There has been a distinct lack of vehicular combat games on the PC for some time. Those which have been released are generally repetitive, tedious and devoid of any originality. One exception to the rule is Blur, a marvellous and peerless combat racing game created by the sublime studio, Bizarre Creations. Annoyingly for PC gamers, this legendary company was disbanded which led to the removal of Blur from Steam and other clients. This has left the door open for indie developer, Gamepires, makers of the frenetic and wacky combat racing game Gas Guzzlers Extreme. The collaboration between accessible arcadey physics and varied weaponry can be a difficult balancing act to keep the game fair whilst attaining a fun factor. Gas Guzzlers Extreme never ceases to amaze you through its puerile humour and exhilarating gameplay. Gamepires has produced a vehicular combat game that trounces anything currently on the market.
The physics model employs an arcade approach which prioritizes raw speed and powersliding over subtle braking techniques. Each car handles in a fairly rudimentary manner and doesn’t over complicate matters that would confuse the player during hectic shooting sequences. The vehicles themselves don’t feel overly light or sensitive and project a great sense of speed whilst planted on the racing line. Most of your time will be spent cutting corners, or easing off the accelerator on acute bends. Braking is only necessary when you tackle tight hairpins or attempt to race on low traction surfaces such as snow. Your car’s braking power is exaggerated and dramatically reduces velocity in the blink of an eye. Often, this means you misread a corner’s braking point and become susceptible to overtakes. Within a few races, you adjust to this braking severity and apply the decelerator at a later stage. Overall, the physics engine is impeccably designed and doesn’t deviate from the game’s tone.
To help promote an attacking style of racing, the game’s AI periodically rams into you with their reckless driving style. The entire field consistently achieves impressive lap times and usually matches your pace on any difficulty level. This ensures that the racing is frantic with close finishes being a regular occurrence. Extending a lead in first place is an impossible task as nitrous can only be obtained through crashing and eliminating rival drivers. This makes you extremely vulnerable and incessantly slow when compared to the AI with a full tank of nitrous.
As such, your competitors will often breeze past you. Contrary to what you would think, this isn’t a flaw because it keeps the gameplay engaging. Gas Guzzlers isn’t a serious simulator and being in first place can become mundane as you become more acquainted with the game mechanics. You have to be wary on the final lap because a depleted nitrous gauge could take you from 1st position to a non-podium finish. Your competitors are also surprisingly intelligent and try to bombard you using devious shortcuts. The AI rarely holds back and slams into you at every opportunity in an attempt to eliminate you from the race. Each adversary uses their weapons constantly and can destroy you within a few sections of the track.
The circuits are superbly designed. They contain multiple routes which dangerously crosses onto the desired racing line. Some of these off road alternatives are faster and provide a quicker path to the next sector. However, certain shortcuts are twisty and lack any grip which cost you an extortionate amount of time. Your foes choose different paths and rejoin the track without any consideration for other vehicles. The end result is chaos with multiple pile ups and shreds of debris being littered all over the surrounding area. Every course is multilayered and keeps the adrenalin pumping because you have no idea how each race is going to pan out.
There are a wide array of weapons at your disposal which help to defend your position. You can attach stationary weapons such as rocket launchers, miniguns and shotguns. These are unbelievably powerful and inflict a critical amount of damage. You select which weapon is suitable from your garage and collect ammo as the race unfolds. Better weapons become available as you complete events and acquire money for upgrades. There are also a number of defensive weapons to obtain during each race including smoke screens, oil pools and land mines. These are hazardous which will impact your lap times if you are unfortunate enough to drive over them. Oil pools slide your car uncontrollably into precarious rocks or simply reduce your overall traction. The land mines, when triggered, stop your car instantly. The combat is remarkably satisfying with explosions, clouds of dust and burning vehicles around each corner.
