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 seen Deathrace 2000 you 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.
'The Nastiest Driving'
Game In The World... Ever!' It's quite a claim, but at the time of Carmageddon's release there could be very little argument. Indeed, it's a boast that still bears examination today, as for sheer gratuitous nastiness few games have come close, before or since. Even fewer have been as funny, and Carmageddon occupies a rare position of being deeply immoral yet highly amusing. That it managed this largely through the medium of wholesale pedestrian slaughter is no small achievement. After all, running people over isn't funny, is it? Is it?
Black humour is one of the things that keeps us all sane," claims co-designer Patrick Buckland. "Carmageddon really isn't so different from Laurel & Hardy you know, in that we laugh at it for the same reasons. Also, driving is something that most of us do. And we've all seen that bloody stupid old bloke hobbling across the road in front of us and shouted, 'F-k off you coffin-dodging old XXXX! Get out of my f--king way! I don't care what fking war you fought in you whingeing wanker. I've got a f--king pub to get to. now f--k off!'
Something of an extreme attitude, perhaps, but one that clearly infused itself into the game. Apart from an irrational hatred of slow-moving war veterans. Patrick claims that the idea for Carmageddon also came from me hating driving games. Every time I played them, I got bored after half a lap, turned my car around and tried to head-on the pack coming the other way. Due to shite collision detection and zero physics in the games at that time, this was rarely satisfying, so I set out to write a game where this was the actual core gameplay mechanic.
I was into some pretty banzai Banger Racing at the time, specialising in yanks, Jags and '60s British classics. I decided to try to capture some of the excitement of this in the game. It was signed up as 3D Destruction Derby. SCi then tried to procure the Mad Max licence for it, and when this failed they tried for Death Race 2020. the planned sequel to the classic Death Race 2000. Eventually this fell through as well, so we all thought. 'Sod it. let's just do it anyway.' Neil thought of the name Carmageddon. which I hated at the time, but I love it now!"
Appetite For Destruction
Co-designer Neil Barnden has similar memories of the game's original inception: "We put together a very basic demo for 3D Destruction Derby, which had three different cars trundling round a very basic oval track. The player was able to chase 'em in their car and twat 'em. and the opponent cars crumpled on impact. The demo featured the 'PratCam', where you got to see the driver - in this case, me - reacting to the impacts, which helped add the humour we wanted to convey. On the strength of touting this demo around ECTS we got some publisher interest, but it was SCi that most quickly signed on the dotted line."
Given the final content of the game, it was a brave move by SCi. However, far from attempt to tone down the violence, it seems that SCi actively encouraged it. According to Patrick, Early on in the development you actually lost points for hitting pedestrians, but it was Rob Henderson of SCi - now boss of Smoking Gun - who said, Fk- it, let's just go the whole hog and reward the player for killing people.' Good old Rob."
The pedestrian collisions were an aspect of the game that the team set about recreating with some gusto, as Neil recalls: In order that our sprite-based pedestrians be made to look incredibly lifelike (ahem), we based them on video frame grabs of ourselves 'in action' in the lorry car park outside our office. As part of this highly technical process, we enlisted the help of our friend Tony - who was also the in-game face of Max Damage - as stuntman. Wearing professional stuntman padding (cardboard boxes stuffed up his jumper) and using Patrick's Chevrolet Caprice station wagon as stunt vehicle, we proceeded to run Tony over. Many times. While my colleague filmed from the passenger seat, Tony encouraged me to drive into him at higher and higher speeds, as he was determined to roll completely over the roof of the car. That's the kind of guy Tony is.
