Thursday, 14 October 2010

PC - Carmageddon

So, you’ve designed a driving game. It takes place in huge sprawling cities (kind of like GTA3, perhaps). You have to drive through checkpoints to complete laps to win the race. Sounds very bland, doesn’t it?

OK, how about you can also win by smashing your opponents to death. For some reason, you running head on into them damages them, and not so much you. Now, that’s more like it.
How about you’re up against a clock? And there’s nowhere near enough time to complete the race, and you can earn more by smashing the opposition up? Now, that’s more like it.

How about if you smash up certain cars you can actually pinch them and use them yourself? Ooh, now that sounds good. And you’ve got to have power-ups too, but make them interesting, like “Instant Handbrake” and “Solid Granite Car” and “Electro-Bastard Pedestrian Killing Ray”.
Hold on… did I just say “Pedestrian Killing”? That’s a breach of the Green Cross Code, right?

Now wait just a minute, because like all truly memorable games, Carmageddon did not avoid the glare of the censors, but the story isn’t exactly straightforward. You see, Carmageddon first came to my attention thanks to a playable demo on a PC Zone coverdisk. The demo was time-limited, but very intense, and included the game as it was intended… the streets crowded with innocent pedestrians whom you could mow down with your vehicle in a shower of blood and guts. Furthermore, you could win the race yet another way, by finding and killing all the pedestrians on a map.
HOWEVER, when the game came to be released, there was much disappointment as the pedestrians were changed at the last minute to “Zombies”, given green skin and blood. Why was this? Why wasn’t the game quite as enjoyable? Does this mean I’m a psychotic murderer deep down?

I don’t think so somehow… but yes, something just didn’t feel quite “right”, it felt a little bit like Shadow Warrior, where the Shurikens were suddenly replaced by “darts” for the UK market. For some reason, SCi had to swap the pallet colours of human flesh and blood.
Fortunately PC Zone came to the rescue by supplying a coverdisk with a “gore patch”, which restored the original graphics from the demo into the main game. So, back we went to zooming along straight roads and then hitting a sideways skid through a large crowd of the general public, hearing them scream first in terror, then in pain, then the satisfying splat… Yikes, I’m beginning to scare myself now.
You’ve got a choice of 2 drivers (whose reactions cam be seen on the “Prat-cam”) and a selection of difficulty levels ranging from very easy to ridiculously hard (a.k.a. As hard as French Kissing a Cobra) You would start out at Rank 99, gaining 1 or 2 ranks for each race you won (Depending on the difficulty selected). Your rank dictated which races you could select, usually 5 races at a time were selectable out of the list of about 36. The races themselves took place over about 8 different maps, but these maps were big enough to hold several different tracks, although you invariably would go exploring elsewhere anyway for more points and pedestrians to slaughter.

There’s some incredible jumps to hit, and in the mineshaft levels some insanely deep pits to fall down, and between levels you can add better bumpers and defences to your car. Most races are won by wrecking the opponents, but sometimes you realise they’ve gone completely off to the other side of the map for some reason, therefore you’ll have to complete the race to win, or earn enough time to hunt them down. Killing every single pedestrian isn’t really an option, as they really are all over the place. You can call a map up, but without a certain power-up pedestrians don’t show up on there.

There’s many amusing moments in the game, the Harvester power-up for example, or zipping into the stadium and hitting the line-up of American Football players with a skid straight over the top of them. But absolutely my favourite power up was the Electro Bastard Pedestrian-Killing Ray, which would zap any pedestrians within range of your vehicle as you passed by. Obviously, through big crowds or long straight streets this made for huge combos, giving you the chance to increase your measly 1 minute 30 seconds timer to well over 10 minutes, and a good chance to enjoy a nice speedy bloodthirsty drive around the map. Of course, the fact that it’s totally hilarious helps too.
But was all this necessary? Carmageddon got rave reviews at the time based on the excellent gameplay and physics involved. Take away the controversy and the gore, and you’ve still got an excellent driving game. The question is, would I have bought it? No, I probably wouldn’t. On that basis, I’m glad they went down that route.

Still not convinced? Trust me, it’s worth a go. Strap yourself in, hang on to your helmet, and drive to survive.


  1. Nicely written piece, but I've never had any interest in playing this game. There's plenty of great driving games that don't have to rely on being 'controversial' to be successful :|

  2. Good write up Fishta. I had the demo of Carmageddon and must of played it a hundred times. Despite that, I never bought the full release, probably because of the lack of real people to mow down. Gosh, that's a telling insight into the mind of my teenage self.

  3. Thanks for the comments, guys.

    It's a strange thing, this controversy thing. Simply, the lure of the "forbidden" is a great marketing tool.

    In this case it was used well, but softened by the censors upon release. The blood patch from PC Zone was awesome, though!

  4. peds peds peds

  5. Fuckin' Brit.

  6. "Anonymous23 July 2012 01:31

    Fuckin' Brit."

    Yeah, you know, like the bloke who invented the WHOLE WORLD-WIDE WEB (www). We suck in Britain, eh?

  7. Incidentally, good piece. I won this (developer edition, gore included) in a Quake competition and also bought it again later (as I'd sold it to CEX for lack of a PC to play it on - 1997 PCs weren't good value)!

  8. I just finished this game for android. I never got a chance to play it as I was being attacked by soviet jews and forced to be homeless when this came out. However, despite the facts of soviet subversion in the United States, killing all of the intellectuals off, this game was a great winner in my book. Though the pedas should be these fascist soviet jews in my book, it would be more realistic.