Do you by any chance remember Macca's review of Quake, and how it was loads and loads of pages chock-full of sphincter-licky fawning and the like? Well, my Carmageddon review's going to be a bit like that, the only real difference is that I've got three pages rather than a zillion. So, er, I'd better hurry up then, hadn't I?
Carmageddon, to get straight to the point, is one of the best computer games I've ever played; it's certainly the best car game I've ever played, bar none. (And yes, that includes F1GP2.) It's so completely fab, in fact, that I'm sort of a wee bit speechless, and don't really know where to start. Give me a moment to collect my thoughts. (Hmm, hmm...)
Carmageddon isn't just one driving game, and it isn't even two driving games: it's three driving games. Confused? Let me explain. You see there are three different ways to 'win' a 'race' in Carmageddon (the apostrophes are there for good reason, incidentally). First, there's the old-fashioned way where you have to complete a set number of laps. If you don't want to play things in that fashion, however, you have the option of killing all the pedestrians. When they're all dead, you've beaten the track and can move to the next.
But what happens if you (a) don't want to complete a set number of laps or (b) don't want to kill innocent pedestrians? Aha! In that case you'll find yourself in a brutal destruction derby. To win, all you need do is destroy all the other cars while not becoming destroyed in the process. Get the picture? Actually, you probably don't because Carmageddon is one of those games you really need to play for yourself to appreciate the subtleties and intricacies. For instance, although what I've already said is perfectly true - you can play the game in three entirely different ways - what tends to happen is that you end up playing all three different modes simultaneously, tugging from one to another, depending on the layout of the track.
Eh? You what?
Oh dear, yes, I agree. I've just re-read the last paragraph and it is a tad confusing. Unfortunately, it's difficult to pigeon-hole Carmageddon because of the originality and open nature of its gameplay. The best thing to do in a case such as this, I think, is to talk you through a race, so let's pretend that a bloke called Henry has just bought Carmageddon, has installed it and is on the options screen. Let's also pretend that Henry hasn't read the manual and thinks he's got himself a straightforward racing game, like Screamer or something. Oh, and while we're at it, let's invent a chum for Henry, so he's got someone to talk to. Let's call this bloke, er, Barry. Here goes...
Henry does the business
Henry: Shall I choose the chick or the bloke?
Barry: Pick the chick, pick the chick. I love her!
Henry: No. I'll pick the bloke. I prefer his car.
Barry: Look, there's a 'parts' shop, where you can buy stuff. Buy an engine upgrade.
Henry: I can't. I haven't got any money. Hey look, you can buy armour and stuff too. What's the point of that?
Barry: Probably in case you accidentally crash or something, I suppose. You won't need it if you're careful.
Henry: Blimey, there are loads of courses, look at that. There must be about 40 or so, wouldn't you think?
Barry: Yeah, but I bet you can't select the ones highlighted in red, so you've only got three for now. Go for the second one, Coastal Carnage - it looks quite nice.
Henry: Okay, here we go then...
Game voice: Five, four, three, two, one, GO...
Henry: Bloody hell! I've just been shunted up the arse! Look! That big bloody yellow thing! It rammed me up the ringpiece! That's not fair!
Barry: Yes, it is a bit out of order, isn't it? But look, your timer's ticking down. You'd better get to a checkpoint.
Henry: I'm all annoyed now! Seethe.
Barry: Watch out, watch out, there's an old lady in the road...
Henry: (Swerving) Phew, that was close. Yaaargh! I don't believe it! The bloody yellow thing's heading back. It's driving straight at...
Barry: Bloody hell! It got the old lady too!
Henry: Bastard! Bastard! Oh no, I'm going over the edge. Whooooo...
Henry: Whooooof! Yerk! Shit! Look, that icon must mean I've damaged my back wheels.
Barry: I'm not surprised, it was quite a drop. Hey, look at your timer. You'll never make it to a checkpoint, even if there's a ramp back up to the road. Uh, careful, there's anoth...
Henry: ...Pedestrian. Yes, sorry, I couldn't avoid him in time.
Barry: Henry, you've just been given an extra nine seconds on your timer. Do you think it was the...
Barry: I don't know. Let's see. There's an old man. (Sploosh)
Henry: Yes, another nine seconds. Erm, and you got a bit of cash, too. Did you notice? I bet that'll help pay for your buggered wheels. Oh, look, there's a ramp - that'll take you back to the main road, for sure.
Henry: Not yet, I've just spotted a herd of cows and some more people.
Much hilarious carnage ensues...
20 minutes later
Barry: Okay mate, steady on, you've got ten minutes on your clock now, I think it's time to get back into the race.
Henry: No need, it looks as if the race has just come back to me.
Barry: Jesus! It's the yellow thing with the spike again!
Barry: Nice one! Look, he's damaged. He can't turn as fast now. Get him again, get him again...
Henry: Oooof! What in sod's name was that?
Barry: It was the spiky VW Bug, look in your mirror.
Henry: Right, that bloody does it. War! And if I survive this, I'm going to get a better car for the next race.
So endeth the tale
The car handling and physics stuff is truly outstanding. Whether you're racing, fighting or killing, the rewards reaped are directly proportional to your skill. Carmageddon, just like a good Tekken-style beat 'em up, is a game that improves and improves the more you play. For instance, see a group of peds (pedestrians) huddled fairly close together and you may, if you're nifty enough, be able to handbrake turn yourself into a 60mph sidewards slide. If your aim is true, you can take them all out in one go and earn a combo bonus (the accolade is nice, the extra cash is even nicer).
You can even get multiple combos. Take the above sideways slide, for example - splash four peds and you get your quadruple combo, but if you also crush them against a building or cliff or something, you get an extra bonus for having performed a 'piledriver'. Likewise, should you be airborne at the moment of impact, you might also earn yourself coin and applause for 'artistic impression'. Get the drift? And the same goes for the smash and crash action with the other vehicles: destroy them, yes, but please do it with panache, because not only does it pay better, but also the chances are exceedingly high that you'll be calling up the replay facility. This brilliant facility has a chillingly intelligent camera that knows exactly where to place itself at all times. Hoorah for replays.
Holy mother of god...
Oh for a bit more space to tell you more about Carmageddon, such as the size and scope of the different tracks (they're behemoths believe you me, with nowhere off-limits), and the scenery, which is all completely interactive. And did I mention the power-ups? No, but I will now. Extra time, mega turbo, concrete car, weird gravity - the list is endless, honest, and contains one called 'Blind Pedestrians', which stops them trying to run out of your way unless you beep your horn, in which case they do all manner of hilarious things (before you kill them).
Unfortunately, there's no room to explain further, but you'll find out for yourself because unless you're a complete and utter moron you'll be buying Carmageddon. It's an essential purchase, I'd say, just like Quake was. In fact it's the driving game equivalent of Quake when you get right down to it, which means you won't be surprised to hear there's a comprehensive multi-player mode lurking within. Don't worry if you're a member of the vast majority with no access to a network, because the artificial intelligence of the single-player game computer-controlled drivers is nothing short of wicked.
Let me put it like this: I've been in a real destruction derby, which was bloody scary, and Carmageddon is as near to that as you're going to get. You FEEL the contact, and that's no joke. The sound effects are superb too. Yes, everything is superb, and it all melds together into something out of this world. Grovel, grovel, fawn, fawn, arse-lick, arse-lick, Carmageddon is God! (Blimey! - Ed.)