Carmageddon: Max Damage Review – An Attempted Love Letter from 1997 Lost in the Mail

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Carmageddon: Max Damage
Stainless Games

The year: 1997. What can I say? It was a golden year forever etched in my younger gamer’s data banks. Any of you fellow gamers who were playing video games back then may have remembered it as well, most likely as fondly as I.

The console wars were in full swing and the ever-glorious PC platform fielded a whole plethora of enticing and unique titles. 1997 saw some pretty incredible releases, such as the pivotal Golden Eye 007, the original Grand Theft Auto, and (even though I never was into it) the reportedly classic Final Fantasy VII. Meanwhile, a lesser know (at least at first) contender, Carmageddon, lurched out onto the video game highway, and through achieving notoriety, quickly gained traction in the minds of that time’s gamers.

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Not only were folks interested in its no-holds-barred, tongue in cheek brand of hyper-violence, but certain countries, such as the U.K. and Germany, were also taking a close look at it. In fact, Carmageddon quickly gained the ire of conservative groups who denounced its glorification of unbridled chaos and carnage, and either censored it or banned it outright. Of course, the whole “too risqué to play” and “controversial game” angle was just a smooth marketing ploy by the game’s original developers in order to get these groups’ panties all bunched up. It just made the impressionable and rebellious youth of that time want to play the game even more.

I tried playing Carmageddon back then, as well as one of its sequels, but quickly grew tired of its shallow gameplay and equally thin shtick. After all, although the wide assortment of vehicles on offer were pretty fun to take out on spins, the series’ main attraction—running over innocent civilians (and occasional cows) in order to accumulate points—can only be amusing for so long. It sort of reminded me of many of today’s comedy films such as the recent Key and Peele offering, Keanu, which attempt to stretch out what should have been a single gag, into an entire 90 minute movie. You get the idea.

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A sequel to 2015’s critically panned Carmageddon: Reincarnation, Carmageddon: Max Damage takes to the track and attempts to salvage whatever original interest in the series there ever was. I didn’t have the opportunity to play Reincarnation since it was relatively under the rader, but part of me wanted to give Max Damage a chance. I’m a big supporter of indie games—well, I should clarify that: I’m a big supporter of good indie games, and so went into my gaming play through with this latest Carmageddon title with an open mind. Who knows, maybe they’d be able to capture some of the over-the-top shenanigans of the original game and turns things around. Everybody loves a comeback story, right?

As with the original, Carmageddon: Max Damage mainly revolves around trying to run over as many absent minded pedestrians as possible, which in turn allows you to extend your racing time limit, while racing against other drivers. Unfortunately, the racing aspect in itself is marred by very suspect handling physics. Many times, I felt as though the vehicles I was driving were mounted on ice skates, as my attempts at taking even the simplest of corners had me twirling around and around in wild spinouts. In a game that relies so heavily on precision, with regards to smashing into people and driving through checkpoints, this can be quite a hindrance to say the least.

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I can’t even recall how many times I’d attempt to take the most mundane of corners, spin out of control like a drunken lout, barely be able to steady my vehicle-on-skates, and then watch in anger as a computer driver casually careened into the same pedestrian that I was trying to smoosh in the first place. Warning: If you are prone to rage-quitting, you may want to steer (did I just say that? Yes…I did) away from this title with all due haste. I only managed to avoid shutting off this game in a flurry of aggravation because I knew I had to review it, and hence had to play it thoroughly.

Anyway, these factors may piss some people off (including me) but to top it off, Carmageddon: Max Damage has some agonizingly lengthy loading times in-between matches. As you may have gleaned from some of my previous reviews, I have a high patience threshold when it comes to playing video games. I’m not one of those attention deficit specials who must be supplied by constant action 24/7 or the eyes start to glaze over. But to have to wait for long periods between my next bouts of spinouts is almost intolerable, given that Carmageddon: Max Damage features graphics that don’t just look last-gen, but several generations old.

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One of the main reasons that I was even remotely interested in this latest Carmageddon offering was wondering how the series would look sporting a brand new 2016 facelift. Well, in this case, its plastic surgeon should be sued for malpractice because Carmageddon: Max Damage has some of the ugliest visuals I’ve seen thus far this year. They were so atrocious that one of the first things that popped into my mind was that if perhaps they had gone all retro and featured pixilated graphics, they might have created something a little easier on the eyes.

I’m not sure if the developers were trying to go full-on 90s with Carmageddon: Max Damage, but the graphics look like they are straight out of a 1997 time capsule. I mean, imagine sitting down to play the latest Street Fighter game in 2016 and looking on in astonishment as your eyes fall across a complete graphical replica of the original Street Fighter II.

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Carmageddon: Max Damage’s only saving grace, at least in my opinion, is its campy, low-brow humor, and tongue in cheek silliness. Admittedly, I found myself chuckling here and there at the many sexual double entendres, and rampant potty-mouthed wisecracks. Normally, I love politically incorrect forms of media, but having to experience frequent pop ups, overall lackluster graphics, and sloshy game mechanics, really detracted from any sort of overall enjoyment to be had with Carmageddon: Max Damage. Hardcore fans of the series may enjoy what they find here much more than me, but I left it thinking that if I’d bought it in DVD form, I could have at least used it as a bookend.

SCORE: 53%

Carmageddon: Max Damage requires you to have a pretty beefy gaming PC in order to play it, so you may want to invest in a decent gaming PC:

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