In the end, I drove at him fast enough that he crashed straight through the windscreen. This, and the office workers in the building overlooking the car park calling the police, signalled that we'd 'got it in the can' for the reference material." What I should add to this is that it was my road car, says Patrick. Which I then drove up to the local windscreen repair shop with this bloody great person-sized dent in the glass. 'What the hell happened here?' 'You don't want to know...' Amazingly, rather than immediately phoning the cops and reporting a possible hit and run, he just dutifully replaced it!" As if the in-game violence wasn't enough, it seems that the appetite for destruction was also rife in reality, with the team seemingly losing their minds on a regular basis. As Patrick casually lists, There was the shooting of the chandelier. First with air guns, and then with a homemade rocket launcher. And the way we got the footage for whiplash on the PratCam - belting Tony around the back of the neck with the thick end of a pool cue. And the computer equipment thrown over balconies while working late at night. And the placing of a microwave oven on top of a car that we'd set fire to the week before, filling the microwave with petrol and camping gas cylinders, taping oxyacetylene-filled balloons to it, and turning it on. But we re a perfectly normal, sensible development company. Honest."
Banned On The Run
Amazingly, the game did actually make it to completion, but getting it on the shelves was to provide an even greater challenge in the shape of the notorious British Board of Film Classification.
I had to attend a meeting at their London office with the late James Ferman, the man whose signature famously graced the BBFC certificate for many years, recalls Neil. When the game was submitted to them, they refused to allow it to be released. I admit my recollection of the details of the meeting is hazy. As we were about to go into Ferman's office, I noticed my flies were completely open, and spent the whole meeting preoccupied with whether the Great Man would notice this too and assume I was making some sort of grand gesture. This, and what followed, made it a surreal occasion. They asserted that the idea of gaining reward for killing innocent people was unacceptable. In order to make their point that the game was morally bankrupt, they had one of their staff, a young guy, play the game in front of us all. He was clearly having a whale of a time, going for 'artistic impression' bonuses, giggling gleefully as old ladies exploded across his bonnet. James Ferman stood with us behind him, straight-faced, explaining to us how this man was being 'corrupted' by the experience. And the young man agreed: 'Yes, it's really not... TAKE THAT, BITCH!... possible... OW, SHIT!... for us to accept... HAH! BASTARD!... the game in it's current... TWAT! YESSS!... form.'
Our explanation that the game was meant to be a surreal comedy experience fell on deaf ears," recalls Neil. Without changes that would deal with their central objection, the game could not be given a certificate, and so would not be released."
It was perhaps for the best that Patrick Buckland wasn't at the meeting. As he says, Neil did all that stuff, which suited me fine, as I would probably have driven a large vehicle through their building had I been directly on the receiving end of their double standards. We once got a hard time from them because Ferman had spent 'all morning having to watch hardcore gay pornography'. Poor dear. I bet the twat was just embarrassed because it gave him a hard-on the size of a policeman's truncheon..."
Back to the matter in hand, and both Stainless and SCi were faced with a problem, namely the lack of a game. A compromise had to be reached and the concerned parties eventually agreed to replace the pedestrians with zombies, replete with censor-pleasing green blood. According to Neil, The zombies were created over the course of one long angst-ridden weekend as the solution to this impasse with the BBFC. Already dead, and filled with nothing more offensive than pus, the zombies were deemed acceptable victims for the young homicidal racing-game fans of Great Britain.
As Patrick remembers. They took out an injunction on us. SCi's offices were actually raided, and at one stage they threatened (CEO) Jane Cavanagh with jail! The zombies were bloody irritating. If red blood is good enough for The Holy Grail, it's good enough for us. Carmageddon was finally released to critical and commercial acclaim and. following a successful appeal by SCi against the BBFC's ruling, the full-gore pedestnan version eventually made it into the shops. An instant favourite here at PC, it received a whacking 95% review score, with Duncan MacDonald boldly claiming that "Carmageddon is God".
Other more low-rent publications were less complimentary though, and the inevitable lazy tabloid backlash promptly ensued, something that Patrick found absolutely bloody hilarious! Especially 'BAN DEATH GAME - POPE'. One of the funniest was that Age Concern officially complained to us because we were depicting the running-over of old people".
Similarly, Neil thought that the tabloid coverage was great! Uninformed, bandwagon-jumping rubbish. Just the stuff to shift more units".
