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Almost a month ago Bugbear Entertainment released their next car game on Steam, affectionately entitling the creation Next Car Game. However, unlike it’s predecessor franchise Flatout, what we’ve seen so far from Bugbear’s latest racing game is more akin to the Playstation classic Destruction Derby; a high-speed chassis-rending metal-contorting blast.
Though the gameplay is sound, the AI behavior acute in it’s reaction and adversarial in it’s driving prowess, and the graphical and physics engines both render and operate the game competently; the game itself is far from finished and has yet to include a verbose garage dynamic and choice of vehicles. It is indeed true to it’s classification thus far on Steam, early in it’s access; it hasn’t even been christened with a proper name and Bugbear has labeled the client state as pre-alpha.
Which isn’t a big deal what-so-ever. The core of the game’s mechanic is not only functional, it is an exceptional achievement for a project still well within it’s infancy. Though severely lacking any meta game, the single derby event and two races offer a wide glimpse of both gameplay and aesthetic. For those that remember the Flatout titles well, Next Car Game will be an unfamiliar experience as Bugbear has forgone fiction by providing a more authentic rendition of demolition derby racing.
Whether they intend to add more of a user-interface later on or not, the game presently lacks a mini-map of the tracks or derby which gives the driver a greater immersion into the event or race as it unfolds around you. Turn indicators on the race tracks are plausible objects, such as a wall striped in red and white arrows rather than a series of blinking neon signs. It is quintessentially striped down into the driver’s seat and his perspective, though the game does offer multiple camera angles. The only aspect of user-interface are the speedometer and tachometer which have been crisply melded into a single object, along with a few situation tallies such as opponents left in the derby, your current placing in a race, and the number of takedowns you’ve caused. Which in the end reflects the raw nature of demolition derby racing, striped down to bare necessities and reinforcing metal; even the dashboards for the two cars you can choose from have been gutted showing some electrical wiring hanging close to the steering column.
Despite its striped down aesthetic, the graphical and physics engines which bring demolition to Next Car Game on a grand scale is certainly not diminished. Both engines create an advanced and sophisticated simulation of car demolition at the hands of deliberate high-speed collisions with phenomenal fidelity. Though some aspects of the demolition cast a veil of scripting over vehicle damage, the engines perform well at the task of crushing and contorting the vehicles in a manner that is new, unique, and different each collision. The only piece of the cars which seemed to bend in a fixed manner after dozens of derbies and races is the hood as it typically creases to the left.
None the less, the cars have been developed with much more than their cosmetics in mind. The engines have visible radiators once you knock off the bumper, reinforcing beams throughout the interior of the car fall victim to T-bone collisions, axles are partially rendered, you can even spot the spindle in the wheel well if you manage to knock the entire tire off the car. Although Bugbear has yet to animate the steering wheel and driver (you don’t see a driver’s hands and arms while in first-person), the attention to detail towards the cars and the fractal nature of their demolition offers a visually entertaining spectacle with no diminishing returns derby after derby. Even the engines catch fire once you’ve dealt enough damage to them leaving heaped masses of smoldering metal with thick black plumes of smoke littering the derby tarmac.
Of course the game still has a long way to go until it’s complete, yet the most important aspects of any demolition derby game have been well designed and polished. The gameplay is a thrilling dash each time you fire up the derby event or try your hand at one of the two races, a gravel and dirt packed circuit or a tarmac covered race track. With much more yet to come including; permanent vehicle damage requiring repairs, research of some unforetold nature to further advance your vehicles, and more cars lie somewhere beyond the horizon in the develop of Next Car Game. I for one, eagerly await what is yet to come.