Your vehicle has a health meter ranging from 0-100% which decreases each time you take a hit. To repair the damage you must pick up a spanner on the track instead of more ammunition. You need to find a balance when adopting an assertive strategy because your vehicle can become massively damaged if you get caught in the crossfire. Heavy weaponry can even impair your own vehicle if you shoot the car ahead from close proximity. The damage system adds a sense of tactical awareness and complexity to each race.
Gas Guzzlers Extreme contains a wealth of race types including Power Races, Battle Races, Knockout Races, Deathmatch, Last Man Standing and Capture the Flag events. Power Races are traditional races which only permit defensive weapons like red smoke screens. Battle Races are unrestricted and allow the use of deadly force through strong weapons. Knockout Races are basically identical to Battle Races except that the last place driver becomes eliminated after each lap Arena type modes such as Deathmatch are fast paced moments of pure anarchy which never fail to put a smile on your face. The Deathmatch is a mode which rewards those who gains the most kills within a set time period. Last Man Standing is a quicker format with instant elimination and no additional retries if you die. In this event, it is imperative to keep replenishing your health with those important hidden spanners around the track. Capture the Flag is pretty self-explanatory and divides the grid into two teams who must compete and capture both flags. The amount of variables and different events to choose from is exceptional and peaks your interest.
The career revolves around a qualifying league system against a slew of other drivers. You must compete in a wide variety of race types to collate points until you reach the number 1 spot. 3 points are allocated for first place, 2 points for second position and 1 point for 3rd. Usually, the top spot will have around 45 points, so it does take a long time to rise up through the ranks. After qualification, you are entered into a tournament comprising of 3-5 races. From my experience, I can tell you that there are only 3 tournaments and around 50-100 races needed to qualify. This makes the career a bit jarring which lacks any sort of direction. You just have to endlessly compete in random events until you collect the points instead of being involved in lots of various tournaments. This is where the career falls short and becomes a little bit repetitive.
There is a multiplayer component which has the potential to be groundbreaking and exceedingly enjoyable. However, the player base is non-existent which makes the multiplayer aspect fairly defunct. I tried on at least 20 occasions to find another player, but only encountered two other users apart from a colleague from TPG. We had to fill up the server with bots to keep the races full and as intended. It is frustrating because the actual online modes are undeniably fun. Hopefully a substantial discount will bring the multiplayer back to life. However, at this time it is pretty much inoperable and useless.
Gas Guzzlers Extreme is an aesthetically pleasing game containing excellent particle effects and superb ground textures. Shadows are utilized in a beautiful way as the sun shines and reflects on the tarmac. It’s not all good though because the car liveries are rather low-fidelity and could have been executed better. The draw distance is impressive and contains a picturesque scenery showing caverns and mountainous regions. Also, the game’s audio is fairly proficient and sounds realistic as you rapidly change gear. Performance levels are far from stable though which may stem from an unoptimized game engine. The frame rate dramatically dips during a race start from 60 to 36.
After a few corners, this increases to 60 and stays around that mark for the whole race. These performance issue occurred when running everything maxed out, so I attempted to reduce the settings and investigate this problem further. I decided to opt for the High preset and it made no difference to my framerate whatsoever. The menu contains options for Ambient Occlusion, Depth of Field, Shadow Quality, Anisotropic Filtering (up to x16), Particules Quality and many more. However, Antialiasing is limited to FXAA. Overall, the technical side is decent with a plethora of options, but there are some performance issues. Given this fact, I would recommend having a fairly decent GPU to play this game as intended.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
Gas Guzzlers Extreme is a tremendous vehicular combat game which honors titles from a bygone era. The combat is spectacular, accessible and most of all fun which rarely disappoints. There are a multitude of races on offer to suit a variety of different players. Unfortunately, the career mode is lacking in cohesion that makes it a bit insipid during longer playthroughs. In theory, the game’s strongest attribute should be its multiplayer. However, this potential has been dwindled by a non-existent player base. Nevertheless this doesn’t detract from the game’s ludicrous nature and enjoyable racing especially if you play it in shorter bursts. Gas Guzzlers Extreme is a bargain at £18.99/$24.99/€22.99 which has been criminally overlooked for too long.