And shift units it did, with the game hogging the number one spot like a blood-soaked Bryan Adams (if only). Carmageddon also received the ultimate accolade, picking up the coveted Game Of The Year, as voted for by the readers. At a gala occasion at London's Camden Palace, the Stainless team joyously lifted the trophy, and were spotted revelling late into the night, drunk on success and cheap wine. Even Tony the stuntman got involved, doing a passable impression of Mel Gibson, who he has actually doubled for in the movies (or so he claimed).
Porno For Anarchos
After everything had calmed down, the inevitable sequel followed, mirroring the success of the original and again lifting a PC 95% review score, with Charlie Brooker accurately summing it up as 'Pornography for Anarchists'. There was a third Carmageddon game in the shape of TDR2000. but Stainless wasn't involved, development duties instead falling to Australian outfit Torus Games, with mixed results. Or, as Patrick puts it, Absolutely f...ing dog shit. But you really shouldn't print that.
He still has fond memories of the original world-changing game though, claiming: It has brought violence more into the mainstream. It has also shown that videogames can be genuinely hilarious - I'm not sure that any game before Carmageddon could reduce an entire room of onlookers to tears of laughter. I'm very proud of that. Overall though, the thing I'm really most proud of is that millions of people around the world have had a laugh because of what I've done. Not many people can go to their grave with that claim.
As for Neil, he is similarly full of pride. I was talking to a friend recently about the idea of seeing something that someone else has made, he says. Whether it's a piece of art or a book, a videogame, a film, a television series, whatever, and being so taken with their achievement that you can see no point in continuing doing what you do. They've done such a perfect job, there's really nowhere left to go. I think you can be struck with this feeling, even if this achievement is in a field other than your own. I was discussing this, and told him that's what I expect to happen when Half-Life 2 is released.
At that point, I said, I will finally be able to give up making games, because there won't be any need any more. My friend's response was totally unexpected, and left me with a warm glow for the rest of the day. He said: 'But that's exactly what I felt like when I played Carmageddon?
It was as natural as cottage cheese. If you'd ever played a driving game that included humans, you will at some point have tried to run one of them over. You wouldn't have succeeded of course, since prior to May 1997 all videogame pedestrians were blessed with magic invulnerability shields that allowed them to pass through the body of your car unscathed. Alternatively, they would have these weird superhuman reflexes, making it impossible to catch the buggers and run 'em down. Luckily one developer realised the potential to be had by reversing this situation - and didn't have any hang-ups about depicting it.
Carmageddon was always going to cause outrage once it appeared. How could a game that gave you bonuses for stylish decapitations with your spiked wheels not upset people?. But no one guessed how bloody playable it would be, thanks to the free-roaming playfields and the oodles of secrets and bonuses and game-altering modes to unlock.
Controversy followed with the usual mass media suspects demanding outright banning of the game, castration of the developers and stoning of the gaming industry in general. Months of negotiation with the BBFC finally led to the game being released with the pedestrians replaced by zombies that left green stains rather than red ones when you hit them.
The annoying thing was that this somehow lessened the game's overall impact (proving that the Daily Mail and co were probably spot on all along about us). Luckily for gamers everywhere a 'special patch' somehow made it onto the streets that restored the crimson. Just don't ask us how.
You Will No Doubt Have Noticed that in last month's PC there was a small piece about Carmageddon in the news pages and an appetising (but, alas, brief) rolling demo on the coverdisk. Were you intrigued, though? And did you want more? Well, you've got it, because this month the PC Carmageddon coverage continues apace with not only these two pages of fawning, but also with a playable track on the coverdisk.
And I'm going to assume you have played it. And played it. And played it. And that you eventually stopped playing it, or else you wouldn't be reading this. I It's big, though, isn't it? Bloody gigantic, really. And did you like the fact that you can drive down cliffs? And how the physics modelling is spot-on? And that you can actually Cfeel' the impacts, and see the resultant damage? What were your pedestrian kills like, by the way? Artistically viable or what? Or did you just race the other cars, like a ponce? Which view did you use? But I'm running ahead of myself. You've had a wee taste of the game, I'm apparently slotted in to actually review it next ish, so how about we fade into flashback mode - in which I visit Stainless Software, the authors of Carmageddon, who live and work (spookily) on the Isle of Wight...
