Carmageddon 3: TDR 2000 bills itself as "The slickest and sickest racing game ever." This grandson of Carmageddon tries to live up to the self-acclaimed hype but though it may be the sickest ever, it isn't the slickest by a long shot. Although the graphics and sounds are topnotch, gameplay has been altered too much, leaving a muddled feeling. Perhaps SCi should have listened to another motto -- "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
This iteration has something the previous two games of the series lacked -- a cohesive, if farfetched, storyline. The poor have been herded into slums and the rich have surrounded themselves with security walls. One man must break the barrier to escape to a better life, a man with courage, determination and a variety of lethal vehicles and deadly power-ups. A bit hokey, to be sure, but it serves as a premise for running people down and smashing stuff up.
The storyline also provides the basis for missions in every other race, missions that are quite hard. Some, like the giant jump from the top of a skyscraper or the activation of an "animatronic" King Kong to break down a section of wall, are enjoyable. Most, however, are more frustrating than fun. After unlocking a race by completing it, Free Driving mode gives you more of a chance to explore and alleviates some of the frustration with the linear game progression.
The real sick joy of Carmageddon 3: TDR 2000 is the bone crunching, tire squealing, metal grinding mayhem unleashed on the unsuspecting population of peds. Peds, the polygon populace of the Carmageddon world, are tougher and meaner than ever before. It takes a solid whack to kill a pedestrian, as a seemingly fatal blow will often just leave the ped missing a leg and hopping away from danger. The people are armed with Molotov cocktails, dynamite and baseball bats and stand ready to strike back. Although interesting at first, this element becomes tiresome after a few levels.
Redesigned graphics give the well-designed levels a fine facelift. Buildings, alleys and streets are laid out nicely and rendered with rich textures. Several levels are dark and dreary in keeping with the whole slum motif, making navigation and battle against cars painted in dark tones a real hassle. Power-ups have appropriate icons (cash looks like money, time is shown by clocks and so forth) and have dazzling effects. The grisly flamethrower and anti-pedestrian electric ray are particularly impressive. Sounds remain solid as the Utah Saints and Plague offer up music to slaughter by and each crash, scream, explosion and squeal maintains the quality established early in the Carmageddon series.
Not surprisingly, a fan base has built up regarding the game with good support offered from both the designer and publisher. SCi rates extra kudos for hosting a download site with player designed cars, comics and movies. Those with 3D Studio Max can download the car skinning kit and make personal killing machines. Also, update patches can be downloaded for enhanced features like Internet gameplay. Apparently the game shipped without crucial multiplayer code, so gamers looking to meet new friends with the objective of leaving them in a bloody smear will have to visit the company website.
Gameplay, unfortunately, is the worst aspect of the game. With the new real-time setup, destroying a ped gives you 1-10 extra seconds. Were the peds easier to kill, this might not be an issue -- spending 20 seconds to repeatedly bash a person, though, just isn't time effective anymore. The cars are nice looking but the physics engine that was so fun to play in Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now has been slightly changed towards the more realistic side. Jumps and crashes are still there but veterans of the series will notice a subtle negative difference. Mission frustration will have most gamers utilizing cheats to move on to the next level.
Carmageddon 3: TDR 2000 does deliver on part of its promise. Fans of the sick series (and you know who you are) will enjoy the latest addition to the family. Racing aficionados, however, will look elsewhere for slicker racing simulations. Although not quite up to expectations, it's still a solid game.
Graphics: Nicely rendered cars and landscapes. Sometimes levels are a bit too dark to see well.
Sound: Continues the series' excellence in sound.
Enjoyment: Demolition Derby is still fun but tweaking the physics engine too much hurt gameplay. Time issues also detract from the enjoyment factor.
Replay Value: Hokey storyline aside, levels are fun to explore. Designing your own car or playing over the Internet helps extend the shelf life.
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