Carmageddon Preview

Bipedal butchery abounds in this ultra-violent racing game that may just knock you off your feet

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Back in 1975, anyone who witnessed the Transcontinental Road Race in Paul Bartel's cult classic Death Race 2000 could do little more than watch from the sidelines and squirm. It featured celebrity drivers - like Frankenstein, Calamity Jane, and Machine Gun Joe - tearing up the road from New York to New Los Angeles in their tricked out vehicles while scoring points for the senseless slaughter of human victims. This year gamers may finally get their chance to live out some of their Death Race fantasies in Carmeggedon, Interplay and SCi's upcoming action racer bloodfest.

But where Death Race was a fairly civilized event - drivers stuck to the course, raced against the clock, and killed pedestrians for points – Carmeggedon will be an all-out, over-the-top, anything goes carnage-fest on wheels. With three ways to win - waste all the opponents, waste all the pedestrians, or waste your time completing the circuit - it will be anything but proper.

According to the game's producer, SCi's Adrian Curry, Carmeggedon was designed to deliver the kind features players really yearn for in a fast-paced racing game. "It'll appeal to what everyone always wants to do in a driving game - wreck the other cars, go the wrong way or off the circuit, and kill spectators." He also hopes people who play Carmeggedon will physically react to what they experience on the screen. "We want the player to feel the impacts - hunching up over the keyboard, screaming with delight as he totals an opponent. Totally involved."

While the premise of the game is pretty straightforward - drive around, crash into opponents, and flatten bystanders - SCi is adding quite a number of elements to the game to keep the cars moving and the players feeding on a constant stream of action. First, there will be over 25 opponents to race against, with each vehicle manifesting each driver's abilities and strengths. Every car will have driving attributes appropriate to its type - from very slow and strong to fast and very weak. Some of the vehicles include an enormous diesel dump truck, a big, lowered "sled" pimp mobile, a small high-speed off-road racer, and a monster-truck-wheeled super car. In addition to the single-player mode, Carmeggedon will support six players over a LAN network, and there are plans to offer it on Engage Games Online for play over the Internet.

Also, points will be earned in a variety of ways - aside from mowing down pedestrians. Players able to exhibit skillful maneuvers behind the wheel will pick up bonus points for style, combo collisions (with other cars and pedestrians), and stunts. The points will be used to make on-the-fly repairs, including recovering the car if it's upside down or stuck in any other way.

Each course will also contain a myriad of power-ups and downs. All will alter the normal state of the cars or environment and last about 30 seconds. And while SCi doesn't plan on including any ranged weapon power-ups (the car is the ultimate weapon), there will be a 30-second auto-ray gun that will be highly effective against pedestrians. Carmeggedon will also have a structured ranking system where each player will work his way up 99th towards first place instead of merely meandering from race to race.

Curry intends to give players huge levels in Carmeggedon that can be fully explored. But because there's a limit to the number of textures that can be loaded into memory for each race, there will be some trade-offs between the level of graphic detail and the size and scope of the environments that the game will offer. However, the game should look pretty sharp played in hi-res and the final version will support 3Dfx.

Players looking forward to nailing pedestrians only have to wait until July; that's when Carmegeddon ships. Then, at last, gamers will gain a deeper understanding - or at least a deeper appreciation - of Frankenstein's immortal words: "Scoring isn't winning - it's part of the race."

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