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Blast From The Past | Carmageddon

Matt Gardner
Blast From The Past, Carmageddon, Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now, Death Race, Max Power, Racing Games, Stainless

Blast From The Past | Carmageddon

Watching someone play Carmageddon for the first time at EGX (admittedly on iOS), it was incredibly satisfying bearing witness to the realisation that it's not your average racing game. Their first few checkpoints were meticulous - carefully driven to ensure they stayed on a good racing line, maximising the top-ups to  the ticking clock. Then a monster truck with a drill  for a nose came hurtling down the road the wrong way and flattened them. There was lots of swearing, a frustrated attempt to find the track again and get back on course with seconds left on the clock.

And then they realised that running over cows  and screaming pedestrians filled up your time as well. After a couple of seconds he was doing sadistic donuts in a field and had smashed a fellow racer to smithereens. He was cackling like a maniac. I had to smile.

Blast From The Past | Carmageddon

You see, that's really what Carmageddon was all about: that split-second of violent wishful thinking that everyone goes through at some point behind the wheel; the blip of road-rage that causes us to attempt reckless overtakes on the motorway, drive like a cock to nip into a space following a junction, and whisper profanities at pedestrians who suddenly walk out from beyond parked vehicles. What better way to soothe and vent our freeway fury than to retire to the PC once home, and engage in some four-wheeled, anarchic mayhem?

Racing games these days seem intent on having a setting and maybe even a story (or a pop-up music festival), but Carmageddon needed none of that. Instead, you stepped into  the shoes of one of two drivers - Max Damage or Die Anna - and took your violently pimped race car through over 35 bizarre levels from suburban fields and winding mountain tracks, to labyrinthine caverns and powder-dusted arctic tracks. Each race was the same: there are six cars, you start with a small amount of time on the clock, either win the race or destroy the cars of your opponents. Pleasantly, the AI almost always gunned for the latter.

Blast From The Past | Carmageddon

But Carmageddon wasn't just a fun, dumb game. Well...it was a fun, dumb game, but there were a number of clever little things going on under the hood for which we as an industry should be truly thankful. The first was the destruction model when it came to the cars. Wreckable (and repairable) vehicles were fantastic to see in action, with the money earned from Piledriver bonuses and Cunning Stunts essential for feeding back into the car. Watching your front wing bend it itself back into shape and pop back into place was mindblowing at the time.

The physics of the game made for some hilarious kills, as bloodied cows ricocheted into their herd-mates, or you sent lampposts and trees into a frenzied crowd of pedestrians, earning yourself a sweet Nice Shot bonus in the process. But it affected car performance too. A year before GTA, and two before Driver, here was an open driving game that saw cars you could beat and batter into all sorts of amusing shapes, hamstringing their racing capabilities, and rendering them sitting ducks. Lots of fun was spent on occasion, lining up the comatose carriages under a bridge, before then driving off said bridge to reap stunt and multiple takedown bonuses.

Finally, Carmageddon will always be remembered for being the poster child for everything that was wrong with gaming back in the Nineties...according to people who didn't play games. While the rest of the world was busy being sanctimonious and missing the point, we were playing Carmageddon, and loving it. The BBFC refused to certify it, a certification submission process undertaken by SCi admittedly for publicity reasons, only caving in 10 months later. In was banned in a number of countries, including Brazil, and censored in others such as Germany. "Ban This Sick Filth!" headlines cried. By contrast, this week's release on iOS saw the game dropped uncensored onto the App Store with a 12+ certificate. How times change.

Blast From The Past | Carmageddon

If we have Interstate '76 and Twisted Metal, and of  course Death Race, to thank for Carmageddon, then we have Stainless to thank for creating a game that was pure catharsis. Did playing it mean we actually wanted to go out and mow down a bunch of pedestrians? No, of course not. But Stainless gave us a supreme level of player empowerment, by both flaunting the rules of conventional racers, and allowing you to do what you'd always wanted to do in those rather more staid games: turn the vehicle of that bastard who overtook you into a smouldering wreck.

Subsequent games would  bring with them new playable vehicles, and a wider array of power-ups - Jelly Suspension and the Electro Bastard Ray were the main highlights in the first game - but they wouldn't be the only games owing a debt to Stainless' madcap triumph. It's a testament to the enduring, bloodsoaked charisma of the game and its developers, who've worked so incredibly hard to bring the IP home once more, that the Reincarnation Kickstarter did so very well. And it's a delight to see it re-released on the App Store. It's no strings attached fun that refuses to make any sweeping moral statement, tell any kind of story, and deliver anything other than a visceral, violent, and, crucially, fun experience.

Add a comment10 comments
fluff86  Oct. 20, 2012 at 19:38

Is this really thought out given what happened in Cardiff last night?

Quietus  Oct. 25, 2012 at 12:21

Because the entire world is aware of what happened in one city last night..?

Tsung  Oct. 25, 2012 at 12:34

I tried to find the story about what happened in Cardiff last night and failed.. Still this game is several years old so many they should of know what happened when they wrote it.

Anyhows, I picked this up on the PC from GOG recently and boy does it look dated. Careful PC owners don't be tempted to tarnish your memory of this game by getting it from GOG. Of course I still look forward to the new version that is hopefully coming to the PC next year :)

stevenjameshyde  Oct. 25, 2012 at 12:52

Quietus/Tsung - the article was originally published and pulled 5 days ago, so the 'last night' of the first comment doesn't mean yesterday. There was a spate of hit-and-run fatalities in Cardiff over the weekend, which was rather big news at the time

Tsung  Oct. 25, 2012 at 13:02

Ahhh thanks for clearing that up, that was confusing.. I guess the hit & runs caused the article to be pulled. It all makes sense now.

Still I'll stand by my comments regarding the PC version on GOG, don't go there you will regret it :p

Quietus  Oct. 25, 2012 at 14:29

I did see that, and thought it odd that it'd popped up atop HUKD's list.

MattGardner  Oct. 25, 2012 at 17:15

Sorry for the confusion folks. We had published this for about half an hour on Saturday, but pulled it due to the Cardiff incident in the interests of sensitivity and good taste due to the breaking news featuring heavily across social media.

Unfortunate timing is all.

ODB_69  Nov. 1, 2012 at 08:27

I've never played this game so when it was up for free on IOS for 24 hours I thought I'd grab it to see, not expecting anything at all really cause I don't enjoy gaming on my iPhone really.

This game however had totally changed my opinion of mobile gaming! I love it...in fact I completed it really quickly over a few days playing on the daily commute. Love the varied courses and different vehicles. Honestly I see a market for a re-boot of this series!

I never won the race though, just battered all opponents lol

fluff86  Feb. 26, 2013 at 18:14

Because the entire world is aware of what happened in one city last night..?

only just seen the notifications as i dont usually log in to browse this site....

they pulled it so evidently they agreed,but as for the entire world, i was never and did never refer to, they appear to be uk based media, so i assumed that them and a fair proportion of their readership would have heard the news from some form of media or another given that it was everywhere and consider posting a review about how fun it is to mindlessly run down pedestrians the day after might be ill considered and in slighty poor taste, which by their reaction and the comment that they posted was the case so.

fluff86  Feb. 26, 2013 at 18:15

never played it myself but i remember it the first time round but was never really into driving games that didnt contain any actual combat then so having not played it then it never bothered me for nostalgia value this time

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