Back in 1999, I worked in academic computing at a small liberal arts college. During the summer, we'd set up LAN parties in the student computer labs for the staff and student workers, where we'd gleefully yell at each other while playing hits like Quake and Diablo. A lesser-known favorite at these gatherings was Carmageddon, a driving/racing game that's all about smashing up cars, property, and random pedestrians. The more people and things you destroy, the more points you get. It's so wrong, but it's also pretty funny in an immature way, especially when you're playing with friends and granting each other titles like "Evil Death Queen of Carmageddon."
Cut to 17 years later, and Carmageddon is back. After putting out a remake of the original Carmageddon last year, the Carma team will be releasing a brand-new title, Carmageddon: Max Damage, this summer. It's got the same vibe as the earlier games - unhinged drivers, crazy cars, and points for bloody pedestrian fatalities, but I'm not quite seeing the point of it all. Like Duke Nukeum and Postal, Carmageddon just feels like a series that should have stayed in the '90s.
The late 1990's was the era of "naughty lad" gaming, when the Duke parodied the action movies of the day and young gamers delighted in freaking out their parents with Mortal Kombat fatalities. We were young and dumb, and so were the developers who were making these gross-out games. The graphics of the day helped keep things fairly light-hearted, too. Everybody was made of giant pixels, after all, so all the violence was pretty cartoonish even when the commercials went out of their way to make things sound "extreme." Seeing Carmageddon return in an age of more realistic graphics and a far more diverse pool of gamers doesn't seem quite right. It would be like if The Secret of Monkey Island returned with Call of Duty-style graphics instead of as a cartoon-style title.
It doesn't help that the promotional material for Carmageddon: Max Damage feel less "insane and wrong" and more good old-fashioned mean-spirited. They team has made a point of showing how you can explode people in wheelchairs and mobility scooters, and a new trailer shows nothing but nun fatalities. Really? The original Carmageddon, at least, was pretty equal-opportunity offensive. I remember running over random businesspeople and football teams, not just picking on the kinds of people who already have a tough time in life. Plus, these are the same self-appointed assholes who made the original game, which (assuming they're around my age, and they probably are) makes them over 40 now. Just like how Adam Sandler has long outlived his man-child comedy schtick, the Carma team feels like it's working just a little too hard to be immature and edgy, and the humor ends up feeling sour and spiteful instead.
There will always be dumb, immature, gross-out games out there, and that's great! I just feel like they should be organic creations of the current era, not cynical-feeling flashbacks to a different time and place. Today we have games like Goat Simulator and Hotline Miami, not to mention the plethora of open world survival and creation games that allow their players to come up with their own hilariously terrible things to do. Do we really need the ghosts of gross-out games past to re-emerge, feeling tone deaf in terms of today's gaming community and trends? I enjoyed Carmageddon back in the '90s, but that's where it should have stayed.