Wiping out pedestrians probably is more fun than it should be.

I love controversial games. Something about playing a game that’ll piss people off makes me want to play it. People like parents, teachers, focus groups or the Catholic Church. I’m like every small boy in that respect, just playing things because they are controversial.

The issue though with controversial games is that they are often very hit and miss. Lula and BMX XXX tried to get sex in a non Leisure Suit Larry way into mainstream video games, but in getting sex in, they took gameplay out. Violence is another thing that is a gameplay sin, as I believe that a lot of games today sacrifice fun for body count. Carmageddon is one such game that got the balance just right. Why? Well instead of being serious gritty violence, it actually instead made itself as silly as possible.

Carmageddon just doesn’t really have a story, you instead take one of the two drivers (Max Damage or Die Anna) through a number of levels destroying various items, cars and pesdestrians. To advance you either have to win a race, or destroy the other six vehicles in the race. It’s simple, it’s easy, and that’s it.

Where the game got the controversy was that in order to beat the strict time limit, you need to run over pedestrians, each one giving you time or money. The actual “race” aspect degenerates from a proper race to a violent smash em up before you hit the second corner. Include power ups such as jelly suspension, insta-handbrake and the “Electro Bastard Ray”, and it’s as close to real racing as Basra is to a viable tourist destination.

But this game is rather amusing, it takes a pop at a number of popular racing games (a level is called Fridge Racer), films and pop culture references. There are “bonus points for artistic impression” should you run over a pedestrian with a skid or in reverse. Some completely un-scary cars are armed to the deeth mad max style. It is hacking and smashing, and funny, rather than controversial.

Eliminate enemies and you can get new cars.
Eliminate enemies and you can get new cars.

The other beauty of this game is the physics of this game. It’s the first game with wreckable cars, and it’s quite possible to use items to run over people (In a “Nice Shot Sir!” bonus. Sure, the physics are not that perfect (the fact you can stop your car, wait for a pedestrian to run into it, and the pedestrian will explode in a flurry of gore), but so much of the game is revolutionary and in a world where cars were either working or on fire, it’s nice having cars with damage that also affects your performance.

This was also one of the first (if not the first) free roaming driving games, which are seemingly moneymakers now. It was a year before the first Grand Theft Auto, and two years before the first Driver game. So it did pave a path like nothing seen before it.

Interestingly, with the development of this game, the programmers didn’t have much of a brief, after licence after licence for films fell through. Stainless Software had a huge amount of freedom for this game, almost to unprecidented level as a small developer. They produce a fantastic game that cemented free roaming games for years to come.

So next time you gun down coppers on GTAVI, just remember, Carmageddon’s controversy was there first, and you have a lot to thank it for.

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One thought on “Carmageddon

  1. Let’s not forget this was also one of the earliest games to be patched to take advantage of your 3DFX cards, which made it look stunning.

    It’s not the first free roaming driving game by a long shot, that accolade goes to Turbo Esprit (

    For me it was the physics that made this game as you rightly point out, they were spot on.

    I seem to remember many countries banned this game until SCI replaced the humans with zombies and green blood, which was of course easily patched to return it to its red blooded gory best.

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