FlatOut is one the few games I have more or less completed and probably the only racing game. The nitpickers out there will probably want to know how I fared in the silly sideshow mingames that involved throwing a ragdoll test dummy out of the window and onto a dartboard and the like. And did I get first place in every race? Yeah, no I got to the final race and won. And then I had had my fill. Game completed. So there.
There is a reason for the completion. FlatOut was about pedal to the metal racing. You didn’t control some stupid playboy who played dressup with his cars in between races. You didn’t go back to your trailer in first person mode after the races and call your NPC friends up to talk about your achievements. You just pushed on with the next race. I think you earned some dough and had a garage menu in which to spend it but that was as much roleplay as there was. The racing was tense and physical, destruction derby style. And it was tactical. Did you go for light and nimble cars that could be pushed off the road by the big boys or did you go for big lumbering beasts that stayed the course. And regardless of that choice did you have the discipline not to smash into passing cars, knowing it would probably cost you your lead?
Next Car Game is the, well next car game by the creators of FlatOut who apparently had nothing to do with do with the FlatOut sequels which I’ve been told let down the FlatOut side. The alpha is out and I caved despite nothing but bad experiences with alphas. The short of it is: It’s FlatOut The Next Generation and it’s marvelous. It’s beautiful, it’s tough and oh so physical in that sense that FlatOut could only hint at. All the sights and the sounds of the game go toward creating the sense that all around you utter mayhem and destruction is taking place. Which it is since the environment is destructible and the cars even more so. Never before has the sound of concrete being smashed to pieces sounded so sweet – at least when the sound is coming from the car behind you crashing into it and not your own. And seeing as NCG lets up to 23 cars onto the track at one time there is a lot of metal-on-metal-on-concrete action. The result is, if you choose the smaller cars you’ll feel like you’re playing a prey simulator as much as a racing game.
There is really nothing new gameplay-wise about NCG (at least the alpha) when compared to FlatOut. But since new gameplay tricks in racing games inevitably seems to mean terrible RPG elements, I couldn’t be more pleased with the direction Bugbear Entertainment is headed with this one. After all, you wouldn’t ask Jesus for new tricks if he had just catered to a million people with a loaf and some fishes, even if it were a little samey-samey-only-more-so, would you?