Game Over Online ~ Carmageddon TDR 2000

GameOver Game Reviews - Carmageddon TDR 2000 (c) SCi, Reviewed by - Rorschach

Game & Publisher Carmageddon TDR 2000 (c) SCi
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium 200, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 68%
Date Published Sunday, September 17th, 2000 at 09:06 PM

Divider Left By: Rorschach Divider Right

Hindsight, I've been told, is 20/20. And so I wish that I hadn't used the line about stale Saturday Night Live jokes in my last column in reference to Lara Croft, because if there were ever a good analog for the joke that wouldn't end (BWA-NAAAA) in the gaming world, it would be Carmageddon. Pretty much that says all that needs to be said, but as 52 words are a little short for a game review, I suppose I should press on.

Back when Carmageddon came out, the concept of a racing game that awarded points for running down pedestrians seemed new. The reason I say seemed is because there was a game in the early 80's for the Apple 2+ called Motor Meat which awarded points for running over little, pixilated grandmothers, and even before that there was an arcade game, whose name I can't think of, which awarded points for running over zombies in a graveyard - you can probably get a copy of it for MAME. Both of those games were crude top-down affairs while Carmageddon offered a much gorier isometric or 1st person view. Parents' groups, always on the lookout for something to blame other than the actual parents for the problems with kids, latched onto it as the latest presage of the decline and fall of western civilization. Kids, always instinctively trolling for things that will drive their parents nuts, made it a best seller, at least in places where it wasn't outright banned. Oddly, neither of those earlier games took any real heat because everyone was up in arms about a game called The Bilestoad in which two gladiators eviscerated one another with wicked double headed axes (Anyone remember that game?).

It's a few years later and parents' groups are getting tired of rallying against Teletubbies or whatever frightens them now, so the latest incarnation of Carmageddon features zombies instead of humans in an attempt to minimize the banning (at least the UK version does which is the one that I'm reviewing). There are strangely not just zombie people, but green-skinned zombie dogs and other animals as well. Does it really make any difference when all I suspect they've done is change red blood for green? I don't know. As a friend of mine said when I mentioned this to him "Killing zombies good. Killing humans bad. It's as simple as that." Whatever. I understand the US version will feature full blood, but our kids are already as screwed up as they are going to get, so it doesn't matter.

For TDR2000, the Carmageddon 2 graphics have gotten a little facelift. On the Carmageddon TDR2000 website it claims a new graphics engine which boasts higher frame rates. Of course, I was running a P200 with a Diamond Monster daughter board when Carmageddon 2 came out, and now I'm on a P3-500 with a Diamond Viper 770 Ultra - I'd better see higher frame rates! The new engine does colored lighting, smoke, and particle effects. A somewhat enhanced damage model allows you to crumple and tear off most car body parts, or maybe you could do that in Carmageddon 2 - I honestly can't remember. Scenery looks pretty good - buildings, trees, sky - if somewhat more cartoonish than Carmageddon 2. You can knock down and push around signs, traffic cones, park benches, and light poles. Zombies fly apart and leave greasy spots on the road entertainingly. The zombies now hurl firebombs at you when they're not running from your bumper. They don't seem to do a lot of damage or change the gameplay in any significant way, but there they are. As a whole, while not spectacularly different from Carmageddon 2, I'm pretty happy with the new Carmageddon look.

The physics engine likewise feels much the same. Cars skid, roll, and flip dramatically. You can fall off a 10 story building, land on your nose, roll onto your roof, get creamed by a speeding car and flipped back onto your wheels, and drive after him to ram his ass. Cars fly around like an over-the-top Hollywood stunt show, and that's clearly what people have come to expect from the Carmageddon series.

Underneath the hood the gameplay is largely unchanged. You still race around a track gaining racing time and cash for running over pedestrians, ramming or destroying your opponents, and clearing checkpoints. Cash can be used at the end of the race to buy opponents' cars that you have destroyed or to upgrade your own car engine, armor, or offensive ability. Power ups are scattered around the track - mines, mortars, zombie flamethrowers, zombie electricutors, high-grip tires - whatever your little heart desires. In the creative power up game, the Carmageddon team is a clear winner. The game has a limited number of maps, but has far more races by placing barricades around to change the racecourse through those maps. They've brought in a ridiculous plotline about a post apocalyptic Escape From New York kind of thing in which you have to break out of one map to get to the next one. It gets a little same-y running around the same map over and over again, but their sense of timing is good in general in that you change maps before any real boredom sets in.

As in Carmageddon 2, some of the races are not against other cars, but the clock as you try and get to some place or places or destroy something before time runs out. I personally find these missions very frustrating, because I might have to play them a dozen times before I get them right. In missions where you have to get to the top of a building, I often spent the first few attempts just driving around trying to find the ramps and whatnot to let me get up there. They sometimes have these little floating arrows to direct you where to go, but they're not as helpful as they could be. I can get especially pissed off if there are multiple objectives, and I'll get the first one and the second one, but fail the third - too bad, do it again. In some ways, I think this game may suffer from the in-mission save/no in-mission save controversy which surrounded Alien vs. Predator and, more recently, Ground Control. I'm not going to rehash all that here. Just to let you know that Carmageddon 2 had it, and now TDR2000 does.

The web site also boasts of improved AI and multiplayer capabilities. I haven't tried the multiplayer game because, as you all know by now, my bandwidth sucks. As for the AI, it doesn't seem any different to me. I'm frankly not even certain what AI means in a game like this. It's not a RTS or 4X game; it's not brain surgery - the opposing cars either wants to ram you or race. Admittedly, I've seen bad driving AI systems like in the Dukes of Hazard: Racing for Home where they spent a lot of time ramming the scenery, but that's really the exception more than the rule. The zombie/human AI is a little improved. There's the firebomb thing, and they flee in groups now, like chasing flocks of birds, and I've seen them duck around corners and dumpsters to avoid me. It makes it seem more like you're running over real people, at least from the little experience running over real people that I've had.

As I start to proofread this review, I find that I've mentioned Carmageddon 2 an awful lot. There's a good reason for that - TDR2000 is more like Carmageddon 2 than unlike it. As a matter of fact, given that I'm in a sort of expansion-pack frame of mind from my reviews of Cleopatra and The Conquerors this month, let's look at what we've got here. Some new cars, some new power ups, new maps, slightly updated graphics. Expansion pack? Hmmmmm. OK, that's not quite fair. There are a lot of new power ups and a lot of new maps and over 50 single player races. The graphics changes help bring the Carmageddon series into line with what is now the standard of the 3D graphics bag of tricks. But underneath it all, it's still Carmageddon, and for me at least, I've had enough.


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