Everyone here knows Bugbear, the Finnish studio responsible for both the excellent, yet underrated, Flatout series (Flatout 1 and 2 on PC, XBOX and PS2 and, of course, Ultimate Carnage on 360) as well as the recent Ridge Racer reboot not so long ago (a game we enjoyed but found to share little with the series roots). Eager to jump back into the world of muscle cars, the team has recently launched "Next Car Game" (working title) through crowdfunding. The game is currently available via Early Access on Steam and, thus far, feels like a worthy successor to Flatout and Destruction Derby. Read on for more.
Gentlemen Start Your Engines!
Outside of the annual Need for Speed installments, pure arcade racers haven't exactly been booming as of late. Bugbear hasn't forgotten what it takes to make such a game, however, and we find plenty of slips and fish tails on tap here. As of writing, only two race tracks are available in the Early Access version of Next Car Game along with a stock car stadium which allows players to indulge in their murderous impulses. Playable both in practice mode and in race mode - against a single opponent or against an entire field of 12 to 24 cars -, the two tracks are already exciting to race through, due primarily to the unpredictable nature of each lap. Indeed, Next Car Game features rather aggressive AI which rarely hesitates to make full contact with the player, allowing for some spectacular moments, yet somehow never feeling completely scripted. Even at this early stage (pre-alpha), we found each race to be supremely engaging despite the short length of both tracks.
The chemistry of physics
Great driving physics come as no surprise to those familiar with Bugbear's previous efforts, and even at this early stage, Next Car Game is no exception. Damage modeling is exemplary as well and has a significant impact on handling without ruining the fun even if reality is twisted a bit as cars bend like an accordion. The game focuses on big and heavy cars, of course, which bounce around the course in a way that wouldn't disappoint Bo and Luke. Still, there is quite logically a bit of polish lacking at this stage in the game, complete with missing audio bites when cars land after a jump and certain overly demanding visual settings (reflections are particularly greedy, antialiasing could be more efficient, etc.) dragging performance down a bit. With some extra shine, however, we expect this to become something special. The game looks good overall but the most impressive things with the damage system are the flying tires and chunks of concrete flying around which never get old. This is a real man's sport for certain!
The range of available games hitting Steam in Early Access form continues to grow with another promising title which easily hangs with the likes of Snow and Assetto Corsa, both of which we recently covered on Gamersyde. The staff here is certainly hoping these games find success in the coming months along with potential ports (Xbox One and PS4, not to be too specific) but we'll certainly be keeping you up to date on the developments happening with Next Car Game.
Note: While the game runs fairly well on our test rig (i5 email@example.com GHz, 8gb ram, Win 7 x64, and an nVidia GTX 670 OC Gainward), we were forced to turn off ambient occlusion and dynamic reflection settings in order to hit the desired framerate. The game seems to have an issue with triple buffering on some cases, making dips much more noticeable. The few hiccups you might notice in our videos are due to capture though, as we could play the game smoothly at 60 fps. The first 3 videos use shadows at a medium setting while the other three are maxed out (except for ambient occlusion and reflection that is). Do keep in mind that the final game should be much better optimized.