Fast Find

View All News

Dreams of the Future

Friday, May 12, 2006, 11:40AM EST

The show floor is always haunted by visions of things to come, and this year is no exception. Many speculate that Gran Turismo 4 Mobile will make an appearance. Supposedly a perfect port of the PS2’s premiere title, we’ve been waiting for GT4M since launch.

Another phantom menace is 1XR, the first title from Vancouver’s Infinite Games. It’s invariably (and vaguely) described as a "futuristic racer combining fast-paced combat with an innovative--and as-of-yet undisclosed--killer feature," which makes us think it’ll be the 360’s Wipeout Pure. And considering it’s powered by the same engine that gives Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion its photorealistic forests, we’re banking on some tenacious terrain.

Speaking of the team responsible for Wipeout Pure, SCE Studios Liverpool, it’s also behind the wheel of Formula One PS3, which sports some seriously freakalicious F1 thrills. The game looked insanely sexy in video presentations last year, leaving throngs of viewers drooling for hands-on action.

But perhaps the most anticipated PS3 title is Vision GT, aka Gran Turismo 5. This thing is polygon-a-palooza. A download rivaling only Paris Hilton in popularity, the game’s trailer treated GT devotees to visions of hyper-realistic cars cruising up twisty mountain roads with helicopter-like camera angles. Seaside street scenes in a Mediterranean village reminiscent of Ronin and breathtaking vistas of a canyon chase flaunt the console’s cell processing power. With views like these, promises of complex crashes and detailed damage modeling are simply gravy.

Ever since we saw Fonzie foil the dreaded Malachi Crunch on "Happy Days," deliberate destruction is a draw any time a gamer gets behind a (simulated) wheel. Delivering the rock-em, sock-em thrills this year is FlatOut 2, which brings the esprit du corps of ejector seats and high-speed windshield penetration to the safety of your Xbox 360. A reworked single-player mode dispenses with the ciphers that populated previous installments and adds arcade-like drivers with peculiar personalities, more recognizable tracks, and doubles the number of vehicles to 34, including derby junkers, racers, and multiwheeled unlockable craziness such as giant buses. Meanwhile, Ragdoll Olympic events encourage you to use your driver like a ball while competing in vehicle-based versions of bowling, basketball, baseball, and soccer, as well as stone skipping and the high jump. Enjoy your skin grafts, there, Skippy.

Bringing a truer sim-style experience to the PSP is Race Driver 2006. A tricked-out version of TOCA Race Driver 2 (already out in Europe), the game provides a more realistic racing vibe than previous PSP titles, allowing players to drive cars like an Aston-Martin DB7 without sacrificing too much feel to the arcade gods. The real deal here is the multiplayer support, as the game supports up to 12 drivers with both ad hoc and infrastructure, which we’re sure makes for a more interesting visual in reality than it does onscreen.

While the familiar mantras of more accurately modeled rides and mods, exotic locales rendered in painstaking detail, and realistic physics provide the visual bling that seduces many a gamer, the real draw for us is a game that adds something new to the now familiar matrix of racers. Enter Atari’s Test Drive: Unlimited.

If you’re tired of MMOs that have you prancing around in tights or beating the bejeebers out of bugbears, this is the game for you. Instead of dealing with level grind, you’ll be grinding gears. Say goodbye to crafting clothes out of garbage and say hello to shopping for your duds at licensed boutiques like Ben Sherman. Test Drive: Unlimited is a high-octane MMO that places thousands of players onto the Hawaiian island of Oahu, turning 1,000  miles of highway (and the stuff in between) into a giant, glittering sandbox. It works much the same way as PVP does in other games. Flash your lights at an oncoming car and challenge that player to a race. Those seeking a community can join (or start) a club and design tournaments and custom races, which give you the opportunity to collect entrance fees and set a purse.

Of course, your winnings can go to very good use in a car-friendly environment like Oahu. There are 125 high-end automobiles and motorcycles available, with replicas of the actual upgrade packages available from dealers. This verisimilitude extends to the cars’ interiors (multiple viewpoints are available, natch), horn and engine sounds, and even the island itself, with satellite-mapped geography and roads, fully navigable via zooming map and pleasant-talking GPS.

Your own avatar is customizable as well, and you’ll be able to buy pads of increasing luxury (and garage space) to house your collection of classics (and clothes). An online marketplace allows you to buy, sell, and trade if you’re saving up for something special, as you most certainly will be, since some of the vehicles will be available only in limited numbers. But don’t worry about some joker keying your million-dollar Ferrari--you can smash into just about anything or anyone else on the island and your car won’t see so much as a dent. It’s a nice pre-emptive measure against surly suckers you may have dusted in previous bouts.

View All News

Email a Friend