The future is boring. At least, it's boring if you trust Post Apocalyptic Mayhem's vision of it. In this vision, you drive about in a buggy or truck decked out with weapons, avoiding your opponents' pathetic attempts to destroy you on courses in which the laws of physics as we know them don't consistently apply. This highly flawed car combat game is short on thrills and even shorter on content: you race AI drivers or online opponents on one of only three tracks, in one of only six vehicles. "Racing" isn't really an appropriate description of what you're doing out there, however. You might be doing laps around a course, but matches end when the timer runs out, and you aren't rewarded for finishing ahead of the pack--only for how many opponents you kill. P.A.M., as it's known, is easy and boring on every difficulty level, and at $9.99, it's an absolute rip-off.
It is, at least, attractive enough. You couldn't call Post Apocalyptic Mayhem a stunner, but its courses look as though they were carved out of a postwar borderland. On Concrete Jungle, leaning skyscrapers stand in relief against a blood-red sky. Derelict airplanes and an ominous (nuclear?) cloud make for an eerie sight on Cold War Beach. Wasteland is the most boring of them, winding through brown, rocky canyons with little to break up the view. Unfortunately, these are the only three courses, and while they offer a few alternate routes in the way of MotorStorm, they aren't intricate enough to keep them from becoming boring and predictable after a few races. Offline, there are only two modes. In Arcade mode, you race against five AI competitors; in Apocalyptic Challenge mode, you do the same thing three times in a row, once on each track. So really, there is only one kind of race, on one of three tracks. Even for a downloadable budget title, this is a laughable value.
Perhaps the limited amount of content could have been mitigated by rip-roaring explosions and close calls at high speed, but instead, the "mayhem" part of Post Apocalyptic Mayhem is decidedly lacking. At the beginning of each race, you choose one of six vehicles of various sizes, from the buggy known as the Skorch to the recreational vehicle called the Meth Alchemist. Again, P.A.M. seems to look to MotorStorm for its inspiration in this regard, but none of these vehicles are naturally limited to one course route over another. Sure, the Logger moves more slowly and feels more top-heavy than the Space Cowboy, but all of these vehicles are capable of getting good air off ramps and turn without any possibility of drifting. They all right themselves in midair in unnatural ways, and may let you drive up a few feet of cliff if you miss the track after a jump. The physics are neither realistic, nor unrealistically fun.
And so you are usually best off going with one of the big clunkers, at least on easy and medium difficulties. This is because you needn't concern yourself with the finish line, only with crashing your opponents, so speed isn't a major asset. You cause crashes by collecting power-ups as you race and then unleashing one of three different attacks. (A fourth kind of power-up fills your boost meter.) There is some initial fun here, if only because activating a missile barrage and crashing two or three enemies at once is intrinsically enjoyable. One of the Meth Alchemist's weapons unleashes exploding pink flamingos, which is a silly touch that might put a brief smile on your face. Ditto for the Childhood Dreams' frontal assault, in which you lift the driver in front of you with this school bus's scoop and fling him backward.
But Post Apocalyptic Mayhem quickly wipes those smiles away when you discover that each "race" has the same awkward, stilted pace: you pull ahead of the pack, unleash your rear attack when your challengers get close, and then slow down or stop until they catch up. Then you do it again until you win with many more kills than any other driver. On hard difficulty, AI drivers pass you more often, giving you a chance to use your frontal assault more frequently. But generally, you can use the same strategy over and over again without feeling pressured by the computer-controlled foes. Because you are never actually "racing," the only reason to rush ahead is to bombard laggers in the rear, so don't expect any high-speed thrills. And because so much destruction occurs behind you, you don't see much explosive action, either. A picture-in-picture window shows you what's happening behind you when you perform a rear attack, but it's no substitute for full-screen, metal-melting blowouts.
You'd think racing others online would alleviate these concerns, but in fact, multiplayer racing is even more stilted than competing against the AI. Where the AI rushes toward the spikes of ice you've laid behind you, human players know better. Thus, competitors simply stop until the spikes disappear before again moving forward--and you're all but forced to stop too so that they can catch up. If you're in a slower vehicle, it isn't uncommon for competitors to get to power-ups before you ever can, even in the race's initial two-second stretch, giving you no chance to retaliate. It's tough but not impossible to find online games and climb up the leaderboards, but it's not worth searching too enthusiastically: multiplayer competition is even clumsier than the offline racing. If the game were called Post Apocalyptic Monotony, P.A.M. could at least be praised for truth in advertising. But this is Post Apocalyptic Mayhem, so you may have expected a bit of pandemonium. Instead, you get massive yawns, and the regret that comes with knowing you just wasted a tenner.