|System: PS4, Xbox One|
|Dev: Stainless Games|
|Pub: Sold Out Sales and Marketing|
|Release: July 9, 2016|
|Players: 1-6 Players|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence|
by Becky Cunningham
OK, so there's one rule that reigns in the world of "twisted and wrong" video games. If you're going to go there, go big. Go wild. Scream it to the rafters. If you're going to have a game about wrecking cars and running over pedestrians, it's gotta be larger than life and deliciously insane. You can't go halfway, or it all falls flat. Your players are expecting South Park-style explosive gas, but they end up with nothing but a sad, wet fart.
Carmageddon: Max Damage disobeys that rule in a big way. I warned this might be the case a few weeks back. Not only does this vehicular combat title fail to go big, it's practically stalled at the starting gate. There's no splashy, hilarious intro video for these supposedly mad drivers who are going on a rampage for no apparent reason. There's just a clunky main menu that dumps you into your first "race" with no explanation or exposition.
There's a bit of hope as you get tutorial prompts. The tutorial UI is splashy and full of personality. It's just too bad that once those prompts leave the screen, it appears that the designers neglected to add any personality to the game itself. You'll be racing your fairly ordinary car (with perhaps a few pointy bits stuck to it) through various landscapes, each of which approach the Platonic ideal of uninspired design. Ooh, generic city with muddy textures. Ooh, generic island with muddy textures and guys in yellow nuclear waste cleanup suits for some reason. Ooh, generic brown desert with muddy mud textures. Ooh, generic, inoffensive metal backing tracks.
Things don't get any better when you tune into the action instead of the atmosphere. I'm not a racing game pro by any means, but I know the feeling that a good one gives you, where you have a sense of how fast you're going and how the physics will work. There's none of that here. Cars seem to go from 0 directly to 60 and fly through the air with the slightest provocation. Hit a bump at high speed, go flying. Hit that same bump at the lowest speed you can manage – go flying. There's very little sense of precision or control.
Steering isn't much better. It's so oversensitive that it goes past absurd to frustrating. The hand brake is of little use unless you'd like to pull a quick 180 (though tap it a nanosecond too long and you'll be doing a 360 instead). Some of the upgraded cars you can earn do control a bit better than the starter cars, but that doesn't help the wonky physics or the fact that you can't drift. Oh, and if you want to see what's going on around you or who's coming after you? Good luck adjusting the camera to any setting but "jumpy jackrabbit." Believe me, I tried.
Fine then, so it doesn't drive well, but what about the combat? Smashing into other cars can be entertaining at first, but it quickly becomes same-y and tiresome. Hit a car a few times and some parts come flying off it. Yours come off, too, but you can repair them with the press of a button. Hit an enemy vehicle hard enough or long enough and it kind of goes "spla-poof" and fire comes out of it. You've wrecked it. Woo? The explosions aren't even any good!