I don’t know about you guys, but when I hear ‘car combat’, I think of Mad Max films. As far as gaming goes, any title marketed in the genre is really just Mario Kart with realistic cars and chain guns. I’ve played Interstate ’76 and Full Auto and Twisted Metal, and I know how big the audience is for Mario Kart (huge), and I know how big the audience is for mature car combat titles (small). Gamepires wanted us to know that there’s still room for one more game in which we shoot up our foes with rockets and shells and collect power-ups. Thus, Gas Guzzlers was born.
Let’s be frank, there’s nothing particularly thrilling about this game. You play a bunch of races in some slight manipulations of three or four environments, earning cash along the way to buy better rides and add/upgrade your abilities and weaponry. Standard stuff, right? I struggled to find a country of origin, but the game’s mid-European origins are evident in the first dozen races where you’re given French-style econoboxes that the average American would mistake for clown transport. The graphics are a highlight – although the same bowl cut, clone-stamped skybox is hardly inspiring – and the handling feels just right. By all measures, Gamepires made a pretty good engine, but comes up short on the game part.
Control is handled through the keyboard, which is bizarre, but hardly a dealbreaker. A racing game released in 2012 exclusively on the PC without Xbox 360 controller support is sadder than a litter of crying puppies. I mentioned the game handles fine, but as soon as you enact shotgun justice on your fellow racer, they detach from the course and roll away like balloons. The AI goes into bizarre ‘swerve’ maneuvers straight off the racing line and have no issue with crashing into things at full speed. These are nitpicks, really: the game’s true crime comes in its solo campaign, which requires an MMO level of grinding to progress through. Races have, on average, been a crushing five to six laps each (from the get go!) split into two combat modes and a single ‘classic race’ mode (that’s, uh, sans combat). These races last ten to fifteen minutes and straddle the line between vaguely interesting and incredibly tedious.
As it stands, the $30 asking price is a far cry of what the game deserves. With a few fixes and some more content, Gas Guzzlers could really be a contender: a king of a small fiefdom, but royalty nonetheless.