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Carmageddon: Reincarnation Pre-Alpha Early Access Preview
As a very impressionable teenage gamer in the late 90s I was exposed to all manner of classic games who’s legacies would endure among gaming culture for years to come – Diablo, Starcraft, Baldur’s Gate, Everquest, Fallout. Though I was awash in a world of amazingly deep computer role playing games there stood a single quirky racing game that would become one of my all-time favorites from that nostalgic era.
I remember going with a friend and our moms to the nearest Electronics Boutique with the intent to purchase Carmageddon after we’d fallen madly in love with the demo. Thankfully our moms were the type to shake their heads and laugh at the gratuitous violence and Mature ESRB warning, and soon we found ourselves elbowing each other after each destructive race to be the next homicidal driver.
Thanks to the magic of Kickstarter and the passionate developers at Stainless Games Inc, I’m able to relive the silly awesomeness that is Carmageddon all over again in the upcoming reboot Carmageddon: Reincarnation.
Although it’s been available on Steam via their Early Access program for a couple months, Reincarnation is still in a Pre-Alpha state. Despite the various warnings of incomplete textures and general wonkiness I was too excited to dive in and relieve the adolescent excitement of barreling into my fellow drivers, hurtling my spiked car through the air and splattering many a pedestrian all over my windshield.
Before I ever entered a race I knew the tone was perfect. The speed metal soundtrack got me pumped and the sharp comic art style shifted my brain into a violent, Mad Max-like world of vehicular slaughter.
While the final game will offer a full career mode (earning money, purchasing modifications and winning ranks), multiplayer and mod support, currently the only option is Freeplay, allowing you to play a standard game of Carmageddon. The win conditions are carried over from the original – be the first to complete all the laps and checkpoints, wreck your competition, or kill every pedestrian on the map.
For the uninitiated, this is not your normal racing game. From the moment the countdown ends you can barrel into your opponents as they do the same to you. The maps are enormous with an almost “open world” feel as you can explore multiple routes, find more people to squash, and gather various power-ups littered across the map. Performing satisfyingly violent and acrobatic acts rewards you with cash and additional time to complete the race.
To prevent a constant Game Over when your car is inevitably too destroyed to function, you can repair on the fly with a tap of a button. The physical destruction to vehicles is one of the highlights to this new reboot – if you launch yourself at an opponent you will crush their hood. Slamming into them head-on crunches their front-end (which looks hilarious on some of the outlandish models). The magical repair (which costs money but doesn’t appear to matter in Freeplay) rebuilds and rebuffs your car as various parts come flying off screen.
The modern improvements are all natural evolutions of modern game design, including easy controller support, a much needed minimap and unobtrusive UI. This is very much a case of don’t fix what isn’t broken, however, as many design elements, menus, car models, map objects and hilarious power-ups are lovingly recreated from the original game I fell in love with. Reincarnation is laser-focused at fans of the original games but also lays the groundwork for a compelling destruction derby game that should appeal to anyone that likes to embrace the more homicidal side of driving.
Early Access Verdict: Now or Wait?
Fans of the original game and its sequel will feel right at home already, as the basic concepts of wrecking other drivers on a large, free form map is wonderfully preserved, and all the immature but hilarious over-the-top violence returns with all the subtlety of an oncoming car crash. That said the limited playable options and general lack of optimization (like incredibly long load times for races) reflect its early stage, and the lack of multiplayer would be an understandable red light for many. I have zero doubts that Carmageddon: Reincarantion will be the amazing modern reboot I’ve always dreamed of, but newcomers to the series may want to wait until it’s fleshed out a bit more.
Carmageddon: Reincarnation is currently available on Steam Early Access. Final release has been estimated for this Fall.