Gas Guzzlers Extreme Review – Xbox One
Arcade racers have all but disappeared, except for some less-than-impressive DLC riddled Need for Speed title from EA, they have become one of those genres only attempted by independent or small time development teams. This would lead you to expect a passion project, full of charm and unique character. Unfortunately, most of the time this is not the case. Most of time, they turn out to be shit.
Gas Guzzlers Extreme is actually a relatively respectable entry into the genre. Published by Iceberg Interactive (Killing Floor 2), and developed by Gamespires, it takes place in some nondescript post-apocalyptic future where Nvidia and Monster energy drinks sponsor driving teams to race and blow each other up. Plot is not a concern here; the focus is on high-octane thrill seeking of the automotive and explosive kind.
You start with a less than desirable vehicle, such as fictionalised versions of Minis and Beetles, and work your way up towards Mustang-esque cruisers that don’t insult our delicate sense of masculinity. The racing takes on several forms, such as simple no-guns completion with power-ups strewn across the track more akin to last generations Blur, to fully kitted out combat races and deathmatches in which you can shoot at your opponents with your weapon of choice; shotguns, machine guns, miniguns, railguns and even rockets!
The gameplay is fast, intuitive and fun at first glance; the cars handle as to be expected, and the act of opening fire upon your competitors whilst staying on the track is easier than I first thought would be. Additional pickups like landmines, oil slicks and double-damage multipliers add to the carnage, and add a layer of strategy to the proceedings. Often you will see two power-ups on the track ahead of you and you will need to make the decision between repairs to your vehicle, or more ammunition for your gun. Whilst the difference between positive ‘buffs’ such as shields or repairs and the combatant pick-ups like ammo are easy to see from a distance due to a coloured halo encircling them (green for defensive, red for aggressive), it is often difficult to tell exactly what the pick-up is until it is too late. I had this issue even when playing on a 51” TV.
You are rewarded ‘nitro’ for most acts of carelessness and destruction; shunting your opponents and smashing scenery being the two most reliable ways to gain this advantage. This leads to some fun gameplay in which you will begin at the back of the pack, and through strategically shunting your way from enemy to enemy you can effectively hop up through the standings like some game of crazed automotive leap-frog. However the game asks you to balance your skills at this, with timing when to take the lead. Whilst being ahead doesn’t put you at risk of faltering to a Blue Shell from behind ala Mario Kart, it does put you in the sights of your competitor’s guns. There is a skill to juggling your position and battling those in front and behind you with your weaponry that really serves as a strong core gameplay here. It brings nothing new to the table, but provides a worthwhile upgrade to system and styles we have seen before.
Whilst the basics are solid for the most part, unfortunately there is little back it up with in terms of depth. The ‘upgrade’ system employed in the game is linear and superficial. You simply move up the ranks from one car to the next, adding upgrades in a linear sequence to improve vehicles stats before moving on to the next. You do not have to balance different aspect of performance against each other. You race, upgrade and race. Upgrade again, race and perhaps enter a tournament. It begins to feel like a grind without any sense of direction. The occasional text prompts you about a sponsorship or a tournament, but aside from unlocking Achievements these didn’t appear to do much. Each batch of races reuses the same handful of courses, and they aren’t varied enough to provide any sense of exploration or excitement to unlock like the ‘Kart’ games of old. And whilst the gameplay is fun, it isn’t fresh enough to carry this dull lack of progression far.
Furthermore, the game lacks its own character; the aesthetic is a tired hodge-podge of clichéd styling, borrowed fonts and jokes we have seen elsewhere. The whole affair feels cheap at first glance, and doesn’t reveal any further nuance with extended play time; almost as if the game is the manifestation of a tired and uninspired design document – ‘vehicle battle by numbers’. It even has a zombie survival mode that does nothing but emphasise the lifeless ‘designed by committee’ feel.
The graphics fall into the same trappings as the art style overall; tired looking. Everything from tracks, to cars, to zombies all feel dated – if I hadn’t done the research I would have assumed it to be another Unity Asset collection posing for art direction. The game does boast some nice depth-of-field, particle and motion blur effects that really shine during the fast paced action; but it serves as little more than a spit-shine for graphics that look dated. Mid-gen 360 at best.
To hammer home the games lack of conviction, multiplayer is completely absent. And you read that correctly; both split-screen and online multiplayer are nowhere to be seen. The Steam release back in 2013 at least had online multiplayer. Bots are supported for a ‘quick race’ mode that allows you to play all of the modes, from normal races to CTF and zombie wave survival with computer controlled opponents and team mates. It is a criminal omission considering multiplayer really could have bolstered this titles chances.
Reminiscent of titles like Burnout, Flatout and Carmageddon, Gas Guzzlers Extreme is throwaway fun; whilst it’s good enough to distract, it lacks depth or the polish afforded to it if it were a project with a larger budget from a big name team. At £20 for digital download from the Xbox store (the only distribution method available) it costs more than Rocket League. Whilst the gameplay is ‘fun enough’ to provide a time sink, I find it hard to recommend Gas Guzzlers for its current price tag. If you are a fan of the genre, wait until the sale to pick this up.