Developer: Stainless Games
Game: Carmageddon Max Damage
Price: £19.99 on Steam (at time of review)
The original Carmageddon is famous for its controversy. It was censored in Germany turning the pedestrians into zombies, here in the UK there was the removal of the blood and gore just to get a release And was trying to stir up controversy at a time when video gaming was seen as a problem.
Carmageddon Max Damage is a game that embraces those roots. Maps are strewn with pedestrians to hit and barrels to collect, even the cars are the same. If you’ve played any of the other entries in the series then it’s familiar, sometimes a little too familiar, but we’ll get to that eventually.
Racing is not the focus of Carmageddon, even though it’s technically a racing game. There’s a race grid formation and positions, but outside of the specific racing mode it’s never that important. It’s just a way to line yourself up by the car you can steal. Destroying your opponents to steal their cars is as satisfying as ever, plowing into them head-first or running them into walls, but it’s all available in other games that offer far more now.
The in race upgrade system has been replaced with the current industry standard permanent unlock method. Even the unlocks are the same things, wheels, armour and engine. It’s all so pedestrian, which is sad for a game that prided itself on doing new things. Outside of the upgrade screen there is no indication that anything has been done to your car. Upgrade information doesn’t update across anywhere else.
I found myself experiencing a profound sense of deja-vu, the tracks, cars, even sound effects all felt like I’d played these before. So I booted up the original and, well look for yourselves:-
It’s the exact same thing, only with better graphics and draw distance. Pedestrians are even in the same places, although a few more have been added. There are new tracks amongst the originals, but the drip feeding of tracks feels worse than the original so you will spend a lot of time playing Maim Street. Why Maim Street? It’s the best one for grinding out the track unlocks. The very tracks you’ll play a couple of times then go back to Maim Street to unlock more tracks.
This sense of nothing changing is everywhere. Even the attempts at shock seem quaint in a world with **GTA V** and other open world games and multiple first person war shooters. But they are also lifted verbatim from the original release. If you quit you are asked “Do you want to return to a life where you don’t get internal organs in your hair?”.
What’s most disappointing is the lack of care. There seems to have been no thought put into this release, and that is the sad thing, the spark that made the first so anarchic is dead. The maps are sparse, features such as the head-cam have been cut, it’s feels lethargic and lifeless, a cash grab using nostalgia. It’s just all so disappointing.
CPU: Intel, i7-4770k @ 4.4ghz
RAM: 16GB Crucial Ballistix DDR3 @ 1866MHz
GPU: Sapphire 290x Tri-X 4gb
PSU: Corsair CX750m
Carmageddon Max Damage is effectively the patched version of Carmageddon Reincarnation. It’s so similar that Stainless have removed Reincarnation from sale. Let’s see if things have improved from that unoptimised mess.
Firstly, there are a few options but the slider once again covers things nicely. On our test machine running the city track, 1080p Ultra was a perfect 60fps lock. Moving up to 1440p produced an almost 60fps lock. In high demand scenes there would be a momentary drop to 58, but these were still unusual, knocking down any setting a notch gave another rock solid framerate.
4k, my preferred resolution, was where the framerate finally fell. Ultra proved far too demanding crashing down to the a low of 27. Reducing shadow quality and translucency made a playable 30. To reach 60fps we had to go down to medium, a trade-off that was not worth making as 1440p ultra looks far better.
Reincarnation had terrible loading times, it could take minutes to start a race if you were at 4k, even loading from SSD. Thankfully things have improved drastically in Carmageddon Max Damage. Running our benchmarks on Maim Street the load times never exceeded 30 seconds.
It’s an impressive turnaround from Reincarnation, however the over aggressive depth of field ruins the image by blurring everything far too much.
It’s the exact same 1997 game with a facelift and a progression system that locks you to a limited number of tracks far more than the original. There are however a smattering of new modes to play, kill a certain pedestrian, actually race, collect checkpoints, etc. But if you don’t want to do that you can still just destroy your opponents to gain the laps they’ve completed. Multiplayer has no pedestrians, arguably a large point of Carmageddon generally. At time of review Stainless have not promised their inclusion.
Like Duke Nukem Forever, Carmageddon Max Damage tries so hard to be the original release, but with a new coat of paint. Sadly, that extends to how good it is generally. Games have moved on, what once was new, exciting and horrifying is normal, or even boring. Unlike DNF, it’s still nice to boot up occasionally and just run over everything in sight.
I wanted to love Carmageddon Max Damage, I have fond memories of the original release. It’s the game that made me finally get a graphics accelerator, the game I drilled a hole in my wall to play multiplayer with my brother. Instead we have a caricature of the original. An attempt to relive glory days, but it fails to even live up to that in it’s execution. Stainless bought the IP to “bring back Carmageddon”, if only they’d updated it too.
If you have fond memories of Carmageddon then wait for a large sale. Otherwise, just leave it alone.
- It's Carmageddon with a graphical update
- No real changes from 20 years ago
- Cut features
- No pedestrians in multiplayer
- Terrible handling