Tuesday lunch-time, the end of January, and I'm on the Cslow' ferry from Southampton to the Isle of Wight. I'm with Sam, the PR bloke for SCI, who's explaining the difference between Cslow' ferry and Cfast' ferry... This one takes about an hour. He sips his coke, puffs on a tab, and points through the gigantic ship window at an approaching hydrofoil: And that one takes 15 minutes.
So the island's quite near then is it? I say. (I'd always thought of the Isle of Wight as being quite far out to sea.) Yes, it's very near, says Sam. You can see it, look. Aha! I say. I, er, thought that was just a pokey-out bit of England.
The Isle of Wight is just a pokey-out bit of England," says Sam, sagely. It's just that there's a moat surrounding it. Aaaah... the Solent? Exactly. The island's near enough to Southampton to warrant a bridge or a tunnel, but the islanders don't want one built. They like the isolation. Blimey. They call us mainlanders. Yikes. Do they have sheep? Yes, they have sheep. Lots of sheep. An hour passed.
The oldest taxi driver in the world...
Another incorrect assumption: I thought we'd be able to walk from the jetty to Stainless Software. In fact I thought we'd be able to walk from the jetty to everywhere. But the Isle of Wight's a tad bigger than that. Cue the oldest taxi driver in the world -a woman, aged about 400.
I'll drop you off at B&Q dear. You should be able to find where you're looking for from there.
Thanks, said Sam. Eventually we did manage to locate the Stainless Software office, and were greeted by Patrick, the md, who's all hair and beard. A suit-free zone, then. There was much laughter and merriment emanating from a nearby room, which we duly entered.
The cause of the merriment was now obvious: it was the Stainless staff playing Carmageddon and enjoying replays. Again and again. Think about it, though: these blokes have been working on the game for god knows how long, yet here they were, hooting and hollering as if they'd just seen it for the first time. Speaks volumes, I thought. Eventually the room cleared and Patrick started to show me the current state of Carmageddon.
There are basically three ways to play," he explained. First, you can just race the other cars, through the checkpoints, in an attempt to place first. Fair enough. Or, of course, you can go for the pedestrians. Kill them all for a win -not forgetting that you also get points for style. Okey dokey. Finally, you can attempt to take out all the other cars: the last one left moving is the winner. He proceeded to show me some of the tracks - although Cworlds' would really be more appropriate. How many are there? I asked. Thirty-six in total, he replied. Blimey. There are five totally different environments, too, he added. And 25 cars, many of which you'll be able to drive yourself.
As you'll have seen from the cover cd, no part of the game map' is off-limits and this is true of all 36 tracks: if there's a ledge, you can fall off it. If there's a tall building, there's probably a ramp somewhere, aiming towards it. That sort of thing, and much, much more.
Check this out...
"Check this out, said Patrick, who had just loaded in the Cabandoned mine' track/world. He was zooming about, trying to locate one of the biggest drops in the game and, once he'd found it, he did exactly what you or I would've done. Wow. The car bounced and buckled off the sides of the vertical mine shaft all the way down to what must surely have been the centre of the earth. Then... CKerrr-rrruuunch !!
'The car folded. Superb. Then we watched the replay, which looked even better. The replay camera is intelligent, explained Patrick. It knows where you're going and switches to the best jsitions as you drop or pass. It makes sure your view is never blocked.'
Then he loaded up a track which had a Cbeach scene', a la Baywatch. And what carnage followed! What superb artistry. Blood and oil, all over the sand, and not a single surfer (or cow) spared. And then, switching to the inside cockpit view, Patrick plunged into the sea. Cool. There was a Pamela Anderson chick paddling about and, being submerged, all we could see from within the cockpit were her legs. Patrick floored the throttle, and then switched to the replay. Automatic close-up of screaming girl, with distant Cfin' (ie the top bit of the car) heading towards her from behind.
