The reason the chicken stopped crossing the road.
Ever get caught in traffic when you were late to an important meeting? Ever have to sit at a crosswalk while a lady old enough to remember the last Ice Age feebly 'attempts' to cross the street? Ever get stuck behind a fancy new Mercedes because the driver is too engrossed in his cell phone conversation to realize the light has been green for nearly two weeks? The sensation of bitter anger and fury that races through your veins while driving is unrivaled. I've seen nuns screaming bloody murder because some jerk forgot to signal. May God strike him dead!
Well, European gamers SCI (Sales Curve Interactive), developers of the surprise hit Carmageddon, thought it necessary to continue their psychological foray into the realm of auto-massacre with this follow-up, the aptly titled Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now. With updated graphics, more bloodshed, and a strong physics engine, this one is sure to please the twisted maniac in all of us.
As Carmageddon 2 is a sequel, go read the review of the original to familiarize yourself with the basic idea. For those of you too lazy to click on the link, the basic idea involves racing around various tracks trying to destroy other opponents. You also have the ability to squash pedestrians and other innocent bystanders for extra cash and big fun. In fact, the more you kill, the better you score. This is simply the most violent and brutal game in town.
For the most part, Carmageddon 2 is just an updated version of the original. Most gameplay elements stay the same. You collect power-ups (there are 90 different ones) and ram enemies, though the most fun comes from thinking up new and interesting ways to kill the pedestrians.
Like the original, the track design is excellent. The levels are huge and you don't have to stick to the roadways. In fact, you can drive just about anywhere. This means that exploration is a necessity and a great way to find cool hidden power-ups. In fact, I spend most of my time roaming around the tracks looking for new places to go (and turning innocent bystanders into mush).
One new feature is the salvaging. After winning a race (almost always by destroying other cars), you can buy any car you destroyed provided you have enough dough. You can then use that car in any race, as it becomes part of your stable. This adds a layer of depth and lets you drive different cars early on.
Another new addition is a mission format. You can choose any one of 4 races in a Group, but to open up the next Group you must complete the final race in the Group, dubbed the "mission." Missions require you to learn different aspects of driving and you're usually racing alone. It's a nifty feature and makes it difficult to just charge through all the tracks.
The physics in the original were surprisingly good, and, thankfully, they remain the same here. The cars handle fairly realistically, an odd feature for such an action-oriented game. You have to get pretty good at driving before you'll succeed. The control can be a bit wily, but it just takes some getting used to. The cool physics carry into the cool car damage modeling. Smash into a wall and you'll look like an accordion. Get rear-ended and watch your back fender fall off. Very neat stuff.
Other new features include user-operated powerups, auto-save, and a deeper car upgrade system.
In one of the coolest flashbacks ever, the music in Carmageddon 2 includes three songs from legendary rockers Iron Maiden (insert head-bang here). And it rules. There's nothing quite like slamming a fat guy through a telephone pole and into a brick wall while 'Ace's High' blasts out of your speakers. Whoever thought of using Maiden deserves a beer. 'Nuff said.
The biggest improvement is in the graphics. Unlike the pixely mess of the original (it was DOS based), Carmageddon 2 is optimized for full 3D acceleration. You'll find beautiful textures, a good framerate, and very few polygonal errors. The beginning FMV is a bit shoddy, however, though this has nothing to do with the game itself. Utilizing 3Dfx and D3D technology adequately, Carmageddon 2 is easy on the eyes.
This graphical overhaul also means that the pedestrians are much more realistic. You're no longer careening into little 2D people. All objects in the game are polygonal, which opens up a whole new world of pedestrian dismemberment. Arms go flying, heads pop off and roll into walls, and legs fall off and squirt blood on the ground. This game is not for the peace-loving hippie types.
It's this very violence that will determine whether or not you're going to like the game. Carmageddon 2 offers the most over-the-top brutality I've seen in a game since the archaic gore-fest Harvester. The amount of blood is prodigious, and it's not always human. You'll plow into enough dogs, cows, sheep, moose, and other animals to give Old MacDonald a coronary. I actually felt a little guilty after playing, like I had just done something very, very naughty. This is really a title that shouldn't be played by kids, and I NEVER say that.
But, as always, there's bad to offset all of the good. In this case, the bad is wrapped up in two words - NO MULTIPLAYER. Well, you can play over a LAN, but very few of us actually do that. The lack of Internet play in today's market is a grievous omission, particularly due to the nature of the game. The destruction derby format is tailored made for multiplayer, yet you're stuck playing alone.
I still wish someone would come up with a good story to complement the gruesome gameplay. A bizarre and twisted plot would flesh out the game immensely, giving the characters and cars more depth. (Think Death Race 2000 - Ed.)
Overall, I'm really pleased with Carmageddon 2. The absence of multiplayer, however, is hard to justify and brings the grade down a notch. But for the most part, it fixes all of the minor problems with the original, and adds some flavor along the way. Now go buckle up and kill the innocents - they deserve it.