Demolition derby games are few and far between these days. There are plenty of games that have excellent collision physics such as EA's Burnout series, Codemasters' DiRT and GRID series, and a few others. There has been a lack of focus on the demolition derby-style of racing since the days of the Nintendo 64 and the original PlayStation. Codemasters introduced DiRT Showdown in 2012, but while it was fairly well-received, it still felt like a DiRT title. Now the developer behind the Flatout series, Bugbear Entertainment, is working on a game focused at the demolition derby-style with hard and ridiculous hits that is entertaining and realistic. The game does not have a name yet, but the project simply named Next Car Game, is currently in pre-alpha stages. We have our hands on this playable version, and want to share with you the details of this game and how it plays.
In what feels like it could be a modern day update to Psygnosis' Destruction Derby from the PlayStation days, the Next Car Game offers sensational hits, racing, and overall physics. Parts will fly everywhere, doors will come open, cars will flip, and there is even interactive parts on the racetracks such as tires, signs, and fences. The pre-alpha offers two cars, an American muscle car that resembles a 1970's Camaro, or a European coupe that resembles a Mini Cooper (and is extremely loud as there is a giant muffler sticking out from under the trunk). Different parts can be added to the cars as well. There are two races and one "death bowl" to participate in, with either 2, 12, or 24 opponents. Players can also practice in either to hone their skills and controlling the cars.
The "death bowl" involves every car flooring it into the middle of the ring. The area is rectangular, and offers two giant banks that allow cars to go up and get airborne. Players are awarded takedowns and attempt to stay in the match the longest. These matches only seem to last a couple minutes, as the A.I. is extremely aggressive and not very strategic. It would be nice to see a points system incorporated in the future, much like the original Destruction Derby had, but not necessarily for rewarding 360 or 180 degree hits. The pre-alpha does support controllers, and while using a Xbox 360 Controller, players will accelerate and brake with the triggers. Since reverse plays a very important role in demolition derby, the right stick can be used to easily rotate the camera on the fly. This can help with locating cars on the track when the competition starts to fall off. So far, the "death bowl" is fun and satisfying, but hopefully some more options and detail can be added to the race setup.
The two races available offer both dirt and tarmac surfaces. The physics respond accordingly to each type of surface, as the cars slide around and lose traction on the dirt and grip (somewhat poorly as they should) on the tarmac, depending on the car. The races are normal, and there is no points awarded for collisions or anything like that. The A.I. is sufficient, as this journalist has yet to win a race, but car upgrades will make a difference on this. What is cool is the dynamic environments as signs and fences can be broken through, along with tire stacks being knocked over and thrown across the track. It's even possible to straight up cut the track on the dirt surface. It's pretty awesome to see the A.I. go flying off the track rather than hitting an invisible wall. Both cars have different characteristics. The European car is quicker, more nimble, and LOUD. The American muscle car takes a beating and handles like a rock, which is appropriate. Car upgrades are possible, such as tires and engine upgrades as it is nothing really detailed to this point. Players can set upgrades in the main menu to mess around with and see the differences. It should be expected that these upgrades will need to be purchased or unlocked once the final version of the game hits.
The Next Car Game is fun for anyone, even people who don't care about racing games. It's fun smashing into other cars, as well as seeing it elsewhere in the match/race. The new ROMU engine that Bugbear is developing is fluid, smooth, and detailed. The game runs smoothly on an above average PC (AMD APU Quad Core 2.6Ghz, AMD Radeon 6870, 12 GB Ram), but the frame rate can get clunky at times. However, this is still a work in development and this should be ironed out over time. Players who pre-order will have access to this beta, along with the Technology Demo 2.0 (you can read about this here). Players can also communicate directly with the developers, via Steam, to provide feedback on the game. There is a special promotion going on Steam until January 29th where players can purchase the game and early access for $24.99 ($34.99 for Digital Deluxe).
A code was provided by Bugbear Entertainment for Steam