Carmageddon was originally released in 1997 to a torrent of controversy and critical acclaim. At the time it was a benchmark-setting masterpiece of game design, offering players a sandbox racing experience with perhaps the best car physics engine of its time. Besides these superlative mechanics, players were given three differing ways to complete each timer-controlled race, either by traditional checkpoint-racing, totalling the other cars Destruction Derby style or by running down every single pedestrian on the map.
Not only was Carmageddon a revolutionary racer, it also subjected the player to Stainless Software’s dark humour, lashings of absurd hyperviolence, a heavy metal/electronica soundtrack and a realistic cacophony of eardrum-thumping sound effects. Those things may not be for everyone, but they do meld together to form a belligerent beast of gaming. The game has ported to Android perfectly. Nothing’s been omitted, making it just as addictive and undeniable as it ever was.
The objective is to ascend through the multitude of maps and races from rank 100 to 1, but this is really just superfluous to the game’s imploring action. In every race, once the starting flag is waved all hell breaks loose, and it’s the kind of hell in which super-fun reigns supreme. The five opposing racers will either speed off through the course, plough through pedestrians or immediately try and take you out, depending on their personalities and vehicle capabilities. Small vehicles will often blaze down roads hunting checkpoints whilst larger vehicles such as bulldozers and monster trucks will set about wasting the opposing racers. Medium-sized vehicles will generally adopt either approach depending on the circumstances of the race.
If you opt for the opponent destroying route, you get the chance to unlock different vehicles that you can then use in future races. Understandably, the quality of unlockable cars starts at the bottom of the pile, with remote-control car resembling cack-wagons that wouldn’t put a dent in a baby’s head. If, however, you absolutely must commandeer Screwie Lewie’s monster truck, amongst other havoc-wreaking mental-mobiles, you can purchase the fleet of 29 vehicles (bar a secret car) at any time via a single lump-sum microtransaction. Your starting car can be upgraded incrementally as you acquire prize money and increase in rank, with a total of six upgrade slots for each function of armour, power and offensive.
There are multiple control options including analogue, tilt and digital, the layouts of which can be edited for preferable customisation. You can repair your vehicle on the fly and recover it (be dropped back into the map the correct way up) by tapping the top of the HUD. The instant replay system has survived the port, and offers a welcome moment of respite mid-race, should you need to relive a particularly gonzo stunt. The physics engine (developed by ex-stock car racers) can take some getting used to; it’s easy to lose control driving dangerously at top speed (as it should be), veer drastically off course and smash through some of the maps’ destructible objects, further exacerbating the constant metallic carnage.
Besides the multiple ways to play, varied opposing racers and different map types (terrains include city, industrial sites, coastal scenes and rural desert towns just to name a few) there’s a variety of power-up canisters placed throughout every map that often lend the experience further levels of over-the-top ridiculousness. Green cans give straightforward bonuses such as extra time and credits, orange and red cans will affect either pedestrians (blind, explosive), your vehicle or yours and your opponents vehicles (jelly suspension, solid granite car, instant handbrake) for a certain amount of time.
Playing Carmageddon is a jarring and sense-mangling vehicular experience which has aged well, still looks decent, sounds insane and plays effectively. You can place it in someone’s hands and legitimately inform them that “this is what it was like in ’97”. The unrelenting smash of race after race can take its toll at times, but relenting was never in Carmageddon‘s manifesto. Porting it to smartphones and tablets was a smart move by Stainless, as besides introducing their prize title to a new generation of gamers, its pick-up and play, in-the-moment appeal is ideal for handheld devices.