It seems to me that there hasn't been a decent combat racing sim for ages and then all of a sudden, two of them come along at once. Earlier this year, we had the somewhat creaky but enjoyable Carmageddon: Max Damage, and now we have the subject of this review, Gas Guzzlers Extreme. This game is actually so similar to Carmageddon that players might be forgiven for mistaking the two, but there are some subtle differences that separate them.
Firstly, and most bizarrely, Gas Guzzlers is currently a solo experience. There is no local or online multiplayer of any kind. I say currently, because the game is clearly set up for it, with fourteen modes including normal races, death races and team-based survival modes that are clearly designed for more than one player to enjoy with friends. The lack of multiplayer is a shame, because in almost every other regard, Gas Guzzlers is quite a decent effort that punches well above its weight.
Here's what I liked:
Loadsa' modes — Fourteen modes is a lot in any game, but in a driving game that seemingly has a fairly basic premise, it feels like an absolute ton. Gas Guzzlers includes just about every variant on racing that I've ever seen in another combat driving game, with straight races, death races, elimination races and demolition derby-inspired arena modes aplenty. There is also a defend the flag mode and a survival mode that each have the player and a team of AI drivers use unlocked vehicles and weapons to fight off zombies, charging bison and even mutant troll creatures. Each of the tracks and arenas is varied and feature rich, although few break the familiar geographically inspired locations that you'll see in a thousand other games.
Great paint job — On a related note, Gas Guzzlers looks fantastic for an indie game, with graphics that are genuinely on par with most full price releases, excluding exceptions such as Forza Horizon 3. The cars are clearly parodies of real life vehicles including the likes of the BMW M3, the Mini Cooper and a range of others including European shopping hatches, supercars and a few American muscle cars. Each looks distinct, with the ability to apply sponsor decals and paint jobs that are on par with any other game I've played. Weapons and effects are detailed and punchy (both in looks and sound) and the tracks are all dust, snow and wilderness – exactly as they appear that they should be. Despite the high number of animated on-screen artifacts (cars, bullets, rockets, fences, plants, zombies and so on) the game retains an acceptable frame rate under all but the most extreme circumstances.
Ride control — Many racing games (and almost all combat racing games) have rubbish driving physics. Specifically, in this kind of game cars seem designed to wallow and float about, as if the designers feel it necessary to plumb in a sort of ridiculous insurance policy that ensures no driver can get too far ahead of the pack without losing control inexplicably at the next bend. Gas Guzzlers does away with that thinking, offering a crisp driving experience that is predictable and enjoyable even without weapons. What is even more ingenious is that somehow, tight driving mechanics and a real sense of speed don't detract at all from the gunplay. Gas Guzzlers has just enough aiming assistance to make the mixture of racing and combat work like a dream.
Factory fitted upgrades — Although it is a combat driving game, Gas Guzzlers doesn't place an undue focus on firepower, but it does use it well to enhance the overall experience, especially the arena and death race modes. The guns are relatively terrestrial in base form, but can be upgraded as the player progresses. Weapons are bolstered in-race by power-ups such as double damage, shields and stealth packs, as well as repair kits. To summarise the combat found in Gas Guzzlers; it is relatively hard to kill another car in normal circumstances, and it only becomes a common occurrence in the combat focussed modes. It's a perfect approach, ensuring a good balance between driving and combat, both of which are equally enjoyable.
Here's what I didn't like:
Lonely road — I can't believe that this game has been launched without a multiplayer mode, and I can only hope that one is coming later on. The game is so clearly set up for it (it is multiplayer on PC). I can't say much more than that – it's a huge omission to leave multiplayer out of a game like this, especially considering the relatively high price tag.
Broken radio — Gas Guzzlers has a rubbish sense of humour and an awful soundtrack that both seem to fit the message that a game like this should be sending, but are vastly at odds with the high standards that run through the rest of the game. Players may choose from a few male character voices (no female options) and a male or female game announcer, but it won't be long before you'll want to turn their utterly hateful, pointless ramblings off completely. The unlicensed, grungy metal soundtrack is also rubbish, and when the garage screen loaded with classical music playing (about one out of every two or three times) I was much happier. The AI racers feature names like "Alotta Fagina" and "Seymour Butts" which should give you a further impression about the level of humor on offer. It's kind of cringe worthy, and the game would be better off without it.
Had it included multiplayer modes, I wouldn't hesitate for a second to award Gas Guzzlers Extreme our Highly Recommended award, but without it, prospective players should think long and hard about what they expect to get out of the game. At $24.99, you'll be investing a sizeable amount of money for a game that will always feel as if it lacks the lasting appeal of an online multiplayer game, or even the immediacy of a local multiplayer offering.
Score: Reader's Choice
Gas Guzzlers Extreme was developed by Gamepires and was published by Iceberg Interactive. It was released on November 4, 2016 for $24.99. A copy of the game was provided for review purposes.