Genre: Beat-‘Em-Up Developer: Software Creations Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
Quite simply, Maximum Carnage represented the “perfect storm” of video games for a thirteen year-old in 1994. I was an obsessive collector of Spider-Man and Venom comics, I was cultivating a juvenile taste in heavy metal, and to top it all off, Sega Genesis was the coolest thing going. When I saw the ad for this game, I could hardly believe it: A storyline ripped directly from the comics, the ability to play as Spider-Man or Venom, a cast of more than dozen characters, and a soundtrack by Green Jelly. I just had to have it. Unfortunately, this game couldn’t live up to my expectations.
If you’re looking for the straight skinny on this game, it is a Streets of Rage clone. The gameplay is your basic beat-’em-up: Start at the left side, kick and punch your way through a bunch of wimpy bad guys, and then fight a boss at the end. This game basically adds two new ingredients to the mix. First, you have a bunch of secondary characters which you can call on every once and a while to show up and help you by using their special powers. Second, you get to take advantage of Spidey’s web-slinging abilities.
Maximum Carnage began as an epic mini-series spanning several Spider-Man comic book titles. In short, a bunch of super-villains have escaped and turned New York into a raving pit of chaos, and it’s up to the good guys to stop them. The beautiful thing about the story is that it was ripped directly from the pages of the comics. Not only is it faithful to series I had loved so much, but actual panels from the books found their way into the game’s cut scenes. The game is a perfect companion to the actual story line.
One thing that really set this game apart for me was the sound track. It is common in modern games to hear pop songs from contemporary groups during gameplay, however this was the first game I had ever heard of that had tried to do such a thing. All the music for the game was provided by heavy-metal group Green Jelly. You could actually go out and buy their album and hear the track “Carnage Rules” that was in the video game. Despite the fact that the Genesis could only recreate the tune with synthesized notes, this was very cool. The music in this game is its strongest point; it just rocks. It is very entertaining, and you will never get bored with it.
The graphics were another good point with this game. As far as Genesis titles go, I’d say that Maximum Carnage is about mid-range in terms of raw graphics quality; however, the game does a great job of creating a faithful representation of the comic book drawings. Spidey and Venom look great, the animation is smooth, and all the characters are recognizable and clean. The art department clearly put a lot of work into making it look like you were playing a comic book in real time, and I’d say they pulled it off. My only qualm with the graphics is that everything is rather dull and dark looking. Brighter graphics would have really made this game shine.
On the down side, we have sounds. Although the soundtrack was superb, the sound effects are just…lame. Screams are uninspired, the “whoosh” sound of punches and kicks get incredibly repetitive, the thuds have no bite, and most of the main characters make almost no sound at all. I was constantly thinking, “Where did the sounds go?”
This game also falls flat in technical aspects. First of all, there is no save system and no passwords. The entire adventure has to be accomplished in one shot, and this game is HARD. I could never understand why such a high profile game would lack the ability to save your progress, and I was disappointed. Maximum Carnage runs pretty fast, with only a bit of slowdown, and for the most part the controls are quite responsive, yet the controls tend to be finicky. Your character will sometimes perform the wrong combos at crucial moments, costing you valuable hit points. Expect to toss a few controllers in fits of rage during this one.
As I said before, the game is hard. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone finishing it without using a hint guide. Most of the regular baddies are easy to eliminate, but the bosses are very tough nuts to crack. Finding the secrets in Maximum Carnage will provide you with probably ten times (10x) the amount of power-ups that you would normally get while playing. Even with those, you will find it difficult to finish. Additionally, about half the power ups are located in “secret rooms” which are notoriously hard to enter. Combined with a lack of save points, the game is often too frustrating.
Finally, we have gameplay. As far as beat-’em-ups go, this is pretty solid. Unfortunately, beating up the common street scum is repetitive and makes up probably at least 80% of the game. In addition, the coolest aspect, the ability to go webslinging, is horribly underused. You really only need it for a few levels. The rest of the time, the standard punch combo works best. It is a REAL shame that they didn’t give you more room to swing around and make use of aerial attacks.
In the value department, Maximum Carnage does well. The game is long enough to give you hours of play time. In addition, you can take alternate routes, depending on which hero you select, so there is decent replay value. I just would have liked to have been able to play as Venom more often.
Overall, Maximum Carnage is a solid game that exhibits high production values but makes for a good to mediocre gaming experience. I would recommend playing it, but only buy it if you are a fan of the genre. Of course, for all you Spidey fanatics, this is a must-own title, at least for the story line and graphics.
SCORE: 7 out of 10