Going back about 10 years, I bought my first ever games console, a PSP. The First few games that I had on the console happened to be racing games, thus leading to the transition of Speedy Boi in his current form. One of the racing games that I played the most was a racing game called FlatOut: Head On. This was essentially, the 2.5th game in the series. Created by Bugbear, the game was about racing and competing in Destruction Derbies through various environments, using any method possible to survive, including vehicle combat and punishing explosions. This is going to be a long one so strap in tight for the ride.
You may now be thinking that a racing game under the name Next Car Game sounds a little familiar, so here’s a little history lesson on the development of the game. The game was originally announced with a Kickstarter campaign in the attempt to help fund the development of the game. Bugbear launched this on the 1st of November 2013 with a goal of $350,000. As you may expect, the Kickstarter failed. Instead of cancelling the game, a tech demo of the game was released in line with a pre-order campaign. The Tech Demo was a huge success as it was essentially a giant physics playground, designed to crush your car as much as possible.
The success of the demo prompted Bugbear to release an early access version of the game, featuring two cars and 3 tracks. The campaign was hugely successful and earned more money than the original Kickstarter was asking for. The game was then greenlit for Steam’s Early Access platform and earned over $1 Million in a single week. The game then was in development but without a Publisher, the game would just slowly grind along with interest being lost over time from the fans. This changed in June last year when THQ Nordic announced that they were in partnership with Bugbear to help push them over the finish line. In the past month, the game has had 3 major updates and a hotfix to correct some major bugs. While the game may still be in alpha, were definitely nearing the end of the development and I would like to think that the game would be finished by the end of this year.
But what is this game like. Being the spiritual successor to the games of my childhood, there’s a set of expectations that I can’t help but need within the game. First, the vehicle handling needs to feel nice, not like I’m sliding around an ice rink with no skates on. Second, things need to go boom. The game I loved so much featured explosions around every corner, either from too much damage being taken and going boom or from the destruction of terrain causing the inevitable boom once again. A Petrol Station normally does the trick. And finally, I want to feel like I’m playing a game that’s visually stunning, both with the damage simulation and the environment, both before and after a wrecking train passing through the area.
Let’s throw Speedy Boi back into the driver’s seat and see how the game handles the handling of different cars. The main thing to say is that all the cars handle really well, the heavy cars are obviously heavy and nothing is out of proportion. Now I know I said that when I’m driving I like to not feel like I’m sliding around on skates but my biggest problem with the handling is that it feels like I have a little too much grip. I enjoy drifting and power sliding. I’m not saying that it’s not possible, because it is; it just takes a little encouragement from the handbrake. I just want to be able to throw the car into a corner, slam on the power and push the back end out. I think that there are probably 2 reasons why this isn’t happening the way I want it too.
First, maybe my experiences within racing games have tainted by my idea of what a car can really be like (I don’t drive IRL). Or there’s an issue with the code. At the minute, I’m leaning toward the code because I’ve noticed that the game doesn’t respond fully to a controller, either your pedal to the metal, or not on it at all. The game is still in early access so there is still plenty of time for this to be fixed.
The second’s requirement I wanted from the game was that I wanted things to go boom. And they do, oh yes, there’s lots of booms; But they’re not as big as I remember in the games of my past. I can remember driving around various tracks and crashing through a petrol station and having my entire screen filled with flames from an explosion similar to the size of an atom bomb going off. I know that’s just a little bit unrealistic but the game never was, it was designed to be way over the top. One of the advantages of a game being developed now over a game being developed over 10 years ago is that the quality of the images hardware can put out, this means that the explosions can be even bigger! Right!
Wrong. Just because an explosion looks more realistic, it doesn’t make it any easier to code. The explosions look far more realistic and have been scaled down to a more realistic size. I’m not disappointed by this change though. At times having a screen filled with fire made it difficult to drive and see where I’m going. So now I have the best of both worlds and can see where I’m going and the stunning explosions.
There’s something that this game is doing that is making me all nostalgic. The music. In the time yesteryear when I was a little wee racer, I would enjoy sliding around corners while enjoying music that was either related to EDM or rock music. In recent music that has been changing to mainly revolve around artists that are more in the public eye with popular music. This is especially visible in the Need for Speed games, especially after the reboot. This game’s soundtrack features a load of artists I have never heard of. This is a good thing in my opinion as it means that I can find even more music that I can get into. What’s more the music in this game is really pretty good as well. The reason why I have a wide taste in music is that I have played so many games with different types of music in them.
Finally, the damage engine. It is one of the most impressive things I have ever seen in a game. Do you remember how everyone was amazed at the world damage that Battlefield brought along? This is the same thing, every part of your car is controlled as a separate physics object in the game, you can lose any part as your cannonballing around a track at top speed. You can take your beautiful, fast, heap of junk and crash it around a load and it will look like it’s just gone through a trash compactor. It may be very damaged, but it should still work. You’re more likely to blow up before it stops.
The racetracks are exactly the same. You arrive at a beautiful racetrack where the gravel traps are perfectly level and all the tire walls are tall and straight. Join the starting grid, the lights go out and 3 seconds later, everything is wrecked. Tired are strewn all over the place, concrete barriers have impact marks, fences are broken. What makes this even more impressive is that the objects still have physics properties after they’ve broken, you hit them again and they will move again, thus improving the look that a hurricane has just charged through the immediate area.
This game is something that has had a bit of an interesting history, it’s been a bit rough in places but it’s looking good for the time being for the game. I have high expectations for when the game does officially release. May the day come sooner than later. All I’m going to say at this time is that I can fully recommend getting this game on steam if your computer can handle it. The physics engine is incredibly resource intensive, so you may have a bad experience if you don’t have a good graphics card. You do not need a current gen card though as I have an RX M370X inside a laptop and that works perfectly fine.
Finally, I’m not going to give this game a rating because the game is not officially released and things can easily change very quickly. That being said, if I were to give it a rating, it would be up there with some of the best games around right now.
F/N: If you get the game through Steam now while the game is in early access you can get access to the tech demo as well.