You're sitting at the starting line, waiting for the checkered flag to drop. Engines race as each driver waits for the race to begin. Suddenly the car next to you surges forward, slamming the starter's body into the wall. You and the other drivers take off in fast pursuit, careening up onto the sidewalks, sending spectators running for cover.
If you've ever seenyou have a good idea of the story in Carmageddon. There are no rules; it's just you and your car against everyone. Your goal is to climb from 99th in the rankings to number one and if, along the way, you have to crush the opposition (literally), that's just fine. And if you're also willing to take out any pedestrians that don't run fast enough, that's even better. This is one racing game where your position in the pack doesn't matter as much as how much damage you do.
Each race does have a set course and you can successfully complete a race by going through the checkpoints and finishing the required laps, but you'll miss most of the fun if you do. You can also win by knocking the competition out of the race, and we're not talking about a wimpy game where you blast away at the enemy with guns -- in this race, it's just you and the car slamming into stuff while doing 95 mph. And if that's not violent enough, there is a third way to win: run over every pedestrian on the streets.
Carmageddon is less of a racing game than a destruction derby and while the premise is pretty straightforward, there are many extra touches that make it a lot of fun to play. Each race pits you against 5 of the 25 opponents who have their own car and style. The AI behind the drivers is fantastic. Not only do they take advantage of their car's abilities and quirks, they also remember how you've treated them in previous races. If you trash one driver too many times, he'll be after your throat the next time he sees you. And when you manage to waste another racer completely, there is a chance that their car will be stolen, making it available for you to use in future races.
The best thing about all the cars is that each one handles differently. Driving a tricked-out sports car feels vastly different from driving a monster truck, and Carmageddon has captured the essence of the various cars extremely well. Every vehicle has a different response to acceleration, braking and cornering, making each one a challenge to drive. But after a little practice you can do quick handbrake turns and spins in almost all of them. You can even do stunts like jumps and flips that can earn you bonuses.
There are over thirty tracks and each one is a complete 3D environment. You're not tied to the set race course; in fact, most of the powerups and many of the pedestrians can only be found by leaving the set track. One course will have you roaring through the streets of a big city, and in the next you will be cruising along a coastal highway. Each track is unique and has secret areas to find and exploit.
The points earned from mowing down pedestrians, skillful maneuvers, style, combo collisions and powerups can be used to make on-the-fly repairs or recover the car if it is stuck upside-down.
The 3D environment in Carmageddon is top-notch. The car animations are smooth and damage to your car shows up clearly -- it will even catch fire and spew black clouds of smoke. Sparks fly from collisions, pedestrians run screaming from oncoming vehicles, and light poles, trees and other scenic objects break off and bounce across the landscape when you smash into them.
The default screen mode is 320x200 and most systems will perform best at that resolution. There is a 640x480 high-res mode, but even on a top-end Pentium 200 it was too choppy for comfortable play. A 3Dfx patch is promised soon, which should provide smoother high-res graphics.
The audio ranges from good to really annoying. The various engine noises and crashes, bangs, screams, and crunches of the cars smashing into walls, pedestrians, and each other are very realistic. They even fade in and out and shift in pitch as the cars race past each other at top speed. If the effects had been left here, they would have been fantastic. Unfortunately, there is a small inset animation of "you" that reacts to your driving with screams and swearing that became annoying after a short time. This can be turned off, but the game doesn't remember the setting between sessions, so you have to toggle it off over and over again. The game also has a pulse-pounding rock soundtrack that provides the perfect background to the mayhem, but to hear it you must do a full installation, which requires 250 MB of drive space (this isn't mentioned during the install process).
Carmageddon's multi-player options are fantastic. The game supports up to six players on an IPX network, and there are several modes ranging from a free-for-all destruction derby to complicated games of tag. You can set the game so that all players are using similar cars, have the computer randomly assign cars for each race, or allow each player to select from the available cars. I personally like the free-for-all mode with randomly selected cars. It can be a real challenge to take out someone in a huge front-end loader when you're driving a dune buggy, but it makes for great gameplay. There are even special multi-player tracks, including one where the race takes place on the top of a plateau — it's lots of fun to push your opponents off and watch them fall. The only drawback to the multi-player options is the lack of support for modem or Internet play.
Carmageddon's documentation provides a solid overview of the game, including background information on the opponents you will face. It also covers tips and tricks for the unsafe driving practices you'll need to develop to win the game.
Required: MS-DOS 6.2 or higher, P90 or faster, 16 MB RAM (24 MB RAM required if running under Windows 95), 4X CD-ROM drive. Multiplayer play requires an IPX network.
Carmageddon has been rated M (Mature, ages 17 and up) for violence, gore, and language. Unlike some other violent games, there is no parental lockout mode that turns off the blood -- this game is simply not intended for kids.
This is one fantastic game -- it's demolition derby with a body count. If you're looking for a racing game that tosses the rulebook away, this is it. The variety of tracks and opponents, combined with the freedom to go anywhere and run over anything, makes this game a great stress reliever. The only drawback is the lack of modem or Internet support for multi-player games. This has quickly become one of my favorites -- I would definitely recommend Carmageddon to anyone looking for a little uncontrolled mayhem.
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Carmageddon is a demented form of racing game where the player has to compete against 25 other maniacs through five totally different racing environments. You earn credits for automatic damage repair and can even expand your tool of destruction with upgradeable parts from the parts shop.
One really interesting feature is how you can even ditch your own wrecked car on the curb-side and steal another driver's dragster. Not nice, but a necessity to survive. From this preliminary copy, Carmageddon looks really hot, but only time will tell if it has what it takes to be a winner.