29. Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now
Developer: Stainless Software
Carma II remains one of the most purely fun things I’ve ever played. That’s what it’s there for, for fun. That’s what it wants you to do, have fun. If it was a stick of rock, the letters in the middle would read “FUN”. Admittedly they’d be written in blood, and underlined with a bit of sinew, but there you are.
A racing game designed by a bloodthirsty psychopath, Carma II drops you and a bunch of rival racers into vast arenas – quarry, city, mountain village, whatever. You have three ways to play: race a race, with laps and checkpoints; attack your opponents, smashing their cars to bits until you’re the only racer left standing; or kill every single pedestrian in the level (there’s generally between 600 and 1,300). Every three levels or so you’re required to do a mission that demands a more specific win criteria, but for the most part you’re left to choose how to do things.
The running-people-over mechanic was what gained Carmageddon its notoriety (and this sequel increased that by switching from sprites to fully polygon peds, with detachable limbs and everything), but it’s the duels with your opponents that really make the game sing. Rather than just boring old race cars, everyone’s tooled up with all sorts of spikes and whatnot, and later enemies go a bit more outlandish – my favourite is the forklift that’s been converted into a mobile guillotine. This game was out around the time I was watching Robot Wars on BBC2 – incidentally, BRING BACK ROBOT WARS RIGHT THE HELL NOW THAT SHIT WAS AMAZING – and playing it was the closest to that brilliantly ridiculous mechanised combat you could get. 100mph dogfights across the sides of cliffs, cars being crumpled into oblivion against walls or cut in half by utilising a handy passing train. And that’s before you add in the powerups – Mine Shitting, yes, Oil Slicks From Your Arse, why not, but nothing beat the majesty of the Opponent Repulsificator. A great big spring with comedy “boing” noise that sends your hapless foe flying for miles. And at the end of the race, you got a “Wrecks Gallery” of all your vanquished adversaries so you could see exactly how much you beat them up. Then you could buy their car. Glorious.
There’s an absolute ton of stuff I haven’t mentioned. The various ped-changing powerups. The outrageously brilliant replay feature. The soundtrack, which got me into Iron Maiden. The level near the end that pays homage to The Blues Brothers. The silly names of the racers, and the fact that you got a little message telling you what the nearest opponent was doing (“Racing to Checkpoint”, “Sworn to Destroy You”, “Shitting Herself”). It was just sheer mad-eyed, cackling fun from beginning to end.
MAGIC MOMENT: the aforementioned replay feature, which allowed you to make incredibly detailed little movies from your finest exploits.