Earlier this years, fans of car combat games, myself included, were deeply disappointed by the supremely subpar Carmageddon Max Damage (my review of which you can read here). Now we have Gas Guzzlers Extreme, which is now available on Xbox One, and coming soon to PlayStation 4, after years of being on PC. And while it’s far from perfect, it does have enough going for it to satisfy the itch that a certain something failed to do.
At its core, Gas Guzzlers Extreme is an arcade-style racing game in which your car is not only built for speed, but for war as well. Though none of the cars are real ones, real cars usually don’t come with missile launchers, machine guns, or land mine dispensers as standard equipment. Nor can they pick up ammo, shields, or other power-ups by driving through icons floating in the middle of the track.
Gas Guzzlers Extreme also has courses that are not only curvy but also full of side roads and secret pathways. There are even times when the tracks may be altered. On the snowy track, for instance, there’s a wooden bridge. But if it gets damaged, and you try to drive over it, you’ll drop down to the road below. Which won’t knock you out of the race, but it will cost you valuable time.
Taking advantage of these tracks, Gas Guzzlers Extreme has a number of different race modes, including “Power Race,” which is about finishing first; “Battle Race,” in which you need to get the highest kill count; and “Knockout,” in which the objective is to destroying a specific opponent. The game also offers both quick races where you can mix and match different tracks and race types while altering the number of laps, as well as a career mode where you work your way through a specific progression of races with differing secondary objectives, though you can still pick what kind of race type you want to do.
There are also a decent number of options in Gas Guzzlers Extreme. Not only do you have lots of different aesthetic choices when it comes to customizing your car, but you can also upgrade the tires, the engine, and the brakes, as well as the ammo and the car’s armor. There’s also a multitude of different viewpoints when you race — though not, oddly, a cockpit view — as well as control customizing options that go beyond just “sensitivity.”
Gas Guzzlers Extreme even gives you some an option not afforded you in other racing games. Not only can you personalize the license plate, but you can change the color of the letters as well, something even the options overloaded Forza Horizon 3 doesn’t let you do.
Most importantly, though, Gas Guzzlers Extreme has simple and forgiving arcade-style controls and physics. Which mean you can concentrate on taking the next turn or taking out the guy in front of you rather than worrying whether you’re going to skid out and lose the race because your car handles like its tires are bald.
Consider this: In Gas Guzzlers Extreme you can drive a car called the Defiant Regale, which has two wheels in the back but only one in the front. It’s basically this game’s version of the Reliant Regal, a real-life British three-wheeled car that you can drive in Forza Horizon 3. Except that in Forza Horizon 3, if you’re driving a Reliant Regal, and take a turn too fast, your car will tip over, dragging the front bumper on the road. But in Gas Guzzlers Extreme, the Defiant Regale takes turns as smoothly as a car with four wheels.
Or really, just a way better version of Carmageddon Max Damage.
That said, Gas Guzzlers Extreme has problems. Scary problems.
For starters, Gas Guzzlers Extreme comes up a short when it comes to its tracks. While it’s not good to have too many courses in a racing game because then you never get to know any of them well, there’s only a few tracks in this game when you start, and while there are more than the initial five, you end up playing the same ones so much that I started to get bored of them after a couple hours. Which is too bad because the ones it does have are, as I said, nicely twisted.
It’s also infuriating how long the load times are between before races.
There are also some superficial, aesthetic issues with Gas Guzzlers Extreme. Like how it has a really low-rent feeling in everything from the unfinished-looking menus to its amateurish voice acting. Or how it has a similarly cheap sense of humor. When you begin the campaign, you’re told that your favorite beer wants to sponsor you. But the company’s name is Buttwasser, and they make Butt Beer. And the comments made by the announcers aren’t any better.
Gas Guzzlers Extreme also has this bad habit of telling you when your competitors have done something like hit a land mine. It’s a common practice in PC games, especially in their online modes, but all it does here is serve as a distraction. Though, to be honest, I don’t know why PC games do this either. I have never been playing a game, on PC or console, and wondered to myself, “I wonder what ButtwasserLuver42 is doing right now. Oh, he hit a landmine. Good to know.”
There are even times when you do something during a race that will prompt Gas Guzzlers Extreme to put a message on the screen as well. Like when you run over the power-up that gives you money for new car parts. The problem being that these messages are always in white text, and often against light colored backgrounds, so you have no idea if you just got some money or if your mom called because she wants to know what time Full Frontal With Samantha Bee is on.
In the end, Gas Guzzlers Extreme could’ve been a lot better, but it also could’ve been a lot worse. It’s no Twisted Metal. Or Mario Kart. Or Wipeout. But it’s also no Carmageddon Max Damage. And as a fan of car combat games, that’s not just good, it’s a relief.