First Rule of Zombieland: Cardio
Or, at the very least, that is what I understand as the “point” of Armageddon Riders. The world is coming to an end (because it has to at some point) and we need our children's offspring to survive by driving hotrods with industrial mulchers strapped to the front bumper in a Mad Max scenario that every kid dreams of. But instead of LEGO bricks, a Russian development studio with a penchant for driving-related created a virtual world where zombies are flashing bombs and other drivers are total dicks.
At it's core, Armageddon Riders is a sandbox game, or as some have come misappropriates the phrase. It is actually a free-roaming racing game with elements of gore. Think: Burnout Paradise meets Dead Rising, except with a lot less personality, charm, and zombies. You have a mid-sized cityscape to yourself and other AI drivers to mess around with, sprinkled with some secret items that don't seem to do anything other than give you a trophy.
There is some level of detail throughout the world, namely the namely economy class airplane hanging out of a building in Atom City. But that attention to detail is inconsistent in such a way that the world feels empty and unfinished rather than post-apocalyptic. It is a rather unremarkable sight to behold. Character models –the drivable and AI controlled vehicles in addition to the zombies-- seem to have been crafted with much more care. While there are only a few of each shape and size, every car has a set of unlockable paint designs and weapon modifications that change the cars appearance from the stock vehicle drastically. Armageddon Riders looks competent enough on the surface to be a purchasable title, but it isn't without it's share of problems.
With so few objects in the world at a given time, it amazes me how rampantly the frame rate will drop. Screen tearing (especially during a race) will happen more often than it should. While most games have some frame rate issues of some sort, the amount of rippling in my time with Armageddon Riders outdid the rest. Given how low the frame rate is when it is stable, driving is still a rather jarring experience when there is no true sense of speed to your vehicle. In fact, the only time the wind will ever flow through your hair is when you boost.
That, or if a zombie decides to defy physics and goes from being stationary behind you to soaring to your car. So, yeah, about those zombies: they actually make the game worse. Their inclusion makes the game a bit more agitating than it needs to be. A big part to keeping your boost gauge filled is through slaughtering zombies as you race. After all, how else are you going to fuel your car... well, aside from alien artifacts. Zombies come in a variety of types, but they all boil down to threatening and non-threatening. I'm not incredibly sure why there are non-threatening zombies in any existence, but behold: docile fodder.
But some of the other zombies do pose a problem. For that aforementioned penchant for attaching to your car, regardless of the speed, will result in a ton of damage throughout a race. While there is a weapon that can zap them off your car, you'll be slamming into walls or making a hard turn to shake them off. This would be fine if their animations weren't broken half the time. Let them be an obstacle to overcome during a race, but at least make it one that is fair. After all, I'm looking for realism here.
Nothing about this game is of the same mindset. Part racer, zombie slaughter-fest, adventure, collector's quest; Armageddon Riders is a lot of things, but it doesn't do any of them well. The soundtrack in the game is either quite generic racing music or the odd country joke track. It struggles with tone on a thematic scale (if it really has a theme to begin with) and never goes as far as to have it's own universe.
When it comes right down to it, Armageddon Riders simply doesn't offer anything intentionally challenging or cohesive. After driving about, slicing the same zombies in half as I frequently lost control of my car, I found myself without any desire to play the game anymore. That is undeniably sad for a game that needs a moderate amount of time to complete. For all of the content the game puts before you, all too much of it is similar to the one prior. From the sub-par driving to the dark, bland environments, Armageddon Riders feels like an ambitious driving combat game with a superfluous zombie theme.