But then realised I couldn't embed it :/ so I thought I would list my impressions here and if you're interested you can see my brief hands on video here
2009 is fast becoming one of the greatest ever years for racing fans but surely it's now an unenviable time for publishers and developers as development costs rise and rivals eat up potential market share, and in particular on the PS3 we have the looming cloud of Gran Turismo 5 hovering over the horizon, the racing landscape is about to change significantly. It's also tough for the smaller developers, last year System 3 released Ferrari Challenge as a exclusive for the Playstation 3 console. With little or no direct competition the title fared well, receiving critical acclaim, it was a solid well constructed racer and supported with regular DLC. This year the plan is to recapture that success with Supercar Challenge, similar in structure to FC but adding a wide range of new motor manufacturers.
VVV Gamer has had a lengthy hands-on an almost final build, again with a polished and classy front end backed up with the usual rousing soundtrack taking you into the initial menu options. Moving swiftly into the racing and of course handling is always key, in many respects it's a similar feel to Ferrari Challenge but with fine tuning, again we'll be looking at this in more detail but FC did a decent job at conveying weight and we'll expect this to do the same. For those of you new to the genre, this feel is critical in the way the car reacts under braking giving the handling more depth and enabling expert players to find new limits within any given cars performance.
Enter the System 3 games room and you're faced with a pretty impressive set-up, 60" TV, playseat and G25 steering wheel (see videos below), it gave a great opportunity to test the real racing pedigree of this new contender, alas the gearstick wasn't attached on this occasion and with limited time to alter button configurations I opted for automatic gears. Kicking off with the Time Trial Mode, jumping into a Zonda and hitting the F1 Nurburgring Circuit it was initially an uphill challenge, the Zonda suffering massive understeer when any power is applied, combined with rubbish brakes and terrible oversteer at slow speeds. Very much a tip toeing experience but switching the wheel to a higher sensitivity yielded greater results and improved lap times, though this was still a mighty and somewhat frustrating challenge.
Following a few installation laps I hit the arcade mode and swapped to an Aston Martin DBR9, with ABS, TRC, and STC on, the first track being Monza, turn 1 resulting in the usual 1 mph carnage but swiftly sorting it out as we got up to speed. However the difference in handling was profound, better grip, more control and more fun to drive. The wheel combined with a decent car suddenly brought Supercar Challenge to life, through the chicane then the long right-hander before the second chicane, this being an area that many FC owners will be aware that a great line here with aggressive exit can get you through at a mighty speed, again you'll see more that in the video I managed to smuggle out below. Towards the end of the lap the biggest challenge and weakness at this stage was keeping the DBR9 straight at high speed, the car beginning to feel light and twitchy creating an imbalance. This makes some bumpy or off camber braking zones very difficult to master in a short time, though the general rule will usually keep you on the road "slow in, fast out", keeping the car as straight and balanced as possible under braking, while barring in mind that as a stock set-up there could be greater performance with some tuning.
Further testing revealing the 599XX as being the car of choice on this occasion, great power, controlled power-slides and more stable down the straights and fantastic in Simulation mode. Choosing the right car will clearly be critical to your enjoyment out of the gaming experience.
As for the graphical approach, there have been a range of alterations, though its debatable at this stage whether they will be better or different? They certainly are solid but some course representations still appear to lack vital undulation and gradient changes. Car models are again decent representations but lack some of the polished shine of potential rivals notably lacking in metallic and alloys, however notable effects such as smoke, dust and rain have real impact and I look forward to testing more in our final review. The sound too was very impressive, accurate and individual engine sounds with a range of gear changing effects, this is supported by detailed ambient sound including both crowd and trackside commentator effects.
A possible jewel in the crown is the inclusion of 16 player online racing, the first racing title this console generation to be so ambitious and a daring step that step should be applauded, but will it work? Over the last 6 months System 3 have been running a beta test for the title and so far so good, of course we'll have to wait for the finished game to see how this stands up to the pressures of mass demand. Not too much more to add till we play the title again but expect a detailed review of the final release, handling analysis besides interviews with key figures involved in the project, in the meantime the official System 3 press release is added below featuring many of the keys aspects you can expect to find, Supercar Challenge is released in the UK on the 4th September.