Carmageddon doesn’t look like much, but she’s got it where it counts

, | Game reviews

We live in strange times. I never figured I’d be playing faithful recreations of X-Com and Carmageddon on an Apple system, much less a handheld Apple system. Along with an iPad version of X-Com called Aliens vs Humans, this iOS port of Carmageddon is a mind-blowingly faithful trip back into the 90s.

Carmageddon isn’t pretty any more (pictured). Was it every pretty? Did we ever think that looked good? But you’re not playing Carmageddon for the graphics. You’re playing it for the physics, and they hold up splendidly. Here is a game whose driving model was not only far too serious for its subject matter, but also before its time. It was as in tune with where the rubber meets the road as classics like Grand Prix: Legends. Not to mention where the steel meets the steel, or the steel meets the meat. Okay, so sprites of exploding body parts aren’t technically physics, but they feel like physics. I still have to smile at the bloody tire tracks after you drive over roadkill. What kind of sick genius thought to put that in a game? This is as good as it gets when it comes to powersliding into a football team, landing on a herd of cows, or trying to get around that barely possible loop-de-loop on the second map.

It even controls well on the iPad. Carmageddon was made for digital input from a keyboard, so tapping the controls on the touchscreen doesn’t feel awkward (you can set it to analog controls if you’d rather drive that way, but don’t let any purists see you playing that way). The instant replay system is entirely intact to let you admire the gore and physics. Just swipe the touchscreen during a race and you’re ready to rewind, slo-mo, or change the view of every despicable awesome thing you’ve done so far. I guess Halo’s replay features weren’t so unprecedented after all. You can even upload clips to YouTube from within the game. Witness Cowmageddon.

I have no recollection of how the original game progressed — I mainly just remember the moment-to-moment glee of splattering pedestrians — but this iOS version is a series of unlockable levels, a collection of unlockable cars, a garage full of car upgrades, and variable goals for each level. If that’s not enough, leaderboards, achievements, and challenges are all supported on Gamecenter. In other words, a whole lot of incentive to drive, smash, and splatter.

4 stars