What Were You doing in 1997? Britpop was still simmering, Michael Owen had yet to score that goal, and PC gaming was heralding a brave new dawn of accelerated graphics. Meanwhile, in Germany, the developer of Crashday was putting together some initial concepts for the game. Had the company managed to get it out of the door in the last millennium, it might have got away with it. As it is, it's blighted with such late 1990s traits as the much-maligned lens flare, the then ubiquitous kaleidoscopic graphical effect. And to complete the late '90s vibe, Crashday claims to be a latter day version of the seminal Carmageddon. We might as well all party like it's 1999.
Except it's $29.99, and as such is in the realms of full-price software. Despite the astonishingly lengthy development time, it never really feels that way, not least due to the erratic translation, arbitrary spelling, and sexist humour - not to mention the half-baked narrative that attempts to justify the action.
There's no need for it. Crashday is simply a collection of mainly unrealistic driving events, most of which involve cars being explosively destroyed. But despite the Carmageddon claims, Crashday is an entirely sanitised affair where dying horrifically in a ball of fire simply involves an inconvenience of a few seconds. Some tried and tested concepts are in place, from straightforward checkpoint races to knockout races, both of which can usually be negotiated through little more than judicious use of nitro and handbrake. There's also the perennial lift from the film Speed, with a bomb strapped to your roof and a track to negotiate without dropping below a certain velocity. Of more interest is the team-based Capture The Flag game, which while still highly entertaining on your own, does hint at the game's multiplayer leanings.
As indeed does the ability to shoot other drivers. The concept of guns on cars rarely works, and this is largely the case here, proving a (literally) hit-and-miss affair. Turning a car to fire a weapon is a lot more unwieldy than turning a person, although if you catch someone full in the radiator with a missile it can be mildly satisfying.
As for the stunt sections that the game prides itself on, they're little more than Tony Hawk's in a car. Spectacular though the action is, while landing a 360-degree turn on a plank is challenging enough, attempting to do the same in a fast-moving car is vaguely equivalent to pissing into the wind.
All of the above are linked together through a spurious career mode, which enables you to customise your cars with the obligatory performance and cosmetic upgrades. The key difference from the likes of Need For Speed is that for a few thousand dollars you can strap an automatic machine gun on the front of your car.
Considering there's nine years' worth of work here, there's relatively little in terms of content, and you'll tear through the career mode in a couple of sessions. In fact, we'd be surprised if there was as much as one hour's gameplay for every year of development. While it lasts, however, it's mainly competent, even occasionally exhilarating, with further value added if you can take advantage of the multiplayer aspect. But when the development team say in the credits, it's been a "long and stressful time", you really feel what they're saying.