There are a lot of racing games out there. If you think there are a lot of dishes piling up in your sink, or that you pay a lot of tax, that's nothing compared to the number of racing games on PS2. In the name of scientific enquiry, we decided to count them all and after many days toil, we can finally reveal that there are...no, wait...sorry we've lost the bit of paper with the answer on. A lot, then.
We took an early look and these are early impressions but what we've seen and what we've played so far is a genuine step up for the series in every important way. In terms of raw numbers, there will be 45 tracks, 100 circuits and over 80 cars in the finished game - a lot by anybody's standards.
The game has two handling models available, the Sim and Pro Sim modes and both do what they are supposed to more accurately and with more flair and a great deal more fun than ever before. We've always enjoyed the TOCA games handling but we were genuinely impressed with what they've done, with cars having even more sense of weight and power than ever. And the Pro Sim mode is now far closer to the behaviour of real performance cars, with 90% of their performance coming easily and the real test not coming until you push that last 10% of the way. It's a hugely attractive ride for powersliding lunatics and serious apex hunters alike.
While we could go on about the joy of the drive for months, it's not the only area to receive a belly full of lead from the Codemasters' improvement gun. The structure of the game has been given a good thinking over and the results seem sure to please pretty much everybody. For the Sunday drivers, there's a World Tour mode that lets you drive all the cars in the game, providing three completely different choices at each stage. So one minute you'll be driving an open wheeled race car, the next a rally car and then a Monster Truck. Now you'll also be able to move backwards through this portion of the game, so if you want to try more than one option at one level, you can. It should provide an excellent sampler for those who don't know exactly what they want.
For those who do know what they want, there's a new approach to the career mode, with a seven spoke wheel allowing you to pick your favourite type of racing and follow its path without having to mess about in vehicles you don't like. So if you want to blast round in touring cars and hate truck racing, you're sorted. This isn't a game you finish all of (although you can if you like) it's a game that lets you play the bits you want to play and only those bits.
So the handlings delicious and the structure's been refined, what else have we got to look forward to? Well, there are the new cars, all licensed from real racing cars made by real racing teams. Perhaps 'cars' is the wrong word - vehicles might be more accurate. See, you'll be driving more than just cars here. Much like the last game, the idea is to include all forms of four-wheeled motor sports, so you can expect to find yourself behind all manner of weird and wonderful vehicles. There are Monster Trucks, Lorries, and Lawnmowers to master for the more agriculturally minded, as well as a huge selection of vintage classics to screw into the ground.
With 21 other cars on the track, there's no doubt this is a racing game rather than a driving game, with a real focus on your ability to overtake and defend your position on the track, rather than simply driving round the track as fast as possible. It's the absolute antithesis of Gran Turismo's parchment dry group time trials. With full damage, incredible physics for both driving and crashing, and intelligent racers who will try and understand your intentions rather than just analyse your position on the track, you can be absolutely sure that this is going to give you the greatest race you've ever experienced.