Gas Guzzlers Extreme – PC
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Developer: Gamepires
Release Date: Oct 8, 2013
Genre: Car Combat, Racing
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 5 of 5

With installments in the Need for Speed and Forza franchises still on the horizon it may be a bit premature to classify Gas Guzzlers Extreme as the “Best Racing Game of 2013” but it’s certainly a strong contender. I can’t think of a game in the past year that has shattered all my expectations – mostly because I had none going into this review. I still remember the email offering me the chance to review this game. I took one look at that name and then a look at my growing to-do list of other reviews and begrudgingly accepted the assignment. Here I am a week later, and I still find myself playing this totally awesome and addictive combat racer at least an hour every day – sometimes more.

Take a dash of Mario Kart; throw in some Twisted Metal, a bit of FlatOut and all the cinematic goodness of Mad Max and the Death Race movies and you have just scratched the surface of what Gas Guzzlers Extreme has to offer. But seriously – change that name. It might have meant something if fuel had factored into the gameplay; perhaps forcing you to collect fuel canisters or drive through a gas station to keep your car running for the duration of an event, but gas guzzling is a non-issue.

What you do have to worry about are the 18 fully customizable cars that can be raced on more than 350 miles of gorgeously detailed paved and dirt roads that make up the 40 tracks and 8 arenas spread across 7 unique environments such as deserts and mountains and even abandoned race tracks. You’ll race on snow and ice and even in rain soaked conditions that will affect your visibility and handling. The game pulls the old bait and switch by throwing you into that first race with an awesome car fully decked out with weapons, then once you’ve had the taste of the “good life” they start your new career with a few thousand dollars and a measly selection of things to buy in the shop. It’s quite the reality check when your first real race takes place in something not much better than a golf cart armed with a slingshot.

The one thing I really enjoyed about the career mode is the freedom to advance by playing the events you like. Your only objective is to rise through the leaderboards by placing in the top three positions to earn points, but rather than having a structured sequence of events the game simply offers you a selection of events, each on their own track. You can pick between a standard no-weapons Power Race, although you can still use defensive weapons like mines, smoke and oil slicks, or you can choose a Battle Race that makes use of any installed weapons you have on your car. There is also the Knockout Race which is a 7-lap battle race but the person in last place at the end of each lap explodes, leaving their fiery hull on the track as a new obstacle to avoid.

From time to time sponsored events will be offered. These are usually arena-style events and include deathmatch, CTF, and last man standing. I’m a huge capture the flag fan, and Gas Guzzlers Extreme does this mode so well in that there is no home base for the flag. Essentially you must be in possession of one flag and drive through the other flag wherever it was last dropped – essentially you need to capture BOTH flag to earn the point. This totally eliminates people camping on flag bases, and keeps the game very mobile since the flags are always on the move.

While Gas Guzzlers Extreme offers endless and challenging gameplay in the career and quick race modes, there is also a fantastic online mode as well, and while it was a bit slow getting started, at the time of this review I was having no trouble finding people to play with, and I can only hope more people get onboard as word of mouth spreads across Steam and the Internet. This is some of the best multiplayer racing out there, and the car combat is so much better than Twisted Metal. The game even uses AI bots to populate online matches so you can start to play immediately, and human racers will replace the AI as they join the session.

There is a great sense of progression as you make your way through the career. You’ll be earning cash for winning races and completing bonus challenges for each race such as keeping a certain driver from placing or finishing, or killing three cars with mines or using oil eight times, etc. You can then spend your money upgrading various elements of your car like engine, nitro, brakes, armor, and weapons. There are a dozen weapons that include shotguns, rocket launchers, and machine guns, some of which can be fired behind you as well as forward. The beauty of the system is that if you aren’t racing Battle Races you can put your money into the car, but if you’d rather fight it out in multi-lap combat then start upgrading those guns and armor plating. You’ll also have to pay to repair any car damage between races or risk going into the next race with a damaged car and hope for a repair icon early on.

The graphics are stunning; right on par with last year’s Forza Horizons game or anything that Codemasters has put out recently. The various location themes are gorgeous and borderline photorealistic; there is fantastic lighting and shadows and dynamically generated dust when you go off-road, lens flares, fire, smoke, and real-time car damage. The tracks are massive with multiple paths; some not even obvious as there are no invisible walls or penalties for cutting corners or heading across the desert. You might even find a health or nitro pick-up hiding behind a cactus. The tracks are littered with collectibles including gold (cash) bonuses, repair kits, oil barrels, nitrous tanks, and smoke canisters as well as ammo and the 2x damage skull and crossbones. The AI is effectively brutal in not only darting ahead of you and stealing your pick-up, but then turning around and using them on you. I was surprised that the game defaulted to easy, so I of course kicked it up to normal difficulty and found it a major feat to come in second or third, let alone actually win a race. Things do get easier as you learn the tracks, find the shortcuts, and boost the various elements of your car, but the AI is surprisingly competent.

The sound effects are explosive, and I love the fact they got the announcer guy from Death Race to do all the in-game commentary. Even the 3-2-1 countdown gives me chills. The menu music is this odd assortment of twangy country themes that you might have heard in a cafe on Route 66 back in the 50’s and 60’s yet somehow fits the theme of the game. There is also a lot of subtle humor thrown into the presentation, mostly visual, like the various names of the AI racers, some of the between-race text boxes, and some of the sponsors like Mighty Cock and Happy Smokes; the latter puts a giant pot leaf on the hood of your car. You’ll be offered various sponsorships throughout your career, and these not only change the appearance of your car but also increase your winnings.

I would totally recommend Gas Guzzlers Extreme even if it were priced at $60, so the fact that you can play this game today for only $25 just makes it that much better. The game is a complete and total blast to play alone and the online experience is getting better by the day. The game plays perfectly with a gamepad – I used an Xbox 360 controller – and it also works with a wheel. I played a few games using my Ferrari racing wheel, but it seemed that the game was more tuned for gamepad controls with all the combat and buttons required for nitro and dropping countermeasures, but at least you have the option if you want to use a wheel. It’s worth noting that only the D-pad seems to work in the menus and car garage, so you may want to have a mouse handy for things like picking a paint color from the color wheel.

Don’t let the name fool you. Gas Guzzlers Extreme is by far one of the best racing games I have played this year, and the addictive combat element complete with deathmatch, CTF, and last man standing modes gives this added replayability that other racers like NFS and GRiD just can’t match. Sure you can argue that those other games are meant to be pure racing, but Gas Guzzlers Extreme does both and does both flawlessly. Buy this game now and join the online frenzy and thrills of explosive car combat racing.