19 years ago I mangled a pedestrian on the hood of my car, 80mph of red impact. I didn't stop accelerating. I hit another. Then another. Chemicals surged into my brain with every scream and squish. Don't pity my victims, pity the windscreen wipers that had the job of clearing the gore from my view.
I was playing the uncensored version of the bloody racing game Carmageddon. It had only become available in the UK a whole 10 months after the game's original release. Before that, the officials considered its depiction of vehicular slaughter too explicit—the censored version replaced the crimson splatter with zombies and green blood.
This was around the same time the original Grand Theft Auto came out (1997 was hell of a year for video game nasties). Both games let you drive fast cars through soft bodies. You could even leave bloodied tire tracks across the asphalt. It was all shock value back then, of course, with both games getting huge publicity in outraged newspaper headlines. But even divorced from that there was a potent thrill that came with playing out those low-res transgressions.
Howard Phillips Lovecar takes us back 20 years to relive those days when games felt dangerous. It gives you an armed truck, an endless group of faceless cultists, and a huge empty desert to smear with their insides. The idea is simply to rack up a score by murdering as many people as you can. You can run them over, or you can shoot them with the huge guns that blast from the sides of your truck. This is a game that excels in sound effects and screen shake.
But your tyranny over the drylands won't last as long as it did for Immortan Joe. Your massacre of the cultists will anger the old gods they worship, who shall then arrive to put an end to you. The obvious inspiration here, aside from the author in the title's pun, and those older driving games, is Devil Daggers. The tentacled uglies arrive in numbers, meaning you'll have to shift from doing donuts in the sand to doing crowd control.
You steer and shoot and stay alive for as long as you can. You'll meet your end if you eat too many monster bullets, which gradually darken the screen, as if some unimaginable nightmare is absorbing you. If you die, get vicious, and return to get your vengeance. And once you run out of adrenaline you can always try painting pictures across the desert with your bloody tire tracks.