Remembering classic games: Carmageddon (1997) | Top Gear
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Sunday 1st October

Remembering classic games: Carmageddon (1997)

Outside the hysteria, this '97 PC hit was actually a really fun driving game

Published: 18 Aug 2023

PC demolition racer Carmageddon was allegedly created when developer Stainless Steel Software decided that racing games were more fun when you drove backwards and crashed into everyone. Really, though, Carmageddon was most famous for the fact that you could mow down swathes of pedestrians with gleeful abandon. Naturally as soon as they heard about the game the tabloid newspapers promptly detonated, with headlines that included ‘Ban Death Game Now’ and, as you’d expect, the game went on to sell two million copies. Who needs a PR agency?

By the time Carmageddon actually landed on British shores in 1997, all the human fender fodder had been replaced with green-blooded zombies, allowing you to plough through crowds of them and retain a clean conscience. In direct contrast to the state of your windscreen.

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When all the fuss had died down, the big surprise was that Carmageddon was actually a fun, technically impressive driving game. The dystopian environments were huge, varied and lavishly detailed automotive playgrounds, which ranged from a toxic chemical plant to a slippery ski resort. Meanwhile the crunching vehicle on vehicle impacts required to eliminate your opponents and win a ‘race’ showed off an impressive deformation system that often left your opponents grinding to a halt with a banana shaped chassis.

And those opponents were a motley crew of some of the most colourful characters in racing game history, including a rogue android in a futuristic Japanese coupe, a bloke in head to toe fetishwear driving a green Countach and pair of undertakers in a hearse called ‘The Stiff Shifter'. As for your own player character, you were treated to their gurning face in a little webcam-style window in the corner as you played, which seems weirdly prescient now that videogame livestreaming is a thing.

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