Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Whiskey Reviews: Carmageddon ED 101 version

Platform: Android
Release Date: 19 June 2014
Developer: Stainless Games Limited
Publisher: Stainless Games Limited
Where to get it: Google Play
Price: Around £0.69

Carmageddon, the PC classic about cars, armageddon and Screwie Louie being a right bastard to wreck. This isn't your daddy's Carmageddon though, this is the 2014 Android re-release for mobiles and tablets so now you can look like a right twat while splatting peds on the bus.

Surprisingly, Carmageddon works spectacularly on mobiles. I had the pleasure of playing it on a Google Nexus 5 smartphone and while it's not the beefiest device in terms of specs it's still respectable and did a great job of rendering the touched up levels and cars without any glitches or more ugliness than were inherent in the original PC release.
Speaking of PC releases, Carmageddon was largely eclipsed by its parent-sensibility-imploding sequel in 1998, just a year after the original got under our stiff upper lips and received a ban in a whole bunch of countries. Still, there's something to be said for watching a cow sprite cartoonishly helicopter in the air while spraying gore everywhere like Ted Bundys wood chipper. For a fleeting moment those 5 pixel faces look genuinely terrified as they discombobulate all over your titanium studded bumper at 170 miles an hour.

The most striking change to the mobile version is the more agreeable UI. I'm sure the original PC version UI was great in 1997 but it looks like a Speak & Spell abortion today. Thankfully the Android version does away with the original UI in favour of crisp, minimalistic panels clearly indicating what each button does and what the pre-race status is at any moment, clearly showing your car, upgrades, track and money with easy to use buttons for changing any of these things.
Extending the clean UI is the in-game HUD with customizable digital or analogue controls, tilt controls and the map and other information cleanly hidden behind a quick swipe against the left and right sides of the screen. It's unmistakably Carmageddon's HUD but even Max Damage screaming away in the corner manages to retain his charm 5 hours in instead of being a distraction.

The re-done lighting and models bring the already well aged graphics up to a more widely acceptable standard, though it'd have been nice to see more cosmetic crumpling of cars instead of the weedy streamers of white and black smoke that emanate from damaged vehicles. It's not something the damages the experience but after years of playing Carmageddon 2 it feels like such a vital feature and its absence is sorely missed.
The tracks are as beautiful as ever, being large open playgrounds of vehicular manslaughter, cunning stunts and canvasses for artistic impression that make the ped hunting gameplay so enticing. Still, if that's not your cup of tea you can still score a cheap piledriver in an alley round back of the stadium for about 200 credits.

All your favourite Carmageddon cars are back, though in traditional Carmageddon 1 style you can only choose your gender for the 'live' driver-cam doodad with either Max Damage or Die Anna providing great performances as terrified homicidal maniacs. That said, I'm not sure if it's because it's on the small screen or what but Max Damage feels like he transforms into an entirely different person when he takes his helmet off post victory.
All the cars feel unique and reflect their typical differences, for example the Impaler goes like shit off a stick so long as you only want to go in a straight line while the nimble little Razorbill is fast and manoeuvrable but will break if you so much as kick the tyres. As always the Eagle provides a solid starting point that's a nice balance and one you're likely to stick with for the whole game if only for its iconic appearance.

The sound design isn't too wimpy either considering that it has to come out of a teeny little mobile phone speaker. Max's squealing of terrorcitement (TM) as you hit 200 miles an hour are as funny as ever and the wet splat of a freshly flattened ped is still spot on.
Musically I struggled to pick too much out, not that the design is bland but just that my mind was occupied with the joys of racing and trying to keep my car from doing spins that would make JP proud (I'll save you some effort, it's a Redline reference, go watch it). Still, I can't really blame the flat musical performance on the game itself as the phone speaker is equally at fault for sitting right beneath my big bear hands and getting muted by an inch of meat (ladies!).

In conclusion, Carmageddon's Android outing is a huge chunk of fan service that probably won't convert a new generation of fans but those who are wondering what all the fuss is about can find worse starting points to explore the series. Carmageddon is a gaming classic that rightfully deserves its throne and it's good to have a portable version that's a fair bit better than the 2000's Gameboy version.
To close out I'd like to commend Stainless on their choice of pricing - 69p is both so very fitting for the game and so cheap that there's not really anything to lose by giving the game a go if you're not sure. If more developers that are re-releasing their old catalogues on Android with a bit of a touch-up followed this example we'd all be better off.

Score: 8 out of 10 Autoscum write beat poetry.

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