Title: Carmaggedon: Max Damage
Platform: PC, PS4 and Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Stainless Games
Publisher: Stainless Games
Release date: July 5th (North America) / July 8th (UK)
tl;dr: Imagine Mario Kart with blood and shit controls.
Price: $40 / £30 / €36
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

Carmageddon: Max Damage is an updated version of 2015’s PC title Carmageddon: Reincarnation, which saw the light of day thanks to a successful crowdfunded campaign via Kickstarter. This updated version simply includes all the post-release updates of the original PC game.

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While the game features a Career mode, it doesn’t have a story per se; simply survive and win all events spread across the Career’s 16 chapters. So seeing as there’s no story to cover, let’s dive into the thick of things.

Carmaggedon: Max Damage is a unique racing game because it mixes the standard racing genre with destruction derby. In order to advance to the next set of events, players must earn the necessary amount of points to unlock and proceed to the competition. The game has five types of events:

  • Classic Carma: Think of it as a free for all. There are three ways to win the match: complete all laps, run over all pedestrians or kill the opponents
  • Checkpoint Stampede: A checkpoint will appear on the map, first one to reach it gets a point and the car who reaches the target score wins.
  • Death Race: Complete all the laps first and win
  • Ped Chase: A variant of Checkpoint Stampede. A pedestrian will be tagged on the mini-map and first to kill him gets the point. First one who reaches the target score wins
  • Fox N’ Hounds: First driver to reduce their time to 0:00 wins

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Ramming enemies and killing pedestrians will earn points that can be used to fix the vehicle on the spot or flip it back onto four wheels. If players run out of points, no need to worry, as the counter goes into negative, and they still have the opportunity to cover the loss. While driving the vast arenas, players will come across barrels with question marks on them. Driving through those types of barrels will give the player a special power up such as speed boost, kangaroo jumps, just to name a few. It can be quite helpful when in a bind. Exploring the arenas will also reward players with upgrade tokens, which can be used to upgrade the cars in the garage.

The main problem I have with this game is the controls themselves. While I never played any past Carmaggedon games, I was actually expecting arcade-y controls à la Burnout or even Forza Horizon, seeing as it requires precise movement and being able to switch direction on a dime. Oh boy was I wrong. The game features controls that are more reminiscent of the racing sim genre which proves very frustrating considering the circumstances of the game. While for standard races (Death Races or one of the ways to win Classic Carma), where finishing first is the main objectives, it does the job very well. Unfortunately, for other types of events such as Ped Chase, players will spend more time fighting with controls as they try to align themselves to run over a pedestrian while avoiding other cars or any obstacle that will send the vehicle spinning out of control. Having racing sim-like controls to get momentum to ram an opponent or run over pedestrians will result in constant frustration. While players are trying to get control of their vehicles after being spun out of control or aggressively rammed into, they’ll be an easy target for the A.I. racers which won’t hesitate to drive into the player’s vehicle and won’t leave much room to escape their grasp.

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Additionally, the difficulty ramps up pretty quick. While the first chapter is perfectly balanced, chapter two kicks things off with a bang. The first event, a Classic Carma, features increasingly aggressive enemies that are nearly indestructible. They are easily able to track and ram you down. Hard. Two, three hits in a row and players are forced to use their hard earned points on fixing their nearly destroyed vehicle. Ramming other cars will cause more damage to your ride than theirs. Mix that with stiff controls, it ensures a frustrating gaming experience.

Along with Career mode, players can also choose to play Free Mode or Multiplayer. The former lets players can choose which of the five events they want to play, while the latter lets you take your driving skills online across the same events found in Career.

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While the game was developed for current-gen consoles and high end PCs, Carmaggedon: Max Damage does not take full advantage of the powerful systems. Environments, although colorful, feel a bit bland, soulless and empty. Besides the handful of pedestrians ready to be run over, the arenas feel dead. Often times, I saw visual glitches; either my car would change color out of nowhere, or simply become transparent, or even crashing through the map and getting lost in a void. The game’s soundtrack is easily one of the game’s strong points, as it features hard rock and metal bands to get your blood pumping to turn other drivers into scrap metal.

Every time I booted up Carmageddon: Max Damage, I was trying to force myself to enjoy it and have fun. Unfortunately, the controls killed my excitement. While the controls are fine for standard Death Races, they are a huge nuisance in other game modes. Otherwise, besides a few visuals hiccups, the game runs fine. It’s hard to recommend a game this frustrating. Feels like this game was made for nostalgia purposes only. Stay clear from Carmaggedon: Max Damage.

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The Good

  • Great soundtrack
  • Death Races
  • Big dumb fun…

The Bad

  • …if you can tolerate the stiff controls
  • Steep learning curve
  • Difficulty ramps up pretty quick

Family Focus

Carmaggedon: Max Damage is rated M thanks to the presence of blood, gore, sexual themes, strong language and violence.

This review is based on retail code supplied by the developer.