Remember the days where video games just brought a massive smile to your face? It wasn’t about counting the amount of pixels or DLC bundles you got with your pre-order. Video games were just meant to entertain you. If you love video games, give Next Car Game a try!
Next what game?
The developer Bugbear Entertainment, known for their classic game series FlatOut, has a thing for calling their new racing games ‘Next Car Game’ until they settle for a more permanent name. It’s simply a work in progress title which was also used for FlatOut and Ridge Racer Unbounded at the time.
Let’s face it, the name isn’t important. It’s all about the gameplay. Well, buckle up, ’cause you are in for a treat.
This game focuses on fun races and derbies in which you operate a beater car on both tarmac and dirt tracks. These races are hectic. From the moment you leave the starting grid until the flag drops at the end of the race, expect mayhem!
Your competition consists of 23 computer controlled aggressors which have no mercy on your soul. They will literally push you into a concrete wall if you are in their way. This has happened more than once to me and I’m sure it will keep happening.
3 words: Physics, Realism and Fun!
While playing Next Car Game 3 words came to mind. Physics, realism and fun! All three are well balanced, even in this early stage of development. Here’s why these three aspects are important and make it such an unique game, to the calibre of which I haven’t experienced in a long time.
How realistic is Next Car Game?
It’s never going to be the real deal since you are sitting behind a screen instead of in a car, but could it be the next best thing?
The cars handle very well. They have a nice balance between a realistic feel, like you are actually operating the car, and still making them simple enough to drive and have fun with. You can easily spin your old, classic muscle car if you are too eager on the throttle while coming out of a corner. On the other hand, if you have the little Euro car you can push it a lot harder, but a small push from a bigger American car will send you right off the tarmac and into a tree, concrete barricade or tire wall.
When it comes to the driving aids that are available, you can opt into shifting aid, ABS, traction control and anti spin. The real experience, however, comes from turning off all of these driving aids, including the shifting aid.
Manual shifting adds that extra bit of control. I can decide to keep my car in third gear while I approach a corner and bounce a little on the rev limiter. I don’t want to speed up further because I’m at the perfect speed to enter the corner, just do a little bit of lifting in the middle, and then get back on the power early as soon as I approach the exit. This is proper race sim stuff!
I love the fact that there is a camera inside the cockpit of the car. It lets me experience the race as if I was in the car. I have ignored the hovering camera behind the car since it feels like cheating to me. It’s much more fun to feel a hit on your car through the vibrations in your steering wheel than to see it happening from a top down view.
Does Next Car Game have good physics?
Realistic racing games have to take some sort of physics into account. Your car weighs a certain amount to start with. When you want to put that mass in motion, you need to calculate how fast it will accelerate with a certain amount of power. This might sound quite complex, because it is, but you don’t get realism from cutting corners.
When you slow the car down, what happens with the weight of the vehicle? It moves forward which means more load (or weight) on your front wheels. This helps the front tyres become more “grippy”, which is what you want while you steer into a corner. So, a short tap on the brakes can make all the difference between making that corner or crashing hard into a concrete wall.
Driving with all the assists off and then getting that near perfect lap is really satisfying, even when there aren’t even any other cars around. Though with more cars on track, it definitely gets more challenging and hectic!
In terms of physics, this game has it and as a long term racing fan, I can only endorse and encourage this!
How much fun is Next Car Game?
This is probably the best part of this dirty racing game. It’s so much fun! Every race is different, but playing this game never fails to put a giant smile on my face.
I remember a race where I started all the way at the back and had to fight my way through the field in 3 laps on the tarmac track. It was hard work, but so much fun pushing other drivers into the barrier and finally finishing first. Fun, but also very satisfying.
Pushing others around is a lot of fun, but I’ve also been on the other end of the crashes. In another race I started on the front row of the grid and then received a big push which spun and damaged my car. Then I had to deal with the broken windscreen and lack of vision due to the hood that was bent in a weird shape the whole race. I still managed to secure the last spot on the podium, so it was still a successful race in that sense, but even if I hadn’t, it would have been an enjoyable one!
The two scenarios above happened to me on both the dirt and tarmac races, but there is also a derby mode. Personally, I’m not a big fan of derbies, I prefer to race around a circuit. If you are into derbies though, there is a lot of fun to be had! There are multiple arenas where you can face off with and destroy all 23 competitors.
