I think of a lot of things when I think of vehicle combat games, and difficult racing is not one of them. Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage bills itself as an arcade racer, but in practice, it’s a punishing test of driving skill.
Starting fresh, you only have one car, one track and one race mode open to you. Add to that the fact that every upgrade is locked to you until you win some races, and this game turns into a long battle of attrition against opponents who outclass you in almost every way. Generally, you can choose between three challenges in a region. The first is a traditional race, with some non-lethal weapons, such as oil slicks and smoke. The second race type adds guns and heavier weapons, while the third grants the spoils to the last car standing.
Driving feels okay, with some exaggerated drifting around corners, but ultimately, there is too much focus on traditional racing just to keep up, as opposed to the weapons and boosts you would expect from an arcade racer. Like many racing games, it is quite obvious that a controller is preferable, but since the game comes with no Xbox 360 controller support, you must map the controls manually. There’s also no rubberbanding to help out the cars in the back and generally keep a race interesting and fun. It’s a fairly common mechanic in arcade racers, and without it, Gas Guzzlers turns into a long chain of race restarts. Once you fall behind, there isn’t much chance of catching up, and no consolation prize if you don’t place first other than money found along the track.
Progression through the game, once you manage to finally win a race, is incredibly drawn-out and long. Regardless of how much cash you win, you still have to meet conditions to unlock upgrades, weapons, and cars. There are a lot of options here, however the time investment to unlock them all tends to make them less appealing. Track design is rather bland; tracks with multiple routes dont have any sort of risk-versus-reward for shortcuts, so it really doesn’t matter which way you go. You do get some bonuses for stunts, causing damage and hitting wildlife, but the cars don’t take visible damage. It just changes your car’s attributes based on remaining health.
Gas Guzzlers tries to mix realism and arcade racing, and ends up doing a mediocre job of both. The game is too arcadey for realism fans, and too complicated for arcade fans who just want to jump in and start shooting. Had it taken more steps to make the gameplay less frustrating and more fun, an arcade racer with many customization options and an engaging campaign is something that I think would be interesting and fun to play. There’s a good idea here. It’s just poorly-implemented.
Pros: Interesting idea, crisp graphics
Cons: Awkward controls, steep difficulty, uninteresting tracks