Ken Block is renowned worldwide for his Gymkhana viral video series, in which he displays an almost superhuman ability to drive very fast rally cars beyond their limits.
He since went on to become the face of Codemasters' DiRT series, which further popularised the Gymkhana sport as it made its game debut in DiRT 3. Precision driving was key, but oh was it satisfying when you managed to chain together a string of donuts and drifts. You felt like a driving God.
It wasn't to everyone's taste, however – many players felt this made DiRT too Americanised and demanded a return to the series' rally roots in the next DiRT iteration. And that could be precisely what they'll be getting.
A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Ken Block has left Codemasters and joined EA as a "Racing Advisor" for Need for Speed. It's a smart marketing move: not only does Need for Speed, it's the perfect outlet to promote Ken's new Gymkhana 6 video, now showing on the official Need for Speed YouTue channel.
Set in an elaborate automotive obstacle course, it's another dazzling display of speed, smoke and awe-inspiring car control, stylishly shot (I particularly like the game-esque external behind-the-car shots) with just the right amount of slow motion effects as Ken speeds under shipping containers and even does donuts around a wrecking ball in a 650bhp Fiesta. As is tradition, some brave people seemingly oblivious to the action risk life and limb on Segways and there's even a cameo appearance from Ben Collins, a.k.a. Top Gear's former Stig. Not that he's allowed to steal Ken's spotlight, though – this has to be the slowest Stiggy has ever driven, crawling along in a NFS-branded Lamborghini in a nod-so-subtle nod to the Need for Speed: Rivals.
Compared to the last few Gymkhana sessions, where Ken smoked up the streets of San Francisco in spectacular style in Gymkhana 5 and took us on a tour of Hollywood in Gymkhana 4, Gymkhana 6 is much less ambitious, lacking any new ideas and leaving you with a resounding feeling of "been there, done that, bought the game.". On the other hand, its simplicity feels like a throwback to Ken's early Gymkhana videos, going back to the roots without any distracting gimmicks. This time the focus is purely on the driving, and it's difficult to downplay Ken's skill behind the wheel.
Anyone want to guess the tyre bill after that?