Project Gotham 4, Forza Motorsport, SEGA Rally... 2007 was an excellent year for racing games, but how's 2008 looking? Arguably the line-up isn't quite as stellar. A mixed bag, you could say. But the key word is mixed, for there are some diamonds in amongst the dog eggs.
Like Mario Kart Wii, for example. The new Race Driver game and WipEout HD. Plus we'll get a taster of Gran Turismo 5 when Prologue is released, and perhaps Burnout Paradise will give the series a new lease of life and not be rubbish at all. Let's take a closer look...
The latest instalment in the Burnout series may not be out until 25th January, but Criterion's Alex Ward has already been on the defensive (and in fact the offensive). He took to the Internet to assure us Paradise is "way, way better" than Burnouts 2 and 3, and nothing like Test Drive Unlimited honest.
It's certainly taking the series in a new direction. There's a free-roaming environment to explore and a new focus on online multiplayer, for starters. Plus you can say goodbye to silly old menus. Functional they may be, but so Y2K7.
So will Criterion's bold decisions win the series legions of new fans or simply serve to piss off the old ones? Why not judge for yourself by having a go at the demo, now available on Xbox Live and PSN. You can also read what Tom and Quintin reckon via the Burnout Paradise gamepage.
Feel the burn: Tom reckons the new Burnout sounds good. Ellie reckons it sounds rubbish. Whoever is right will get to imprint their initial in the other one's forearm with a staple gun.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue
There's still no official word on when GT5 will arrive over here. If it does appear in Japan this summer, as suggested by Kazunori Yamauchi, we'll probably have to wait until 2009 for them to Europeanise it.
In the meantime there's Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, a demo featuring 50 cars and five tracks and 1080 Ps. It's looking "a lot more traditional" than previous mini-release HD Concept, according to Tom. He reckons "it is the online racing element, with support for 16 players, that is likely to have the greatest impact on its value", like some kind of videogame John Maynard Keynes.
But why listen to Tom, eh? Because as you've noticed this morning Rob Fahey has got the finished game, and says "it's clear that Polyphony's next opus is going to be, yet again, a stunning showcase for Sony's hardware, and a bloody good racing game to boot". OMG BIAS.
Prologue will also give you access to the new Gran Turismo TV channel. As reported previously, it'll feature up to 40 episodes of Top Gear - the show described by Adam and Joe as "Blue Peter for retarded men". At least the presenters are intelligent.
Prologue is due to arrive on PSN Europe this spring.
Piracy is killing game demos: Eurogamer does not recommend going on PSN Japan and creating a mock account to download Prologue right now.
Mario Kart Wii
It's got motorbikes! Yes, the first Wii instalment in the Mario Kart series will feature two-wheeled vehicles and you'll be able to do stunts and everything. Nintendo is promising 16 new tracks, plus some revamped old favourites. Here's hoping that includes Rainbow Road, it's so pretty and drugs are terrifically expensive these days.
Along with the traditional shells, lightning bolts and banana skins there will be new weapons to try out. The game will be available bundled with the Wii Wheel, and there's been talk of an online mode. Also it's got motorbikes.
Nintendo has yet to "lock down" a firm release date, but last we heard Mario Kart Wii will be out in Q2 of this year.
Rumour mill: According to one of Eurogamer's top-level secret sources, Toad's kart will be quite fast while Donkey Kong's will be slower.
Midnight Club: Los Angeles
In development at Rockstar San Diego, Midnight Club: LA is due to arrive on PS3 and Xbox 360 early this year. And that's about all that's been said about the game since it was announced back in May.
However, Rockstar bossman Sam Houser did declare it will "redefine the idea of a completely immersive racing game experience, both offline and online", which sounds super.
And according to series producer Jay Panek, it will "stay true to the hardcore gaming experience" whilst still being "accessible to casual gamers and car enthusiasts". Rockstar has yet to comment on rumours the game will be set in Los Angeles.
Drive time: Whilst standing outside a club in LA at midnight, a Eurogamer staff member once saw a woman get punched in the face by a drunk man who had demanded the bouncers help him lift a mini-fridge into his truck. This scenario is unlikely to feature in Midnight Club: Los Angeles, although it is a Rockstar game.
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