Carnage Racing review
Carnage Racing is a new Facebook-based racing game from Jagex, the U.K.-based developers of the popular browser-based MMO Runescape. Jagex’s stated aim with the new game is to “break new ground in gameplay and graphics for Facebook games,” and in order to accomplish this goal, they brought on a number of team members who previously worked on Rockstar’s Midnight Club series of console racing games. It is a decision that paid off.
Carnage Racing blends elements of several popular computer and console games to create a unique, visually-impressive experience on the Facebook platform. It features the weapons-based vehicular combat of Nintendo’s Mario Kart series, the realistic (though unlicensed) cars and focus on stunts of EA/Criterion’s Burnout series, and in a peculiar twist, it also features elements of Valve’s Portal series.
The game features 13 different races, all of which are set on a tropical island. Players are able to compete against AI-controlled opponents, strangers or friends in 8-way races or, alternatively, compete against their friends in an asynchronous “Time Challenge” mode. In the races against other opponents, players are able to collect various weapons from around the track, though like in Mario Kart, there’s no way of knowing what weapon will be picked up until it has been secured. Weapons include dumb-firing missiles that shoot out in front of the car; time bombs that can be attached to other players, potentially taking out several racers when they explode; a flamethrower that shoots out behind the car and also provides a slight speed boost; a “warp gun” that seeks out a racer in front then creates a portal just behind them to allow the player the chance to catch up more easily; and a rail gun that diminishes the charge level of the opponent’s special “Phase Shift” ability.
“Phase Shifting” is accomplished through charging up a bar in the corner of the screen by driving fast, making big jumps and performing stunts while in the air. Tapping the directional keys in various directions while off the ground can cause the car to flip, spin and roll, and this earns the player additional charge on their Phase Shift bar as well as experience points after the race. Once the Phase Shift bar is full, the player may tap the space bar to enter Phase Shift mode, at which point they are temporarily invulnerable to weapons but, more significantly, they are able to drive straight through certain previously-solid (and specially-marked) walls to enjoy a significant shortcut. While in Phase Shift mode, these walls open portals, allowing the player to see through to their destination.
The player’s car and all weapons may be upgraded by expending hard and soft currency in the in-game shop. Earned soft currency is used to purchase permanent upgrades to various aspects of the car and individual weapons’ performance, while hard currency may be used to temporarily “rent” all upgrades for a single weapon for either 10 or 50 races. Hard currency may also be used to purchase certain vehicle upgrades, though there is always the option to spend a significantly higher amount of soft currency. Soft currency may not be purchased directly, but players do have the option of renting a “Moolah Boost” item that increases the rate of soft currency gain by 50% for a limited number of races.
Carnage Racing is an excellent game. It features high-quality, smoothly-animating 3D graphics and is well optimized for the Web. Loading breaks are kept to a minimum — there is zero delay when restarting a race, for instance, which is something that standalone computer and console racers often struggle with — and the graphics engine is flexible enough to cater to a wide variety of system configurations, both PC and Mac. It has good potential for monetization without being obtrusive to the player, and also encourages old-fashioned word-of-mouth promotion rather than spamming Timelines and News Feeds. Players aren’t nagged to share everything they do, but are occasionally offered the opportunity to share a level-up with their friends or send a request to a friend when they’ve set a particularly good time on a course. This helps provide a nice balance between social play and not irritating core players — whom the game is clearly aimed at — with overly-pushy calls to action.
It is early days for Carnage Racing so it remains to be seen if the Facebook audience will take to it in large numbers, or indeed if it will prove profitable. It’s also worth noting that removing the app from Facebook then re-adding it requires the player to start all over again — something which should perhaps be rectified for players who sometimes like to clean up their list of games and then return to some later. Overall, though, it is a very positive step in a good direction for universally-appealing Facebook gaming — simple and accessible enough for casual players, while offering enough depth and skill-based play for core players to sink their t eeth into. It could use some expansion over time — although the tracks are varied, it would be nice to see some environments other than the tropical island — but for now it’s off to a very strong start, and deserves to enjoy some strong success.
As a brand new release, Carnage Racing is not yet listed on our tracking service AppData, but Facebook reports 5,000 monthly active users since its launch yesterday. Check back shortly to follow its progress by MAU, WAU, DAU and user retention figures.
A high-quality, visually stunning Facebook game from some experienced veterans of both the free-to-play sector and the racing genre.