Carmageddon: Max Damage is mad in much the same way that you might expect a toothless, elderly, and faintly racist family member would be. One of the original ‘video game nasties’ from the 1990s, Carmageddon drunkenly swaggers onto PS4, adorned in a black and gold striped shell-suit, gingerly clutching a bottle of White Lightning and spouting a veritable cascade of insults clearly inspired by the In-Betweeners. Arguably, this is not a game that has aged especially well, being that its premium on gory schlock and uninspiring racing remains unfettered, and as such this places Carmageddon: Max Damage firmly in the realm of established fans rather than making any sort of attempt to make some new ones.
For those long-standing fans of the franchise, then Carmageddon: Max Damage would seem to be business as usual with little in the way of surprise or innovation, and the series’ trademark pedestrian mashing and road racing fundamentals really being kept in much the same state as before. For the unfamiliar, in Carmageddon: Max Damage, you can win races by completing laps, ramming all of your foes into pieces, or killing each and every pedestrian on the map, who number in the hundreds, which makes this the least tenable of all the avenues the player can take to victory.
Veering ever so deeply into ‘guilty pleasure’ territory, one of the main elements of Carmageddon that has always held true is the selection of frankly insane power-ups, and it is a feature that returns for Carmageddon: Max Damage with aplomb. Able to be used by collecting the requisite coloured barrels littered around the map, they are a crazy bunch indeed, including such toys as deployable land-mines, fireable anvils, granite coated armour, and super jump boosters to name just a handful of the more sensible ones available.
Beyond the standard races, checkpoint chasing, and old-lady splattering arenas, Carmageddon doesn’t offer much else in the way of variety, but what it lacks in terms of choice it makes up for in sheer quantity with a single-player mode that lasts a good few hours at minimum. Each of the arenas that you race/kill about in are also rather substantially large affairs too; liberally crammed with secrets and hard-to-reach places, they reward players who go out of their way to unearth their myriad of secrets and in turn help to meaningfully extend the experience.
It’s worth noting too that Carmageddon does a reasonable job of fending off frustration: The ability to use your collected point currency (available from scoring kills or by scooping up certain coloured barrels) allows players to repair their car on the fly or even reposition their vehicle should they find themselves out of bounds during a race or otherwise stuck somewhere.
Beyond the trappings of Carmageddon’s deep single-player campaign, online multiplayer is also part of the package and for the most part it can be pretty entertaining as scores of human-controlled cars crash into each other and chew up the local scenery and pedestrians with overblown visceral vigour. That said however, the lack of local multiplayer would seem to be a baffling omission given just how well Carmageddon’s dubious charm would translate into couch multiplayer shenanigans; though given the game’s technical failings (which we’ll get to in a bit), it appears clear that such a mode might well have been beyond the technical ambition of the game anyway.
Ostensibly though, one of the biggest drawbacks of the whole affair is that the cars themselves just don’t really handle very well at all. Though there are stated variances in armour and speed, each vehicle still feels like an especially sluggish tank when turning; sapping Carmageddon: Max Damage of any sort of satisfying or responsive handling that would otherwise infinitely enhance the experience.
Quick! To The Bantmoblie! (sigh)
While the shock and awe of its violence and wickedly crass humour has long since ebbed in the near two decade interim since the release of the first Carmageddon title, that hasn’t deterred the developer from pulling pretty much the exact same tonal stunts in the series PS4 debut effort. Starting with the violence, rather than making some sort of ill-advised attempt on verisimilitude, the carnage in Carmageddon: Max Damage turns toward the theatrical with standard Havoc physics dictating the various dismemberments and trajectories of pedestrians who find themselves unfortunate enough to be in your path.
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From old-grannies to wheelchair bound folks, football players, cheerleaders, dogs, post-experiment cows, and much more, anything that breathes in Carmageddon: Max Damage can be crashed into and splattered across the scenery. Beyond the blood-splattered escapades that Carmageddon: Max Damage encourages, there is, much like in previous games, a torrent of laddish humour that courses throughout the whole affair. With difficulty levels that include such delightful things as “Harder than rimming a rhino” and a raft of excitable in-game prompts that appear such as “Take it up the arse” (when you ram someone) and “Get your flaps out!” (when you use a particular power-up), it’s clear that rather than abandon such In-Betweeners styled humour that the developer has instead doubled down on it. As such, you often find yourself laughing at Carmageddon rather than with it, though your mileage may vary depending on what you find to be chuckle-worthy.
A Technical Car Wreck
While Carmageddon has never been a series that has been especially lauded for its technical merits, it’s difficult not to expect more from Carmageddon: Max Damage on PS4. Blighted by a sub-optimal frame rate, copious amounts of texture load-in, geometrically simplistic worlds, and the odd occasional full-blown game crash to keep things nice and spicy; so it’s fair to say that Carmageddon: Max Damage more closely resembles an earlier PS3 title than something you would expect to see on Sony’s latest iteration of PlayStation hardware.
In spite of the final result, there’s still something to be admired in how Carmageddon Max Damage religiously clings to the design DNA of yesteryear. A relic that has been wholeheartedly thrust onto PS4 without any real attempt to build upon its foundations to ensnare a larger audience, Carmageddon will be played by most folks who will struggle to see what all the fuss is about; such is the result of its flaws. If you’re a die-hard Carmageddon fan though, feel free to chock another two points on that score at the bottom of the article.