Developer: Gamepires / Publisher: Gamepires / Played On: PC / Price $31.99 / ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage promises two things–right there in the title no less; fast cars and big guns. I have a penis and live in America so, naturally, I like both of those things.
But, you see, Gas Guzzlers is like that asshole kid in school that’d offer you his last candy, then swiftly scoff it before you can take it. He presented you with the sweet allure of sugary goodness, got your mouth all watering, and then hit you with utter denial. Fuck that kid.
Now, you could walk to the shops and buy your own candy–then you’d have loads of candy and that’d be pretty cool. But that’d require effort. Lots of effort. Because the shop’s fucking miles away and dad’s not going to drive you so the only way you’re getting there is on foot.
That’s Gas Guzzlers. It promises two seemingly simple things, but denies you access to both. Then it forces you to climb mountains to get at the goods and it kicks your ass for trying. If this game had a penis, I’d punch it square in the sack.
My little rant is aimed at the game’s main campaign mode and its locked content. You start off with access to a single car–a beater that looks something like a shitty old Fiat (but not, since there are no real car licenses in this game). It’s slow as sin–struggles to maintain 65mph and never cracks 93mph (no wonder the game defaults on km/h). I’ve driven some crap cars in the early stages of racing games but this has to be one of the shameful.
No worries though, I thought, there’s an extensive customization feature, so let’s jazz it up a bit. Engine mods? Locked. Brakes? Tires? Locked. Rims? Nope, they’re out of bounds. Stickers are lame, so surely they’re ope- no they’re locked too.
Other new cars are locked. You can’t even LOOK at another car in the game. Here’s the kicker though: weapons? Locked. Seriously. And you don’t start with any on your car, meaning you’re unable to enter the shooting-focused Knockout or Battle Races, only the “Classic Race” mode.
Summary then: You’re not in a “gas guzzler” and you can’t do any combat.
That wouldn’t be so bad if those things came easy, but they don’t. Kicking your ass while climbing that mountain, remember? The AI racers are NAILS. Ruthless. They don’t have weapons either and their cars look just as crap as yours, but they’re fast and seem to weigh 1000 pounds more than you, because when you and a CPU car collide you’re the one eating shit every time. No doubt.
There are eight cars on course but you’ll be lucky to get third place. And you get no money for coming fourth or below, except the tiny cash bonuses you grabbed on course. So you commence the grind, getting your ass kicked in the same race over and over again (because all other races are locked, of course) until you scrape together enough money–and earn the unlocked privilege–to buy a new car.
Two-or-so hours later… Relief! Finally, I unlocked a car. Now, what kind of car do I get? One that looks even shitter than my first. I’m not joking. Two hours of grinding and you receive a car that looks like it used to belong to Mr. Bean’s grandpa. And all the other cool stuff’s still locked. I’ve never encountered a game so locked down in my life. It’s fucking Alcatraz and you’re the guy chipping at the walls with a blunt spoon. It’s like having to unlock the option to jump in a Mario game–that first Goomba killing you 100 times before the game says, “Oh by the way, you can now jump”.
I love cars. I love guns. I HATE grinding and monotonous repetition.
All this is a crying shame because, seriously, this game has the potential to be rather fun. The handling is nicely weighted, easily manageable, fast, and it lets you perform some sweet power slides.
But the game’s riddled with silly design flaws throughout. There are cool cars but it takes a marathon of grinding to get them, and not a fun one – if it let you race cups of five or six different courses and gave you a bunch of money for finishing each time, the grind to riches would be fun. But it just forces you to play the same single race over and over until you place high in it or ‘rank up’–I’m not really sure which due to the game’s complete lack of explanation.
There are some decent weapons: meaty shotguns that flip cars around, land mines and rockets that make massive explosions. But they don’t seem to do much damage. The nicely varied courses go from desert to canyon roads to snow-covered fields, and there are shortcuts to find. But taking those shortcuts doesn’t seem to get you any further up the field. And they’re not nearly as creative as in FlatOut or Split/Second.
There’s online multiplayer racing–which would be a lot more fun than CPU racing–but I couldn’t connect to a server. There’s controller support but you have to bind your own keys because there’s no proper default detection for the Xbox controller. And why the hell can’t I navigate the menus with the damn controller? The game just doesn’t feel finished.
Somewhere, hidden within Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage, is a fun racer. Unfortunately, the fun is locked. The handling is great, the sense of speed satisfying, the visuals well-done, and the core idea itself a good one. I want to mod sweet cars and shoot stuff. Sure, eventually, you do get to do these things, and it’s kinda cool. But the sweet cars, the mods, the modes, the weapons and even the tracks only come after lengthy, repetitive grinding against infuriating CPU opponents. Great gameplay, terrible design.
If you want a fun arcade racer and you can endure a grind you might get some enjoyment out of Gas Guzzlers. But there are plenty of other games to choose from. Burnout Paradise and FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage spring to mind, which are years old and cheap to buy. I unfortunately can’t recommend Gas Guzzlers over either of them.