I have a soft spot for Carmageddon and I fear that the Kickstarted Reincarnation [official site] is going to steamroll over that soft spot and turn it into a gloopy red mess at the side of the road. After a prolonged stint as an Early Access title, Stainless Games’ rebooted Deathracer launched yesterday. I’ve only played briefly – although I spent a few hours with earlier versions – and while I’m not hindered by the performance issues that continue to affect many, Reincarnation hasn’t reignited my love for the series. Maybe my tastes have changed since my teenage years and maybe Carmageddon hasn’t changed enough.
It really does play an awful lot like Carmageddon II, which was the best in the series and the last decent entry before development responsibilities passed to Torus Games for the disappointing Carmageddon TDR 2000. My main memories of that one focus on the incoherent future-city map designs and seemingly invincible police response vehicles that bullied me into crannies and kept me trapped there for ages.
Carmageddon II was legitimately great though, right? I remember hunting down a patch to turn the green gore red long before the official Blood Pack was available. This was in 1998 when the internet was made of string and piles of AOL CDs. I was committed.
Of course, what seemed like a proper good mature bit of game back then seems like the most immature bag of nonsense now, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. I like plenty of daft gory things and Reincarnation is certainly a daft gory thing. It’s also a pitch perfect remake/reboot. Perhaps too perfect because playing it feels like taking a road trip back to the nineties. Clearly, it’s a more attractive game than its predecessor, which is almost twenty years old, but I certainly remember Carmageddon II looking better than this. The widely reported performance issues – which made the game almost unplayable for me when it first arrived on Early Access – don’t seem to be the stuttering of computers pushed to their limits by incredibly detailed, enormous worlds.
The physics are floaty, as Carmageddon physics have always been, and the game is at its best when the racing and killing come together. Treating the maps as open environments in which to hunt every pedestrian and secret was occasionally diverting in the old games but the rare moments when all of the AI cars were sticking to the track rather than meandering about were glorious. Nudging an opponent offroad and watching as he spiralled into a chasm, guts hanging from his bonnet. Good times. That might happen once or twice in the new game as well.
All of this is to say that Carmageddon Reincarnation is now available and that it may be too faithful to its predecessors. I might take a closer look next week.