Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now
Because if the first game had one pun in the title, then the second one has to got another pun in the subtitle. One of my biggest fears about replaying games that I haven't touched for a long time, is that they will not be up to much and I will have pointlessly destroyed my nostalgia about them. Thankfully, this wasn't the case for Carmageddon II. In fact, it was a glorious game!
The great stuff from the first game returns. Large and varied open stages, whether you want a city, an airport, a desert or even the dock of an aircraft carrier! Just like before, you have 3 ways to complete a stage; race around the checkpoints (BORING!!!), waste all your enemies or even run over all the pedestrians of the stage. To help you (or even hamper you) on this task, the game has placed power-ups around every stage. Those can affect either you, the enemy, or even the pedestrians and their effect can either be positive or negative. One power-up might increase your speed, another might make you much sturdier, another one could cause your car to jump around like crazy, another could make pedestrians suicidal and another could make the pedestrians immortal. There are a lot of power-ups to discover and a new addition to Carmageddon 2 are the user-activated power-ups. Those have various effects such as allowing you to zap multiple pedestrians with electricity at once, drive away enemies with springs, boost your car's speed, etc.
Aside the great returning stuff, the sequel has also made improvements over the first game. For starters, there are the enhanced graphics. While the environments looks nicer, what really looks much better are the vehicles. Specifically, there is now far more detailed vehicle damage and it makes the game even more satisfying, especially when you are not
in the receiving end. As it gets damaged from the crashes, your car starts getting bent out of shape (literally!) and depending on how and where you were hit, you might end up seeing your car's lights broken, your doors waving a goodbye, your spoiler getting ripped off, or in worse cases, you might have your car separated in half, which means that you were probably wasted (but not always). Repairing your car undoes all the visual damage that it has received, restoring it to pristine condition (which I must say is a pretty funny, but satisfying visual and audio effect).
Another improvement comes from the removal of the ranking system. No longer do you have to grind for points in order to gain enough ranks to progress to the next stage. The only thing you'll have to do is complete the stages and you can just progress to the next one. In addition, rather than relying on the game's generosity to hand over one of the enemy cars, you can just buy it with the money you earn from the stages.
Having said all that, there are still parts where Carmageddon 2 could have improved. While the environments and car models have been improved, the same can't be said about the animals, the car drivers and the pedestrians, who all look so polygonal that you might as well be playing Lego Carmageddon. Maybe they should have remained sprites. The controls could also stand to be a bit better, because while they have been improved in comparison to the first game (you'll no longer see you car spinning out of control out of the nowhere), they still leave something to be desired as running at high speeds can make it difficult to take even some simple turns. You'll also want to be more careful here as, unlike the first game, it's much easier to destroy yourself from a collision with a wall or a traffic lights signal pole. Upgrading your armour will only be helpful against direct crashes with enemy vehicles and will do no good against wall collisions. In fact, it's easier to destroy yourself as you progress through the game, thanks to the upgrades you have done on your offensiveness and speed (on the positive side, you should have less trouble destroying enemies than the first game).
Now, while I did say above that I prefer the sequel's progression through the game, there are three things that I didn't like:
1) Missions: After the end of each group of stages, there will be a time-limited mission waiting for you. During these missions, you must achieve a specific objective, whether it is killing some specific civilians, racing through the whole stage multiple times or destroying radar dishes. Failing to accomplish this task on time, will force you to restart the mission. While not tough, they did force me to retry them quite a few times and I felt that they were a distraction from the game itself by forcing you to only play a specific way.
2) Upgrade System: The upgrade system in Carmageddon was pretty simple. Pay some cash and upgrade your vehicle. Here? First, you must find upgrade slots scattered through the stage and then, either find the upgrades through the stages or buy them. Whereas Carmageddon 2 simplified the acquisition of vehicles, it unnecessarily complicated the upgrade system.
3) Repeating the same stages: While less prevalent than the original, the sequel still likes to have you replay previous stages, with the only changes being the starting area, the checkpoints and the daytime.
So no, Carmageddon 2 isn't a perfect game. It is, however, a great game and better than the first one. Hell, it even has Iron Maiden! (Although, you mind end up hating them after listening to The Trooper for the bazillion time. :P) Full List