Carmageddon: Reincarnation (Public Beta) Review

Normally, I avoid (and recommend avoiding) games that are in Early Access. I’ve seen too many go under or under-deliver, like Double Fine’s Spacebase DF-9, pushed out the door before it was ready and pretty much abandoned, never to be feature-complete. Some have been successes, like Kerbal Space Program and Prison Architect, while some have been viral hits without even being completed, like Rust or 7 Days To Die.

I rolled the dice on Carmageddon: Reincarnation. The original Carmageddon was one of the first games I had for my first dedicated PC, eating up a permanent 200MB chunk of my 1GB hard drive alongside such classics as Doom II and Blood. I’ve long held it up as the superior PC equivalent to the more popular Twisted Metal series. It was better looking, with more personality and a physics engine that felt more like driving a real car, and combat much more visceral due to a lack of traditional weaponry like machine guns or rocket launchers.

In 2012, Stainless announced that it had reacquired the rights from SquareEnix and was launching a Kickstarter. I was not, at the time, in a position to financially back the game, but kept up with its development. The Kickstarter had a goal of $400,000 which was met in 10 days, and capped out at over $625,000. In 2014, the game launched on Steam’s Early Access, and I immediately purchased it.

The alpha that initially launched was rough. Missing many features, art assets, and sound effects, it was barely playable and prone to crashing. It wasn’t optimized at all, and trended towards a framerate in the low 20s on even the lowest of settings. Stainless kept up with updates for a while, but then there were some months of radio silence.

On Valentine’s day, 2015, the game was released into public beta, with a massive update that re-wrote most of the game’s code from the ground up. Multiplayer was enabled, the roster of cars and drivers was expanded, and some optimization was implemented.

As it stands now, the game is still in a rough state, but it’s a faithful update of the original. If you’ve played the original, you’ll absolutely adore Reincarnation. The cars handle much the same way, and the Classic Carma mode is a spot-on modern recreation of the original game. The damage models are insanely detailed, and the repair mechanic is amazing and hilarious to watch, especially when you hit a full repair and your own driver ends up flopping alongside  the car until you slow down enough for him or her to re-enter the vehicle.

Multiplayer is still hit or miss, with connection problems and a low population (which will hopefully change after the game goes into full release), and the AI is still abysmally stupid, doggedly sticking to the track and often ignoring the player car or driving straight into walls when the car is damaged. Optimization is still not complete, too, as the game chugs along in the mid-20s framerate on low settings on my GTX 770, but at least looks much more visually impressive in beta than it did in alpha.

But it shows promise. I eagerly anticipate the full release of the game, and recommend getting in while it’s still priced for early access and includes the original trilogy of Carmageddon games with the purchase.

Bottom line: Recommended for fans of car combat, fans of the original series (especially the first game), and those willing to put up with the growing pains of a game in beta for what’s likely to be a solid final product.

Disclosure: The copy reviewed was purchased personally. A review copy was not provided. Hardware used was an i5 2500k and PNY GTX 770 XLR8, with an X-Box One pad for controls.

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