Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage hands-on impressions

If we've learned anything from Mario Kart, it's that driving around like a lunatic and shooting projectiles at other drivers makes for an awesome time. It's a simple formula that works well, and if the right mechanics are taken in the right direction, these crazy power-up-based racers have the potential to be great games. Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage from developer Gamepires looks to hark back to that combat racing spirit, all the while featuring bigger cars and an emphasis on more traditional arcade gameplay.

The game is currently in open beta, and it features two racetracks and two vehicles for players to check out. I tried out both tracks and both cars, and while there were a few quirks during my time with the beta, I think Gas Guzzlers can be a fun and explosive racing experience if the devs iron out the few wrinkles I found during my time with the game.

The first thing Gas Guzzlers gets right is the sense of speed. Cars go fast, and due to the emphasis on high octane action, it goes without saying that that's definitely a good thing. It was pretty sweet racing around desert tracks at high speeds and watching the environments around me — which look pretty great — blur by. That said, no matter how fast I went, I was never really able to keep up with my AI opponents, even with a bunch of missiles and machine gun fire at my disposal. It was just insane how fast the other drivers were going.

What made passing other drivers even more challenging were the odd controls. I played Gas Guzzlers using an Xbox 360 controller, and it felt as though my vehicle was in a constant drifting state. While I was still having fun with the bare racing aspect of the game, the overall experience was marred by the fact that I was constantly battling to keep my vehicle in a straight path. Racing games are supposed to go fast, and Gas Guzzlers nails that — it's just a shame the controls were so unwieldy. I've had issues with Xbox 360 controller compatibility with other games in the past (Earthworm Jim on GOG is one of the worst offenders), but I really hope Gamepires fixes this issue.

As far as track design is concerned, Gas Guzzlers strikes a nice balance between the styles seen in both kart racers and off-road dirt racers. There are jumps, curves, and straightaways that provide you with enough variety. I almost wish the open beta featured at least two more racetracks, because what's there so far is good, and I would personally like to see and play more.

As previously mentioned, the game looks good. I did encounter a small camera hitch after coming off a jump repeatedly, but as far as aesthetics go, Gas Guzzlers looks solid. In terms of the music, you're getting some pretty loud rock themes that aren't very good. Despite the fact that the music wasn't to my liking, it still fit with the high-speed theme in Gas Guzzlers.

Then there's the driver's voice. Honestly, you're either going to love this guy or hate him. Like the music in Gas Guzzlers, this dude is loud. He also says a bunch of one-liners that will make you laugh, roll your eyes, or possibly both. Most of what the driver says is either profanity or cheesy dialogue, and because I'm actually a fan of this type of stuff, I really dug it. Hitting another car resulted in my driver saying something like "Huh! Son of a b*tch!" or "Whoa! You gone muthaf*cka, you gone!" If you're not particularly fond of either the music or the speech, you can lower or mute them in the options settings.

Gas Guzzlers has a lot of potential to be a fun combat racing experience. If Gamepires tweaks a few things and works on the game's current flaws, such as the crazy difficult AI and the poor Xbox 360 controller implementation, then we may have a great arcade racer on our hands. The game may even benefit from being ported to consoles, because it just seems like a console experience. Check out the open beta and see what Gas Guzzlers has to offer. If you're looking for a racing game that doesn't take itself too seriously, you may want to keep an eye on this one.

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