Racing games are definitely niche games, sometimes not understood by those in other gaming circles. However, taking racing elements of any standard racing simulation and combine that with machine guns, missiles, and oil slick, the package suddenly turns into Gas Guzzlers Combat Carnage, a combat-racing game from independent publisher Gamespires.
Does Gas Guzzlers succeed as a racing sim, or is it simply an arcade-style mishmash of guns and explosions? The latter is more appropriate honestly.
Gas Guzzlers is not an easy game to get into. Despite what the title implies, players cannot jump into a car and immediately start riddling the competition with bullets. Instead, players are given a very basic car that is barely customizable, is not fast, and has no guns to speak of. In order to upgrade the first car, you must earn money from races.
The problem is that players cannot earn money unless they finish in the top three of a race, a task that is simply impossible at the start of the game. There are bonuses on the track that can award players extra cash, and these bonuses are life savers. Without them, the difficulty settings would need to be lowered for the player to have any success – and any hope of unlocking more cars and upgrades, all of which are 100% locked initially.
The driving mechanics on the tracks are solid. Dirt tracks feel like dirt tracks, with all the slipping and skidding that comes along with driving a car at high speeds on unstable surfaces. However, while the feel of the tracks are solid, accelerating on them is another story. The car consistently feels bogged down – like it’s towing a 700-pound boat. It’s completely laborious to get the car to pick up speed, and it’s utterly frustrating, especially on the early levels.
Gas Guzzlers also never takes itself very seriously. The humor is oftentimes funny, though there is an element of crudeness to it – especially considering that its assumed most of the drivers are drunk. While its doubtful that anyone could prove that Gamespires promotes drunk driving, it is somewhat of a risky proposition – especially considering that when players first create their character in “career mode,” the on screen avatar is wobbling and stumbling all over.
There are three main gaming modes: Standard, Battle, and Knockout. Standard is exactly what it sounds like, but without the guns (but still plenty of course hazards like oil slick). Battle is a guns-blazing shoot-’em-up, before they shoot back, race that is actually quite fun once the cars are more evenly distributed (and the player progresses in the game). Knockout was surprisingly entertaining, and would make a great multiplayer mode (but no one is ever online to play). This mode is a standard race with guns, and it plays out sort of like musical chairs in that the last car to finish a lap is eliminated – until only one car is left.
The AI always seems to have better acceleration, better speed, better everything, even if the car is no different than human-controlled car. AI cheating is and will always be around, but here it’s especially frustrating. That being said, the AI doesn’t dogpile on the human player like in many other games, as there were plenty of times AI cars would routinely take out another driver instead. This mechanic was surprisingly refreshing.
As previously alluded to, there is multiplayer, but the servers are usually completely empty, and I was never able to actually race against another human being. Knockout has a lot of potential to be a great multiplayer component, but again, there has to be people online and willing to play, and that is something that probably won’t get any better.
Gamespires definitely earns credit for their “outside-the-box” thinking with Gas Guzzlers. However, it is incredibly frustrating for the human player to slog through the first 10-15 races before they have a car (and upgrades) that are even remotely passable. Once obtaining a better car that can actually win a race, Gas Guzzlers really does pick up steam and becomes a fairly entertaining game, but it’s incredibly poor first impression will invariably turn away many casual gamers – especially sad considering this demographic is the target audience.
Gas Guzzlers Combat Carnage is now available for the PC.
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