightly dated build. As far as the racing component goes the only thing really keeping the experience from being "Triple A" is the simplistic mechanics that were applied. That, and the extremely haphazard track layouts which could be best described as a Tony Hawk's skate park. The kind from the video games. While operating your vehicle in the game isn't as polished an experience as it is in something like "Gran Turismo" the simple boosting, reversing, steering, and braking controls still make for an alright control scheme. What you'll have to keep in mind is that each vehicle operates similar to it's real world counterpart. By that I mean the drift car will drive like a drift car, and the dragster like a dragster. So forth, and so on. As such meeting objectives within the 'Campaign', 'Free Play', and 'Multiplayer' modes will be subjective. Meaning that the finishing approach may not be as viable to one type of racing vehicle as it is to another. I personally found Vlad's dragster to be extremely difficult to control, because it operated like a straight line dragster would. That type of vehicle would likely be best suited for wrecking the other cars, or for killing all the pedestrians.

When it comes to the three modes of play made available I sampled the 'Campaign', and the 'Free Play' mode, but could not for the life of me join an online 'Multiplayer' match. Despite the lack of access to the latter option I found that the 'Campaign' mode alone offered random race types (Carnage Carma, Capture, Death Race), and unlockable levels that open up new tracks with the earned points/credits that you gain from completing each given objective. It is here you'll also be able to wreck, and unlock other vehicles that are highlighted in the loading screen headlines as targets of interest for the current race. The 'My Garage' menu with which you customize your vehicles can also be opened within the modes, and can even be accessed at the main menu listing in order to do things like upgrade parts in the 'Parts Shop' (Armour, Power, Offensive) as well as alter superficial vehicular details such as skins, and rims. The three objective types that earn you said perks include the previously mentioned 'Carnage Carma' which gives you three options for winning. You can either kill the peds (All of Them!!!), wreck all of the competition, or race through all of the checkpoints in order for up to 8 laps. The courses are timed, and you can only gain more time by killing peds, performing stunts ("Cunning Stunts"), or by running over yellow barrels. Like a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game the racing courses also have hidden items in various areas that can be collected by running over them. Not only that, but the power-ups also come in barrel form for easy drive-through access. Think "Mario Kart".

The secondary mode called 'Capture (or something of the sort?)' will have you frantically chasing highlighted circular areas in order to reach the 8 point limit first. Each point that is driven onto, or through will award you a single point. The first racer to 8 points wins. Lastly the 'Death Race' mode is just as it sounds. It takes away the pedestrians, and pits you in a race to the death with up to six other vehicles/players. As far as the 'Multiplayer' portion of the game goes it contains a simple matchmaking setup where you can search for player lobbies that can be tweaked to said players' liking. You can select the race course, the mode of play, the allowed cars, the allowed number of players, and other such adjustments that will make the match random or specific in nature. As I said earlier though I could not get into 'Multiplayer'. Each time I tried to join a lobby I was met with a message claiming I was not connected to the PSN which I know was not accurate. I'm hoping this can be fixed, because without a proper multiplayer all the game would really have going for it is the 'Campaign'. That, and the 'Free Play' which allows you to adjust match settings for races against CPU/AI/Local? opponents. I will be sure to update you on Twitter (@OtakuDante) if I'm able to get into the MP, and if it's quality is good or not ...

The Verdict ...

Without my knowledge of the 'Multiplayer' experience all I can definitively judge is the 'Campaign', and the 'Free Play' portion of 'Carmageddon: Max Damage'. The gameplay in those two modes is mostly fun in a senseless sort of way, and is graphically polished for an indie of this sort (excellent texture effects, decent environments, cool car collision/destruction, and decently animated blood/gore). The car physics, or handling is also decent, but isn't anywhere near as perfected as a "Triple A" racing game would have had it. In the way of race features the mini map helps some with the locating of checkpoints, but it is easy to get lost as the courses are more or less a Tony Hawk's skate park with all sorts of twists and turns. I did find the inclusion of hidden items, upgrades, and skins with name obscenities to be interesting as well, but only to a point. Most of the skins were unlocked from the start except for one, and to be honest they weren't really anything that special. None of the customization options really were. It's not like there's gonna be a message pop-up on my online opponent's screen saying OtakuDante1134 is using the "Babyshit Bronze" skin or the "Pink Penetrator". I feel Stainless Games could have offered much more in the way of customization, and that fact alone sort of hurts the overall value of the experience. Sure you have around 25 unique vehicles to obtain, and race as, but after a while that is gonna grow old.

Without the 'Multiplayer' working for me I can't really suggest this game as a "Buy" at the moment, or possibly ever, but I will say it's just alright for some offensive streaming. Perhaps even for some senseless party fun. I'll definitely have to get back to you about the multiplayer portion of the game though ...

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