A track that is very hectic, but also plenty of fun, is the figure 8 track. Imagine racing around like that in an online race with 23 other human beings! Definitely a lot of mayhem, but also a great time!
Controller or keyboard? No, thanks…
You can play Next Car Game with your keyboard, a controller, or a wheel & pedals. I haven’t even tried it with a controller or keyboard since I’m the proud owner of a Logitech G25.
I’m seeking a game that is realistic so I want to use my steering wheel and it has to work well. It took some time setting it all up to my liking, which is standard procedure for any sim lover, but I now have the perfect feel with the car. With all the driving assists off and my trusty wheel, pedals, and shifter set up, it’s really a great way to play and enjoy this game, especially for a racing sim lover like me.
If you ever thought of getting yourself a steering wheel, this is definitely a game which should be played with one. It works really well and enhances the experience.
Early Access release (Pre-Alpha)… Uhm, what?
This means the developers are still working on the game and are far from releasing the final product. The benefit of this is that you can enjoy the game already, even though you might run into the odd issue here or there. The downside of this is that you buy an unfinished product which gives you no guarantee that it will ever be finished.
There have been plenty of cases where this Early Access has not worked out. Don’t let this scare you off though. Games like DayZ and Prison Architect show that it is a business model that can benefit both the gamers, as well as the developers.
So how about Next Car Game? What is the status of this Early Access release?
The actual game runs very smoothly and is a lot of fun, though there is a serious lack of different game modes at the moment. You simply select a car, track and some race settings and you are off. There is no career mode, no progression, no cars to buy – all of these modes are still missing.
My only real critique at this point is that I miss an incentive to keep playing. Since there is no progress to be made, every race is a single event that is not tied into a bigger progression or gameplay element.
The current game has 3 different cars which can be used in both derbies and races. There are three different derby setups and 4 tracks on which you can go nuts. It’s far from enough, but it’s a nice start and will definitely let you get a good feel for the game.
One of the things you should get with an early access game is regular updates. This is true for Next Car Game. Every 4-6 weeks the game gets an update with bugfixes, new cars/tracks and other features. This is a great incentive for me to pick it up again after every update to experience first hand how my new favourite racing game is shaping up.
What features can we expect in the future?
At this stage there is no multiplayer yet. Ideas and discussions regarding multiplayer have their own subsection on the forum. Personally, I cannot wait until I can go head to head against other race enthusiasts (and the other players too).
I’m hoping for dedicated servers and none of the local host systems consoles brought along. Yes, I’m thinking of you Call of Duty! You ruined the PC version of your game ages ago. Connecting to somebody’s private computer in his/her bedroom while one of his flatmates is downloading is not a decent setup to play a lag free game of any kind. That’s why we invented dedicated servers which have been around for as long as I can remember.
Another feature that has been discussed on the forum a lot is the career mode. Bugbear has promised to develop a career experience that will entertain us and give us the incentive to just do one more race so that we have enough money for that next car part.
This reminds me of the first few Gran Turismo games. They came with such great career modes that I just wanted to keep playing, keep saving up for another upgrade or another new car purchase. I can’t wait to have such a system added to this already great gameplay.
Make your friends and family sit behind the wheel
Once you are hooked on Next Car Game, don’t forget to let your friends and family have a go at it, especially if you have a wheel & pedals set up. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have any gaming experience, just put their hands on the steering wheel and their right foot on the “loud peddle” and see what they can do.
The biggest surprise for me was that everybody I got behind the wheel had a blast driving these cars. Even when they would end dead last (and lapped twice), they still had a fun time and always wanted to give it another go.
Watching your friends race is also a great source of entertainment for yourself. Seeing a friend getting absolutely destroyed and pushed into a wall is a great opportunity to never let him (or her) live it down.
Is Next Car Game worth getting?
That all depends on what you seek in a videogame. If you want to have some fun racing action on dirt and tarcmac tracks, yes! If you like to support a project and give your input and feedback on every new patch that is released, go ahead! So far, I’ve put over 10 hours into this racing game and I can see myself spending a lot more time in these unique cars, roaring over these great designed tracks.
It has been too long since I was this excited about a racing game and I can’t wait for the final product. Don’t let me down Bugbear Entertainment!
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