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SummaryCarmageddon 4- I mean "Clutch" is fun for a bit, but the lack of races and abundant fetch quests bog it down.
The Bottom LineCarmageddon is one of, if not my all time favourite racing games. I loved the insane physics, arcade gameplay, gory catharsis, and great head on car combat. It had two sequels, "Carpocalypse Now" and TDR 2000 and while Carmageddon II was passable, TDR 2000 was lame. What ruined TDR 2000 wasn't just the game switching developers, but the fact that the game focused less on insane, hit and run gameplay and focused on objectives and freeworld gameplay, things that cars simply do not mix with, let alone cars that are meant to be running over things and smashing other cars.
A Carmageddon 4 was rumoured to be in development by the series creator, Stainless but Interplay tanked and took series co-producer SCi with them. Stainless is still alive, but now they only work on translating board and card games to Xbox Live, Wiiware, ETC. and don't even recognize Carmageddon on their website. But a little known Russian developer recently released today's subject, "Clutch." A game no doubt inspired by Carmageddon, and its similar enough to be called Carmageddon 4. Does it live up to the name?
Well.... its better than TDR 2000, but it manages to fall short of Carmageddon II and doesn't come anywhere near the league of the first game.
The games "Plot" is confusing and downright stupid. Firstly, it deals with the Large Hadron Collider AND 2012. Yawn. Those theories were both retarded, and according to Clutch 2012 is full of Zombies because the Large Hadron Collider being turned on. Also cars no longer need gas, they drink Zombie blood to charge Hadron boosters... the hell? It does lead to a funny gadget that sucks zombies that you run over underneath your car and grinds them up with hideous screams and blood splattering all over your car (But of course, the pavement stays clean) literally "eating them." Regardless, that's still pretty stupid. Anyways, the rest of the plot involves fearless "Riders," who enter the area surrounding the Large Hadron Collider against the governments wishes and harvests anomalies created by the LHC while fighting their way through zombies and other "Riders" to get to the LHC which apparently grants wishes.
Wait a minute... this sounds familiar... STALKER, much? Seriously, lets get this straight: Clutch is a game that draws inspiration from the movie "Death Race," the game "Carmageddon," and rips off the plot of "STALKER" and just replaces Chernobyl with the Large Hadron Collider, the mutants with Zombies, and the STALKERS with dudes in cars and believes that zombie blood will replace Nitros Oxide and that the Large Hadron Collider was meant to create Hadron boosted (I'm no physicist, but I know damn well HADRONS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!) cars. This. is. phenomenally. STUPID.
The worst part, the game makes you read diaries between each section and their translation from the original Russian is TERRIBLE. There are some lines that are funny because of this, like "It was just like racing in the F1 series with the blackjack and the hookers" which is so bizarre it did get a chuckle (Were the blackjack and the hookers subject of classic Death Race fodder? Were their racing Limos with blackjack players doing hookers in the back? I wanna know!) but others are too painful to quote.
The game plops you in a city full of zombies and gives you a preview of a car with zombie chopping blades and that funny gadget that sucks poor zombies under your car, and you are racing to save some other car for some reason, despite the fact that saving the other car means you get a weaker car. The first "mission" you get is a demolition derby. I started the derby, went head on, then exploded and lost. Then I tried it again, blew up one car, and the game said I was "childish" and let me pass, but not with enough money to enter the next mission. I tried the demolition derby again, but it was too bloody hard.
Why? Well, your car blows up in just a couple seconds. Then there's the fact that your car has a health bar and can't be repaired without a pick up. In Carmageddon, you could do this funny thing where you would press "Backspace" and your car would make a funny noise similar to the sound the transformers make when they transform and all the dents and damaged parts would magically buff out and repair. It was silly, but with all the carnage it kept the "Jump in and play" arcade style fun, yes it had a cost, but it still kept the action fun. Here you can't do that, there are repair pickups and collecting zombie blood slowly regenerates your health, but good luck getting a good rating on the demolition derby on your first try.
When the game refuses to let you go to the next mission, you have to do a side quest. Welcome to what you will be doing for most of the game: Driving to pick up stuff. If you pick up stuff and get a rating better than "Childish" or losing time and losing the round, you'll get enough money to buy the upgrades necessary to not die in one hit at the destruction derby. Spend about 4 hours doing this quest and you should have enough, enough money and enough of this stupid game.
When you finally get to a race, you might have some fun. But the thing is, the missions force you to do bland fetch missions not just as side quests, but as main missions. After the first race, there are 4 of these before you can do another race, and that number gets up. The races are fast paced, speedy, and it can be fun racing at fast speeds and watching zombies get splattered across your hood or seeing blades lash out cutting their legs off and either killing them or watching them crawl around with their stumps spurting enough blood to please fans of Pinky violence movies.
But even the races wear thin. What made the first two Carmageddon games easy to pick up and play was that you didn't need racing game skills to win a race, pole position didn't matter, just your score. People new to racing games could jump into Carmageddon and not have to worry about falling into last place and losing the race before they can get a handle of the controls and gameplay mechanics. Not so in Clutch, you HAVE to come into 3rd place to get "Childish," 2nd place to get "Teen" and 1st to get "Mature." That's a rather steep requirement for a racing game, even the more serious and hardcore ones will let you pass the race in 5th place but the game will reject you if you don't come in 3rd, 2nd, or 1st place and even then if you don't get 1st place they won't let you get enough money on the first try to get your next mission. This takes the fun out of the races quickly, even if they are the games saving grace.
Another thing that ruins the racing are the physics. In Carmageddon, you were flying around, spinning, falling flat on your back and flying down hills and getting in ridiculous fender benders and often cars will come out of races looking like crumpled tin cans. Here you barely see any damage modeling, you'll see hoods and doors coming off but will never see any dents in your car and the physics are down to earth and realistic, and don't recapture the speed of most better racing games let alone the original Carmageddon. There are some moments of good speed later on, but they are often ended by insta-death crashes.
There are some well designed tracks, and the climactic race at least DOES make some good use out of the premise and it IS pretty fun to race around the insides of the large hadron collider and the graphics, while not anything spectacular, are detailed enough and the hadron colliders insides are colourful and cool and at fast speeds it has a neat neon glow which adds a bit of visual flair when sending body parts flying and seeing cars blow up, plus the physics actually do get kinda fun in the hadron collider because you will race on the sides of the tube and sometimes even on the top and with enough speed you can stay there temporarily before falling down and crushing some poor zombies.
The soundtrack is short and repetitive, and while there are some nice techno and biker metal tracks (Even if they feel out of place with cars and would fit better with motorcycles), there are also some really annoying faux-country western tracks that makes me hate modern country even more (Classical country rocks, sadly modern country is mostly country western, and like modern Jazz its watered down and crap compared to its glorious olden days) and just doesn't fit with the action on screen.
Overall Clutch is a disappointment. The developers TRIED to recapture the glory of Carmageddon, but bogged it down too much and the game simply feels like a cheap Carmageddon clone with its nuts chopped off. If it had focused on making the races more ridiculous and easier, as well as hacking out all the useless open world and fetch quests this could have been a decent send up. I actually see enough potential that I DO want to see a sequel come about, and see the developers fix these problems because there is enough potential here for a great spiritual successor to Carmageddon. But as it stands, clutch is a very annoying game.