Guns and cars: Two staples of video games as a whole. They’re like peanut butter and chocolate. It’s a wonder nobody has put the two together before. Well, they have, actually, but we’re not here to talk about those games. No, today’s subject is Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage, a demolition derby game by Gamepires.
The premise is simple – Be the first car across the finish line. Whether that involves blowing the hell out of the other racers, or simply beating them is speed is up to you. Do this enough times and you’ll reach the top of your bracket and be allowed to participate in a tournament and show off your skills, winning money for cars, upgrades and guns.
In your quest to the top, you’ll experience three types of races. First off is your gunless, who’s faster, multilap race. These matches will net you the smallest rewards, of course. Next up is the battle race, the meat of the game, and also where it shines. It’s just like the normal race with the addition of weapons and deaths, and where your decision between fight or flight really comes into play. Finally, there’s there knockout mode, which is similar to battle race, but the person in last place is removed at the end of each lap. This is where you’ll earn the largest rewards, but your car is in danger of taking more damage, thus costing more money to repair. Also, knockout races are wonky as hell, but we’ll get to that later.
Unfortunately, all three race types play extremely similarly, leading to boredom setting in after only a few matches. It doesn’t help that in order to reach the tournaments, you’ll have to do approximately a dozen of them, and win the majority. So what takes place once you’re in said tournaments? More of the same damn races, except without a break in between them. So, to recap, the game requires you to more or less grind for progress, in order to gain the privilege to grind more, except even harder. It’s like working in a Chinese gold farming operation, except you paid $30 to be there.
Of course, this wouldn’t be so bad if the scenery was any fun to look at. Unfortunately, the game sticks to the boring derby tracks we’ve seen a million times before. This is a game that features cars with giant guns strapped to their hoods, and the most imaginative tracks we get are middle eastern deserts and piney mountain roads? Really? That’s like having a sci-fi game set in Idaho. It feels wrong to have a very self aware game that tries not to take itself seriously stick to the same boring tracks you’d see in simulator type games.
Speaking of humor, Gas Guzzlers takes every chance it gets to try and make you laugh. However, as a Croatian studio, it’s doubtful English is their first language, so the jokes fall… a little flat. For example, the players you’ll be racing against have names like Mary Juana, Luke Lyksheet, and Stu Pitt, and the one of the tracks you’ll race on is called the Camel Toe Circuit. All of the jokes feel at best forced, and at worst groanworthy, but I can’t fault them too much, as it’s not a huge part of the game.
It’s the gameplay itself where the game really falls short. Don’t get me wrong, the battle races are fun. Blowing up a an opponent feels good, and the cars react to the shock of being hit with a rocket accordingly, but as fun as it is, I don’t want to have to do it so much to get anywhere. It doesn’t help that the vanilla races take out the best part of the game, and the knockout matches are hampered by weird AI that’s either miles behind you, or practically overlapping you, causing you to get eliminated midway through the race. It seems that in order to get the most enjoyment out of the game, most players will stick solely to battle races, and that gets old really quickly.
Of course, the game can’t be all bad, right? It’s true, the cars do handle well, and pretty much as you’d expect from an arcade racer. The cars turn tightly, but without the needs for precision pedal discipline, and they don’t resort to figure eights, should you find yourself turning through the grass. Also, as I mentioned earlier, when you damage to a car, you can feel it. Hitting your opponent square in the ass with your giant shotgun a few times will send them tumbling, and dropping oil during a turn will cause them to dogpile against the railing. The rewards are all short term, however, as your feeling of accomplishment will fade once you get back to the menu and see you’re still 12th place in your bracket.
Another bright spot is the game’s customization options. It’s not on par with, say the Need for Speed: Underground series, but you will get to choose your car’s color, pattern, rims, etc. You can create the vicious black muscle car you’ve always wanted, complete with super intimidating flame decal, or bring out your feminine side by creating a pink car with purple rims. It’s your call. You can also upgrade the car’s performance parts, but, aside from weapons, none of them are cosmetic. Each vehicle has a set amount of upgrades per slot, so, while you’ll never beat the higher tier racers with your little starter car, you can make it last a bit before you have to upgrade.
All in all, Gas Guzzlers, isn’t terrible. In fact, it’s only a pinch of excitement away from being above average. However, as it stands, its boring tracks and grindy progression keep it from the fun potential that comes with the car combat genre. With a steep entry price of $30, you’re better off either waiting for a sale, or looking elsewhere for your demolition derby fix.
Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage was released on May 18th, 2012 for PC.