Gas Guzzlers Extreme PC Review

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Something dawned on me while I was playing Gas Guzzlers Extreme – where are all the arcade racers on PC? It seems to be a genre that doesn’t get much recognition on the constantly growing platform.  There’s the yearly release of Need for Speed and maybe the occasional indie racer, but the PC isn’t exactly flowing in a good supply of arcade racers. Gas Guzzlers Extreme is hoping to spark up the genre with its vehicular combat action – a genre that is even rarer – that inherits mechanics from such games as Twisted Metal and Interstate ’76 into its DNA, along with a bit of Mario Kart loving for some old-fashioned, metal crunching fun without destructive blue shells.

Gas Guzzlers Extreme doesn’t waste time with getting players into the action. You start by creating a profile, picking your suit’s colours, the difficulty and if you want to enable arcade mode, which makes the handling easier to get around corners. To be honest, I’m not sure if this feature is required, because the cars handle stress-free without having them needing to stick to the road better. The final option is what announcer is going to call your races. This is from a selection of four impersonators, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger or the surprising inclusion of Duke Nukem, which isn’t Jon St. John, but a YouTube personality that can impersonate his voice to a certain degree. Some lines sound close and others just come off as a cheap wannabe, but the voices are harmless fun and you’ll have a chuckle until you get fed up and want to silence them. There’s only so much Duke Nukem one man can take before wanting to rip his own ears off.

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The main bulk of Gas Guzzlers Extreme is the career mode, where the game offers fresh starters with a limited amount of money that allows them to purchase one of two possible cars, a Defiant Reagle, a clone of the Reliant Robin (I wish custom paint jobs were an option in this game, because this screams for the Trotters logo on the side) and a Fiat 500 clone named Fat Ficho. As you can tell, these cars are parodies that are modelled very closely to real life vehicles, and this is true for the game’s entire cast of 18 cars. Stick with the career long enough and you’ll be driving such sports cars as the Dogg Dyper, Bummer M3 JTR and even the classic DE FLOURATOR CMD-21, a car so powerful that it can take you back in time. I’m sure if you think hard enough you can decipher what these three vehicles are.

If there is one thing I came away with after spending my time with Gas Guzzlers Extreme, it’s that its career implements a cool design choice that lets the user pick what type of race event they want to do. There’s no limit, if you only prefer doing one type of race, then you are free to still win the championship by only competing in said event. This is due to each event offering points for a win, which then add to a total tally in the competition. Once you make it to the top of the list, a cup will open up allowing you to progress to the next league if you win, often granting a bonus car as a reward. You repeat this until you’ve made it to the big leagues with the highest performance cars.

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Race events can either be one of three – Power, Battle or Knockout. Power is a Mario Kart clone, where the weapons are stripped from vehicles and the only method of assault is to pick up item boxes that litter the course and use them to attack or handicap other drivers. Power ups are nothing too exciting or out of the ordinary. There are oil slicks to slow down opposition, smoke to block visibility, land minds to drop and spanners to repair the car on the fly.  Battle is the same idea as Power, but this time it includes your own vehicles mounted weapons, which can include such destructive tools as Gatling guns, shotguns and rocket launchers. Knockout is similar to other arcade racers, where the last position is eliminated every lap until there is only one person left.  There is a slight twist to this mode, since you can use weapons and power ups, people who get blown up by another opponent are automatically removed from the race and the lap count reduces by one to compensate for the eliminated racer.

During the course of all this, you will run into occasional invites from sponsors that give you access to the game’s other modes. This pops up as a special sponsor event on the same menu where you choose the next race type. These events can range from a destructive derby-esque Team Deathmatch mode, where all the cars are put into an arena and must beat the opposition teams by getting the allotted kills to win, to Capture The Flag (CTF), a mode that requires team members to connect two flags together that spawn randomly on the map. There are no bases in CTF, so it becomes a matter of picking up a flag and then trying to touch the other half, normally taken by an opponent who has the same idea as you. Winning these events earns cash that you can put towards buying upgrades or new cars.

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I do wish those sponsored events were part of the race options for the career, because those closed off arena battles are the best features of the game.  Racing feels fine, and mechanically it all works well, but it suffers from being a bit dull, lacking any thrilling track designs – there’s eight themes, such as snow and dirt, but you could easily recreate these tracks in any of the themes. There are no scripted events or track interactions, and it lacks that sense of raw destruction that you find in other vehicle combat games that do lap-based racing, such as Full Auto. It’s why Gas Guzzlers Extreme’s mechanics and gameplay choices are better suited for the arena showdowns. It also doesn’t need to offer a sense of speed in those situations; it’s more about being agile and sneaky rather than who is the fastest. Those arena modes are where I genuinely had fun, to the point that I would meet each new sponsored event announcement with a smile of excitement.

Online is where Gas Guzzlers Extreme should shine, but like a lot of these unknown indie games, the online suffers from lack of players – there doesn’t seem to be many people who have bought the game. The servers were a wasteland, with 11 people on one day and then three on the next. It’s hard to get a full game going, but if you’re lucky to particulate with human players, then it’s a laugh, especially in the arena modes where the gratification of messing up someone’s flag capture and stealing it for your own is very fulfilling.

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Visually, Gas Guzzlers Extreme reminds me a lot of the original Flatout. It’s not a very demanding game, and it won’t win any awards for best car porn, but the game looks good enough that it shouldn’t bother anyone playing it. I do wish it had a bit more damage represented, as smashed windows and broken car boots aren’t the only areas of a car to get busted in such dangerous racing. The soundtrack does become grating on the ears – it’s rock music, which goes well with the theme of the game, but it’s so generic. You can always play your own music by running Winamp in the background if it bothers you like it did me.  It’s the same for the game’s sound effects. The countdown and kill announcements are the Unreal Tournament announcer – kind of cool, but can feel cheap and supports my problem that the game lacks its own character. What personality you do find in Gas Guzzlers Extreme is the developers’ juvenile naming of AI racers, some are amusing, but some are plain awful. Who in the right mind would name a racer Alotta Fagina?

Gas Guzzlers Extreme isn’t a vehicle combat game that will set the world on fire. It’s a very straight-forward, barebones attempt at the genre with some interesting campaign design choices, but lacks the sense of thrilling action that I was expecting. The action gets dull on the track, but off it, in the arena, is where the game feels like it should be hosted, showing what potential is hidden away. It’s just a shame that you won’t be able to experience it with multiplayer – not that this is knock on the game, it’s not its fault the servers are empty – or with a local friend, as there is no split screen. In the end, if you’re looking to pass the time by banging metal with metal and blowing stuff up, you can do far worse than what Gas Guzzlers Extreme is offering.

6/10

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Version tested: PC

Developer: Gamepires

Publisher: Iceberg Interactive

Genre: Vehicular combat