Gas Guzzlers Extreme delivers an entertaining gas-powered ride rife with gun play, low brow humor, and pop culture riffs. Unfortunately, it runs out of gas a little too quickly.
Gas Guzzlers Extreme is something of a spiritual cousin to Bizarre Creations swan song racing title Blur (‘cart racing for grownups’) from 2010. But whereas Blur was more about slick sports cars and street racing, Gas Guzzlers is about muscle cars with machine guns.
For the most part, taking arcade style racing and adding a little Car Wars combat is a sound formula, and Gas Guzzlers Extreme is definitely a fun game. Bowing the hell out of the guy in front of you with a spray of machine gun fire and the resulting fiery explosion never ceases to entertain—especially when the game’s bots carry names like Jack Kass, Luke Likesheet, and Alotta Fagina. (There’s that low brow humor, which you can also enjoy through the raunchy commentary stylings of your avatar, who can sound like Duke Nukem, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or an angry Scotsman, for example.)
The tracks are long and varied, with multiple shortcuts and power ups scattered throughout. Power ups include ammo, shields, Nitrous, and repair. Smoke, mines, oil, and damage buffs are also littered throughout.
Progression is determined by your success on the track—and you’re virtually guaranteed to be successful because there’s never really a penalty for losing. Keep trying until you win, and you’ll continue unlocking additional cars, various upgrades, and new tracks. Each of the 18 (or so) cars be upgraded and customized with improved tires, engines, brakes, and weapons. Do well enough in your races, and you can get “sponsored”, which enables you to put fancy stickers on your car and earn extra cash in your races.
There are 4 basic game modes, 3 of which are racing variants (with guns, mines, smoke, and oil slicks, among other things), and 1 of which is an arena-style combat match where the only goal is to kill or be killed.
There are plenty of road signs and miscellaneous scenery to blast through, and chickens to run over, which tend to bounce like basketballs (which is either poor physics or hilarious physics). Causing destruction earns you a little cash, nitrous and the satisfaction of running over what used to be dinosaurs. There are no “Kudos” or “Raves” similar to Bizarre Creations style-based stunt systems (found in Project Gotham Racing and Blur, respectively), so the bonuses are pretty inconsequential.
Fill ‘er up
The biggest problem with Gas Guzzlers Extreme isn’t game play, it’s the lack of depth. Each of the cars has only a handful of upgrades for each component (engine, tires, breaks, weapons, armor, and ammo), but you’ll easily max out all of them within a few successful races—especially if you either a) play on Easy; or b) earn extra money by completing bonus objectives (taking out specific cars, making kills with specific weapons, and the like).
Regardless, you can just race and race and race until you win, and there’s no depth to the upgrade system, which is a simple linear progression of saving up money to buy the next car, tire upgrade, etc. There’s no system of balancing weight, weapons, and/or performance tweaks that fans of more detailed simulators (or tabletop games like Car Wars) typically enjoy. My son and I unlocked virtually everything within ten days of moderate play.
Multiplayer could be a saving grace here, but I honestly couldn’t find any—at least not yet, and possibly not ever. The best I could find was 2 live human players in a race with 5 other bots. Otherwise I couldn’t find a multiplayer game or even a server that looked like it was even populated with humans through the Gas Guzzlers Extreme multiplayer menu. If there is a Gas Guzzlers Extreme community, it appears to be a sleepy one (at least as of this writing). If it grows into a vibrant community it could provide a lot of entertainment.
Overall: 3/5 stars (4/5 if the online community livens up)
Gas Guzzlers Extreme delivers great casual racing entertainment, and bear in mind that it’s only a $25 title on Steam (and bound to go on sale eventually). Played casually you’ll get good entertainment value out of it, but the party may not last long, and you may not be able to keep it alive if the multiplayer community doesn’t liven up.