Sploosh. Scream. Gib city. Excellent. Here we have a small British software company, located in the middle of nowhere, with only nine members of staff, and yet what's being produced will blow you away. If I was into buying shares, I'd buy some in this.
Nuts and bolts
The philosophy at Stainless Software is that the player should never feel constricted, and that certainly applies to Carmageddon. However, that doesn't mean you're given complete freedom and no gameplay: there's a proper Cstructure' involved, in which you work your way up the rankings from 99th to First place, and, as you progress, are given access to new tracks, power-ups and hardware. Or something like that, anyway. Wait for the review to see how these sorts of things click into place (although I strongly suspect we're looking at a game to rival Quake).
Personally, though. I'm even more interested in seeing what'll happen when a Daily Snail journo gets wind of it. Imagine the outcry! Still, just to pre-empt the bastards I've written my own Daily Snail-style shock horror piece. Have a look at the panel below and compare it with the real McCoy when the shit eventually hits the fan...
Society must decide
The warnings are being ignored, but for countless youngsters these heinous games are simply part of everyday culture: blah blah blah. Decline of morals: blah blah blah. Innocent children unwittingly exposed to Satan's squirty bowel movements: blah blah blah. Mentally scarred infants: blah blah blah. Tiny kittens, butchered mercilessly. Blah blah. Hail Mary. Hail Mary. Blah blah. Carmageddon threatens our comfortable middle class existence: blah blah. Makes a mockery of those who died in the two World Wars: blah blah. We must stand firm. Blah blah. This darkly seductive game will turn children into drug addicts, muggers, rapists, lesbians, and one-parent families. Blah blah. It is vital to send the right signals to youngsters before it's too late. Blah blah. We must bring back National Service if we're to avoid this terrible cultural degeneration. Blah blah. String everybody up. Blah blah. Hanging's too good for 'em. Blah blah. Moral apocalypse. Blah blah blah...
Auto racing fans are in for a twisted turbo boost with Interplay's new take on carnage, Carmageddon. Frantic but flawed, this hot-rod hellion of a game might just turn inexperienced drivers into mincemeat!
Blood Flows Red on the Highway
While your main goal in Car-mageddon is to win the race, you'll spend most of your time driving over varied terrain, slamming into opponents, pulling acrobatic stunts, and plowing through screaming pedestrians. Especially notable (although of questionable taste) are the piles of mush you'll create from pulverizing people and cows--if you drive through their remains, you can create tire tracks of blood.
On the options side, Carmageddon features 5 environments, 26 vehicles, and 36 tracks. If that's not enough, multiplayer Carmageddon has options that will keep you running with a full tank all night long.
Running on Empty?
Despite its outrageous action and appearance, Carmageddon is a few cylinders short of a V-8. The sound is solid, but the low-res graphics limit your visibility. Also, you'll want to use a joystick; the keyboard controls are frustrating and sluggish.
Perhaps the game's most disappointing aspect is that it's centered more on gore and sheer destruction than on racing. Gamers who prefer a driving sim with more meat in the action than on the road should look elsewhere.
- Crossing the finish line first isn't the only path to victory You can also win if you manage to take rnrt every single pedestrian in a level before time runs out.
- Demolish your opponents cars, then steal them for later use.
- The chase cam enables to see who's harassing you from behind, unlike the first-person view.
SCI has a new car game with a familiar theme. Bash the hell out of your opponent while trying to complete a race. The difference here is that you're rewarded for mass carnage, which helps you upgrade weapons, and you get extra points for nailing pedestrians, which gauging by these early preview screens, looks like it could make for a messy drive. Race against 25 psychotic drivers on five 3D tracks, and experience a new twist--you can run someone off the road, then steal their car! Carmageddon could spell the end of civilized driving!
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.