Dark Future is Carmageddon gone strategic

Games Workshop used to publish plenty of games beyond their Warhammer brands back in the day, including board games like Talisman and Fury of Dracula. Dark Future was another, a game of car combat set in an alternate timeline where much of the USA becomes a desert called the Big Empty and road warriors in "gangcults" roam the highways. When Auroch Digital adapted it into a videogame, they came up with an unusual meld of racing game, strategy, and Carmaggedon.

In Dark Future: Blood Red States, you control your car covered in guns from an exterior view, switching between it and a sidekick vehicle if you've hired one, either giving commands in real-time or dropping into a slow-motion command mode as much as you want. It turns white line fever into something thinky, so that when things get hectic you can take a moment—not forever, it's slow-mo rather than a pause button—to plan something clever. 

You might drop a road spike to deal with the enemy behind you, lock your turret onto a new target ahead, then program in a lane change to get behind them before opening up with your front guns. Cars can be kitted out with everything from mines to grenade launchers to shotguns, and there's always the option to just hit boost and drive into someone.

Between missions there are upgrades to buy, balancing the weight of new armor and weapons with the effect on your top speed. Fuel's a concern too, and its price goes up the longer you play. Run out and it's game over. Getting blown up means permadeath too. 

Dark Future is divided into runs (called seasons) in which you play a specific character with their own storyline to unlock. After completing goals like earning a set amount of money or doing enough missions against a specific gangcult, more plot unlocks via journals and emails. Some of it's pretty funny stuff, dropping hints about this very strange timeline in which Nixon became president at the beginning of the 1960s instead of the end and the US went down a disastrously different path. (Though the original tabletop game predates Fallout by years, it's got some similar ideas.)

The missions are procedurally generated and might involve running barricades, blowing up tankers, hacking vehicles by driving alongside them, or escort missions that are bound to be everyone's least favorite. Though mutators sometimes appear to add variety, perhaps increasing the strength of enemies or forcing you to play in real-time, they do begin to feel a bit samey after a while. 

You have to play a lot of missions to complete certain goals, too. Right now I'm stuck on one that requires buying a level three upgrade from the shop, but haven't seen anything higher than level two available. I could just knuckle down and keep going until the shop finally sells me what I need, but I'm finding Dark Future isn't the kind of game I can play non-stop for an entire week. It's more of a snack game I've enjoyed alternating with others. Aptly, it's best enjoyed as a change of pace.

Dark Future: Blood Red States is available on Steam.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.