Mediocrity Fit For Kings
Make no mistakes, Carmageddon: Max Damage is by no means a great game. It’s not even a good game. In fact, I would go so far as to call it a bad game. In almost every video game category imaginable, you could point out each flaw within Carmageddon. Graphics? Terrible. Controls? Awful. Story? HA. Gameplay? Stiff and unresponsive. Multiplayer? Meh. But notice that I did indeed say almost every category. There is one category that Carmageddon actually made me pause and think: “Wait a second… is this actually kind of good?”. I asked myself “Am I having fun while playing this?” The answer to that question was an astounding “yes”.
To understand this mixed response, you first must understand what Carmageddon is. Carmageddon is a car combat series that began in 1997. Think Mad Max or Twisted Metal, except not nearly as competent. It has a focus on being an ultra violent civilian-killer simulator, which gave the original release plenty of controversy. In this iteration of the series, there are three primary game modes. You can start a “career” (that’s a generous term- it’s essentially just random missions over and over), you can free roam, and you can play online (which I can’t really comment on, as there were only three people online as I reviewed this game). As you play, you earn credits which unlock more courses, car upgrades, other cars, etc. It’s your standard affair for any game such as this. Alright, now let’s get all of the crud out of the way, shall we?
First, the graphics. Normally, I am not a graphics connoisseur by any means. This game, however, made me question the power of my PS4. At best, it looks like an early PS3 or 360 game; at worst, it looks like a PS2, Xbox, or Gamecube game. I realize that this game is harkening back to its series’ late 90’s PC roots, but there is no need to stay THAT faithful. It would be one thing if the art style was cool; this, however, is not the case. The art style is ugly, uninspired, and it looks like it was slapped together by amateurs.
How the game looks wouldn’t matter so much if the game played competently. But it seems like Carmageddon: Max Damage tries its darndest to hinder your racing ability. The cars are all slow for the most part, and acceleration is a tricky beast. Turning in the game is atrocious; it isn’t responsive at all, and so your instinct is to push the left analog stick all the way to the left or right. The game, however, snaps to attention after about half a second of holding the stick, so your car will do an unrequested 180°. I called in my little brother to play the game for a match and to tell me his immediate thoughts. His first words were “this controls horribly”. Once you get used to it, it isn’t GAME BREAKING, but it remains annoying.
There is no story in Carmageddon: Max Damage. It gives you no setup for why or how you can be mowing down all of these people. Granted, a game like this doesn’t really need a story. But it’s worth noting. Ultimately, what this game boils down to is its “classic” mode. In this mode, you race other cars. Wait no, you try to kill all of the other cars. Actually, scratch that, you try to kill all of the civilians. Ignore everything- you pick whatever you want to do and go for it. For me, this was borderline idiotic and genius. On one hand, who in their right mind would actually try to kill all of the civilians? It’d be much easier to do the other tasks. On the other hand, why the hell not try to kill all of the civilians? This game put me in a “screw it, I’ll try everything” kind of mood. And that, I believe, is where I actually had fun in this game.
All of my complaints aside, I (in a sick sort of way) enjoyed the ridiculousness of Carmageddon: Max Damage. I realized how terrible the game was almost instantaneously. But dang it if there isn’t something maniacally enjoyable about getting a power up called “Mostly Armless” and then proceeding to sear off random civilians arms. Dang it if there isn’t something enjoyable about driving around in half a car. Dang it if I didn’t enjoy launching my opponents sky high for no apparent reason. Throughout my experience with this game, I kept pointing out the flaws of this game to myself. The load times are atrocious, the gameplay is not up to par, blah blah blah. But I also continued having “Haha WTF that was awesome” moments for a while there. While these were few and far between the more I played, they were definitely present.
Therein lies my conundrum with this game. It is categorically, inherently, and objectively bad… but I kinda liked it. I don’t understand it, and I tried to explain it as best I could in this review. Should you play Carmageddon: Max Damage? No. Well, yes, if you’re willing to burn $39.99. If this game was $4.99, I’d tell everyone to buy it. It’s cheap and quick fun, and it should be priced that way. I would personally wait for a hefty sale on it. Ultimately, you must know what you are getting with this game in order to enjoy Carmageddon: Max Damage; It’s a stupidly fun, poorly made game. Or hell, I don’t know, never play it for all I care. I really don’t know what emotion I’m trying to convey right now. This game has me all sorts of confused.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One; Publisher: Stainless Games ; Developer: Stainless Games; Players: 1-6 (Online) ; Released: July 8, 2016 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Carmaggedon: Max Damage given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.