Hindsight, I've been told, is 20/20. And so I wish that I hadn't used
the line about stale Saturday Night Live jokes in my last column in
reference to Lara Croft, because if there were ever a good analog
for the joke that wouldn't end (BWA-NAAAA) in the gaming world,
it would be Carmageddon. Pretty much that says all that needs to
be said, but as 52 words are a little short for a game review, I
suppose I should press on.
Back when Carmageddon came out, the concept of a racing game
that awarded points for running down pedestrians seemed new.
The reason I say seemed is because there was a game in the early
80's for the Apple 2+ called Motor Meat which awarded points for
running over little, pixilated grandmothers, and even before that
there was an arcade game, whose name I can't think of, which
awarded points for running over zombies in a graveyard - you can
probably get a copy of it for MAME. Both of those games were
crude top-down affairs while Carmageddon offered a much gorier
isometric or 1st person view. Parents' groups, always on the
lookout for something to blame other than the actual parents for
the problems with kids, latched onto it as the latest presage of the
decline and fall of western civilization. Kids, always instinctively
trolling for things that will drive their parents nuts, made it a best
seller, at least in places where it wasn't outright banned. Oddly,
neither of those earlier games took any real heat because
everyone was up in arms about a game called The Bilestoad in
which two gladiators eviscerated one another with wicked double
headed axes (Anyone remember that game?).
It's a few years later and parents' groups are getting tired of rallying
against Teletubbies or whatever frightens them now, so the latest
incarnation of Carmageddon features zombies instead of humans
in an attempt to minimize the banning (at least the UK version
does which is the one that I'm reviewing). There are strangely not
just zombie people, but green-skinned zombie dogs and other
animals as well. Does it really make any difference when all I
suspect they've done is change red blood for green? I don't know.
As a friend of mine said when I mentioned this to him "Killing
zombies good. Killing humans bad. It's as simple as that."
Whatever. I understand the US version will feature full blood, but
our kids are already as screwed up as they are going to get, so it
For TDR2000, the Carmageddon 2 graphics have gotten a little
facelift. On the Carmageddon TDR2000 website it claims a new
graphics engine which boasts higher frame rates. Of course, I was
running a P200 with a Diamond Monster daughter board when
Carmageddon 2 came out, and now I'm on a P3-500 with a
Diamond Viper 770 Ultra - I'd better see higher frame rates! The
new engine does colored lighting, smoke, and particle effects. A
somewhat enhanced damage model allows you to crumple and
tear off most car body parts, or maybe you could do that in
Carmageddon 2 - I honestly can't remember. Scenery looks pretty
good - buildings, trees, sky - if somewhat more cartoonish than
Carmageddon 2. You can knock down and push around signs,
traffic cones, park benches, and light poles. Zombies fly apart and
leave greasy spots on the road entertainingly. The zombies now
hurl firebombs at you when they're not running from your bumper.
They don't seem to do a lot of damage or change the gameplay in
any significant way, but there they are. As a whole, while not
spectacularly different from Carmageddon 2, I'm pretty happy with
the new Carmageddon look.
The physics engine likewise feels much the same. Cars skid, roll,
and flip dramatically. You can fall off a 10 story building, land on
your nose, roll onto your roof, get creamed by a speeding car and
flipped back onto your wheels, and drive after him to ram his ass.
Cars fly around like an over-the-top Hollywood stunt show, and
that's clearly what people have come to expect from the
Underneath the hood the gameplay is largely unchanged. You still
race around a track gaining racing time and cash for running over
pedestrians, ramming or destroying your opponents, and clearing
checkpoints. Cash can be used at the end of the race to buy
opponents' cars that you have destroyed or to upgrade your own
car engine, armor, or offensive ability. Power ups are scattered
around the track - mines, mortars, zombie flamethrowers, zombie
electricutors, high-grip tires - whatever your little heart desires. In
the creative power up game, the Carmageddon team is a clear
winner. The game has a limited number of maps, but has far more
races by placing barricades around to change the racecourse
through those maps. They've brought in a ridiculous plotline about
a post apocalyptic Escape From New York kind of thing in which
you have to break out of one map to get to the next one. It gets a
little same-y running around the same map over and over again,
but their sense of timing is good in general in that you change
maps before any real boredom sets in.
As in Carmageddon 2, some of the races are not against other
cars, but the clock as you try and get to some place or places or
destroy something before time runs out. I personally find these
missions very frustrating, because I might have to play them a
dozen times before I get them right. In missions where you have
to get to the top of a building, I often spent the first few attempts
just driving around trying to find the ramps and whatnot to let me
get up there. They sometimes have these little floating arrows to
direct you where to go, but they're not as helpful as they could be.
I can get especially pissed off if there are multiple objectives, and
I'll get the first one and the second one, but fail the third - too bad,
do it again. In some ways, I think this game may suffer from the
in-mission save/no in-mission save controversy which surrounded
Alien vs. Predator and, more recently, Ground Control. I'm not
going to rehash all that here. Just to let you know that
Carmageddon 2 had it, and now TDR2000 does.
The web site also boasts of improved AI and multiplayer
capabilities. I haven't tried the multiplayer game because, as you
all know by now, my bandwidth sucks. As for the AI, it doesn't
seem any different to me. I'm frankly not even certain what AI
means in a game like this. It's not a RTS or 4X game; it's not brain
surgery - the opposing cars either wants to ram you or race.
Admittedly, I've seen bad driving AI systems like in the Dukes of
Hazard: Racing for Home where they spent a lot of time ramming
the scenery, but that's really the exception more than the rule.
The zombie/human AI is a little improved. There's the firebomb
thing, and they flee in groups now, like chasing flocks of birds, and
I've seen them duck around corners and dumpsters to avoid me. It
makes it seem more like you're running over real people, at least
from the little experience running over real people that I've had.
As I start to proofread this review, I find that I've mentioned
Carmageddon 2 an awful lot. There's a good reason for that -
TDR2000 is more like Carmageddon 2 than unlike it. As a matter of
fact, given that I'm in a sort of expansion-pack frame of mind from
my reviews of Cleopatra and The Conquerors this month, let's look
at what we've got here. Some new cars, some new power ups,
new maps, slightly updated graphics. Expansion pack?
Hmmmmm. OK, that's not quite fair. There are a lot of new power
ups and a lot of new maps and over 50 single player races. The
graphics changes help bring the Carmageddon series into line
with what is now the standard of the 3D graphics bag of tricks. But
underneath it all, it's still Carmageddon, and for me at least, I've