About seven years ago, I picked up Bugbear Entertainment's Flatout 2 on a whim after eying it for a few months at my local game store. It promised racing (my favorite!) but also action (not my favorite, particularly in conjunction with racing.) It also featured exactly zero seatbelts and furthermore, promised to deliver a detailed simulation of the kind of high speed driver egress that sometimes happens during a seatbeltless car accident.
Yes, I fell for the gimmick. But it wasn't the gimmick that kept me interested. Not long after booting the game up, I discovered that lo and behold, Flatout 2 wasn't half bad. And in fact, it was good in all the ways I expected it to be bad. It didn't have silly Mario Kart rubber banding. It did have a decent physics model, which simulated weight transfer as well as a loss of grip at either the front or the back of the car. Flatout 2 was something different then, a simulation racer masquerading as an action racer. It was unique, and right up my alley.
Years passed, and I forgot about my little diversion with Flatout 2, the memories painted over with hours and hours of Gran Turismo, Forza and other more serious racing sims. Until I started hearing about a Steam Greenlight title being developed by Bugbear Entertainment called Next Car Game. After researching a bit, I initially dismissed Next Car Game due to its similarities with other soft body physics simulations such as BeamNG, which I concluded "gave better wreck."
But Steam being what it is, Next Car Game went on sale and the temptation was just too much for me.
Within minutes of booting up the game, I was immediately taken back to my memories of Flatout 2. Not only was Next Car Game shaping up well, it was shaping up well in all those wonderful ways that made Flatout 2 good.
Once again there is a shockingly realistic car handling model that underpins everything. While the game's driving physics don't quite match ultra fine level of detail of something like Assetto Corsa, they are much more realistic than something like Grid 2. Put bluntly, Next Car Game is a more realistic driving simulator than about 90 percent of the racing games on the market.
The beauty of Next Car Game (and Flatout 2 by extension) is that they're action racing games where the "action" part of the equation is fulfilled simply by virtue of subject matter. Hyper-realistic simulations are often slammed for being boring. That may be true when it comes to simulating train operation, or farming. It's somewhat less true when the simulation is of 20 rusting beaters fighting across jumps and silly amounts of debris to be the first across a finish line. It's what the game chooses to simulate that makes it a laugh.
That said, Next Car Game does make a few concessions in the name of gaming rather than simulating. There is a nice stability control/traction control/ABS system that allows drivers to turn electronic aids partially, or all the way off. The game is brutally difficult with all aids off when using a controller, but is less so when using a wheel. As expected, none of the vehicles are licensed in Next Car Game. Integral to the game, is the idea that players are driving half broken down pieces of junk. It's unlikely any manufacturer would want their car thought of in such a way, however Bugbear Entertainment still managed to sneak in a few suspiciously realistic engine options for a few of the cars.
Now before everyone runs off and buys Next Car Game, there are some pretty significant issues that need to be addressed, the first of which is that currently, Next Car Game has nothing close to the amount of content that a $30 title deserves. It's also a work in progress, and they're clearly still tweaking things. But if you've long been a fan of racing sims, but wanted something a bit sillier, or you simply like crashing things, I highly suggest supporting Bugbear Entertainment in their bid to make Next Car Game as great as it can be.