Some games are so bad that you don’t play them, you endure them. Which is how I feel after suffering through the combative, arcade-style racing game Carmageddon Max Damage (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), a game so infuriating and fundamentally flawed that it’s nearly unplayable.
Like previous entries in this series, which started back in 1997, Carmageddon Max Damage is basically Need For Speed meets Twisted Metal Black. In it, you race through city streets and other urban locations in crazy-looking sports cars that look like they were customized by the cast of Mad Max: Fury Road. But while you can win races by coming in first, obviously, you can also win them by literally destroying your competition. And this is true whether the event is a straight multi-lap checkpoint race, or in such spin-off events as the ones where the checkpoints randomly appear around town, and the winner is the one who hits ten of them first.
Carmageddon Max Damage also populates its tracks with a variety of power-ups, which range from the typical (like speed boosts) to the unusual (like the one that tosses large anvils at your competition). You can also pick up cash, which you can use to repair your car’s damage on the fly or to flip your ride when you crash and land upside down.
But what has always set this series apart, and does so again with Carmageddon Max Damage, is that the tracks are also populated with pedestrians you can run over. Not only can events be won if you kill them all — which is tricky given how there’s usual hundreds of these fools walking around — but you also earn more time and other points for every one you run over.
Now, you might be thinking that killing pedestrians makes Carmageddon Max Damage seem a bit immature. Especially given how the game also has such a low-brow, juvenile sense of humor. But if this was the only thing wrong with Carmageddon Max Damage, then I might’ve enjoyed this game. I like dumb jokes and senseless violence as much as the next person. If only.
No, the thing that ruins Carmageddon Max Damage is it deeply flawed, sometimes dated, and borderline broken fundamental mechanics.
For starters, most of the tracks in Carmageddon Max Damage are so wide that it undermines any challenge they may have presented. Not only are none of the turns especially sharp, but if this was a good arcade-style racing game, with good controls, having such wide tracks would make it way too easy to take these turns.
Except that Carmageddon Max Damage isn’t a good arcade-style racing game, and it doesn’t have good controls. Instead, its controls are sluggish and clunky. Trying to take a turn is like steering a tank through quicksand…if the quicksand was made of glue and cake frosting. Every turn is a struggle, even when they’re as wide as they are in this game, and trying to do anything precise is an exercise in futility. And no, to answer the obvious question, there’s no option to adjust them.
It also doesn’t help that the physics in Carmageddon Max Damage are completely screwy. While loose physics can be fun in arcade-ish games, here the slightest bump can send your car careering in the wrong direction, to the point where it seems like this game’s physic engine is malfunctioning.
As infuriating as it may be to just get around the track in Carmageddon Max Damage, races in the career mode are made even more annoying by how your competition behave like a bunch of petulant children. Instead of trying to win the race — y’know, actually being competitive — they instead act like a bunch of griefers, slamming into you repeatedly even if it means their own destruction. Thankfully, because they seem to have the same trouble steering, you can usually get away from them without much difficulty.
Carmageddon Max Damage also has a myriad of other issues, some of which you could easily overlook if the game was fun to play. Not only does it have insufferably long load times, but the visuals are so lacking in detail and definition that you might wonder if you’re actually playing the original Carmageddon from 1997. Neither of which would ruin an otherwise great game, but here they’re just yet another reason not to waste your money on this lemon.
Still, it’s ultimately the terrible controls that make Carmageddon Max Damage so frustrating and so infuriating that you’ll want to stop playing before you even finish the tutorial (trust me, it doesn’t get any better after that). Easily the worst game, racing or otherwise, of 2016 so far, you’ll have more fun if you walk into traffic like a fool than you ever will playing this game.