Five seconds can be a long time in a racing game, but there can't be many titles out there that cram more into that space than Ridge Racer: Unbounded does.
First you think, "Wait, this doesn't feel like Ridge Racer." Then you wonder, "What? It's a sequel to Split/Second?" Finally, you realise that it's neither.
The latest instalment in Namco's classic series seems to be an even three-way collision between Black Rock Studio's explosive excess, Burnout's blood-thirsty paint-trading and the knockabout madness epitomised by the new developer Bugbear's own FlatOut series.
The Finnish studio has a reputation for making excellent driving games that blend chaos and humour with a canny precision. It wouldn't be too surprising to discover that the team has made another here. But first off, what happened to Ridge Racer?
The answer is it's still there, in fleeting glimpses. It's invoked in the sodium gloom of an urban tunnel before your car ploughs into a pillar and the all-new procedural insanity takes over.
It's there in the drift mechanic. Although this element has gone through unspecified changes, it still helps power-up some of the game's best moments.
And it's there, apparently, in specific tracks that Bugbear hints will reference classic Ridge Racer routes. It's all about capturing "a certain Ridge Racer feeling", as producer Joonas Laakso puts it, before struggling to explain exactly what that feeling is.
Know what you mean, Joonas. There's something fleeting and special about Ridge Racer, something that can't be summed up by its long drifts or wide turns or those shimmering blurs of neon and tail-light tracers.
Laakso eventually settles on the word "spiritual" but he could just as easily have said, "enjoyably tranquilised". Despite the weight and the speed and the handling, a few of Ridge Racer's greatest moments can leave you feeling like you've taken a dreamy spin on a tea-cup ride while exploring your body's upper limits for Co-codamol abuse.
Ultimately, Laakso admits, it will be easier for some players to just ignore the Ridge Racer part of the title. That leaves Unbounded – an odd and oddly appropriate name for what the team's come up with.
The Unbounded in question (I could write "the titular Unbounded" and almost certainly score a Googlewhack) are groups of street racers who battle it out across the highways of Shatter Bay aiming, apparently, to find out "who is the biggest badass". (I hope there isn't a trophy.)
The fight for pole position is a fairly explosive one. Bugbear was thinking about physics in driving games long before quite a lot of developers were thinking about physics in action games and Unbounded is the team's most dynamic title yet: concrete turns to powder, cars crumple in millions of unique ways following millions of unique impacts and – oh yes – you can drive through the wall of a building before popping jauntily out into the air on the other side.
The central system that powers it all sees you charging up your Destruction ability by drifting (there it is!), chasing, and grabbing air time. The game then shows you various points of interest tagged around the streets of Shatter Bay, and if you have enough juice you can interact with them – in other words, you can plough straight into a skyscraper and emerge unharmed.
Some are short cuts, some are drafts, and when you've found and unlocked them all you can still have a lot of fun nudging rivals off bridges, or seeing what happens when you drive through lamp-posts.
It's easy to read this as a Split/Second rip-off but the approach is more distinct than it seems. Black Rock's game had you fundamentally reshaping the track in massive pre-recorded cinematic explosions: the game planted the charges and you just decided when to set them off.
Bugbear's opting for a little less apocalypse – you'll be punching new routes through the landscape and knocking cars out of the race, rather than igniting entire city blocks – and is also building on the studio's knack for procedural damage. The result is a more authentically chaotic approach which should render each collision a one-off.
"We are really good at smashing things up," says Laakso, when asked if Shutter Bay will lose its appeal after you've found the main points of destructive interest.
"The environments we've built have been built to be broken down. The competition has pre-set destruction, everything we have is dynamic: they do set-pieces, we do simulation and see what happens."
Shatter Bay is the last major piece of the puzzle for now: a stylish blend of New York and Chicago that has you competing first to win races and then to dominate each course by blowing through all of its secret routes.There's plenty of room to explore and the whole place seems slick and fit for purpose.
"Ridge City was built for clinical driving and insane drifts," says Laakso. "Shutter Bay is about carnage and risk-taking."
After that there's multiplayer, presumably. Heavy, if enigmatic, hints towards the end of the latest demo suggest that there will be some way of pitting your version of the city against other players' creations. Visual leader board? Autolog equivalent? We may find out at E3.
Reading between the lines, it's tempting to suggest that Namco's moving towards a state where there are Ridge Racers rather than one single Ridge Racer, with the publisher possibly repositioning the brand as a kind of catch-all for driving games.
This technique worked for EA but it's slightly trickier here. Because while the Need for Speeds rewrote some of the rules each year, Ridge Racer almost always meant something specific.
Bugbear is certainly aware it's in for a battle, at least: the latest trailer breathlessly announces that "this is going to hurt", and in comments threads around the world fans are already trying to inflict wounds.
Are they right to? Possibly, but it's worth holding off with those petitions, for the moment at least. Ridge Racer or not, Unbounded's interesting enough – and promising enough – to warrant a closer look.