This is a look at what is available right now on the early access version of the game. A full review with score will be coming once the game is released, but this is based on what is playable right now after you’ve paid around £19.99.
Next Car Game is from the makers of Flatout. Not that terrible Flatout 3, but the original and the second one – the criminally overlooked destruction-based arcade racers that pushed physics for raving games in a way that hadn’t been attempted before and hasn’t since up till now. You race around tracks or take part in destruction derbies and you crash a hell of a lot – that’s all there is to it. If you’re still reading, you’re exactly the sort of person Bugbear is catering for.
As an early-access game this is definitely one of the most alpha games we’ve seen. There’s two cars, two tracks and a destruction derby. You also get a nice little physics-demo playground but right now there’s very little to play. At around £18.99 for now it’s nowhere near worth that – you’re helping them to fund the rest of the development and supporting a company that have been consistently excellent – but don’t expect value for money for another few months at least.
Going through the bare bones menu systems you eventually get plonked on a track and told to press ‘enter’ to start. Sadly right now there’s no controller or steering wheel support – you’re using the arrow keys Trackmania style for this one. As soon as the countdown finishes you’re off alongside up to 23 other races who will immediately cause devastation to the track for the next quart mile or so. Cars fly up in the air, roll off the side, spin around and disintegrate in what is the most beautifully realised chaos we’ve ever seen in a racing title. Thanks to some excellent soft-body physics everything crumples in new and exciting ways, with bits of body panels bending and creasing before coming off entirely. It seems as though it’s all cosmetic right now, but as a proof of concept it definitely works.
The opponents’ AI has definitely been created with crashing in mind, rather than clean racing. Although there’s a definite challenge it feels like it comes more from the handling and sluggish controls rather than the enemy racers. Instead they do something very rare for the genre – they make mistakes. Nearly every corner you’ll see one or two misjudge it, occasionally causing a chain reaction and taking out the whole pack. The AI isn’t brain-dead though, in the destruction derby mode it’ll start reversing to protect the engine once it’s beaten up too much.
As a game, limited is the only real word for Next Car Game. It’s beautiful (thanks to the destruction, the visuals are still in early stages and look functional but uninspiring) and it’s hilarious, but there’s so little to play you need to be aware that your money is a pledge of support for the promise of a future game, not something you’ll be able to sink your teeth into right away.