Old-fashioned combat racer
Vehicular combat racers come in many shapes. Futuristic hovercraft blowing each other up was made legendary in the Wipeout series and psychotic characters driving contemporary vehicles made blowing your friends up a blast in Twisted Metal. Gas Guzzlers Extreme is a good, old-fashioned vehicular combat racer which brings nothing new to the table but adds a new title to a solid and entertaining genre.
Customise your car
The realistic thing about Gas Guzzlers Extreme is that you play as a redneck who has been recruited to race in a tournament created by rednecks for rednecks and, let’s face it, if anyone would be dumb enough to strap weapons on their cars and race around shooting at each other (AND have the money to do so) it would be rednecks. The profile creation menu doesn’t give a good impression as a small chicken model keeps poking through the wall. This doesn’t bode well in terms of production values, but once you are inside the game it gives you a completely different impression. The menu is sleek and you will be hard-pressed to run out of things to do, especially as the game features multiple multiplayer modes. The multiplayer lobbies are rather empty at the moment, however, which is surprising considering the fact that this is a very good game.
For fans of games like Flatout the amount of vehicles may be a bit small but coupled with a number of engine and weapon upgrades and the ability to customise the look of the car, there is ample opportunity to make the eighteen vehicles on stock completely your own. Cosmetic upgrades are free of charge and completing races will unlock new stickers and rims for your car. Engine, brake, and weapon upgrades, however, cost money which you earn during the race by finishing in a top spot, destroying enemy cars, performing daredevil stunts, and completing bonus objectives which usually take the form of blocking a specific racer from finishing in a top spot, damaging a specific number of racers with a specific weapon, or finishing the race without taking damage, to name a few parameters. The weapons available range from machine guns and shotguns to plutonium tipped rockets and some can fire both forward and backwards.
Great track design
Scattered throughout the tracks are weapons and boosts waiting to be picked up by the first car to hit them. These include oil slicks, land mines, smoke screens, ammo, nitro boosts, repair kits, and hard cash. As you can see, there is nothing really new about it, but the levels are very well designed and they come in seven different settings, ranging from dry deserts to snow covered mountains. None of the tracks I raced on was irritatingly complicated or idiotically simple, so the design team deserves complements for hitting a nice middle route in that regard. Races are tight and exciting and the AI functions very much like you would expect a real racer to behave. Racing with the keyboard isn’t terribly enjoyable, but luckily the game features full controller and racing wheel support complete with vibration functions and racing with a controller is very enjoyable. The only thing missing is the ability to race offline in split-screen mode, which is something way too few games support.
The graphics are adequate and the sound design is good but where the experience truly excels is music. The rock tracks that play during races blend perfectly into the action and boost the already heart-pounding excitement of the race. THE damage models, however, are somewhat disappointing, especially considering the care taken in other aspects of the game, such as being able to see the character change gears in the third person view. The game’s sense of humour is also a nice touch and everything from the track and bot names to the driver dancing the hula with a tire while you customise your car in the garage put a smile on your face both during and between races.
This game is a welcome addition to the combat racing genre and although it adds nothing new to it, it holds up well against games like Twisted Metal. This genre is severely under-served on the PC and I encourage anyone who enjoyed the likes of Interstate ‘76 to pick this game up. It doesn’t have the story of that classic piece of gaming history, but the action and mayhem are definitely there.
Fast paced action, good track design, great music: a thoroughly enjoyable combat racing experience.
Outdated damage models, empty multiplayer lobbies.