Superstars V8 Next Challenge - Review - Team VVV

Reviews Superstars V8 Next Challenge – Review

Reviews

Alan Boiston

Founder & Website Editor

Posted on

Game: Superstars V8 Next Challenge

Platform: PC, PS3, PSN, XB360

Publisher: Black Bean Games, Deep Silver

Release Date: 26/02/2010

Racing is a competitive and often expensive market to enter, indeed you would think that all bases had been covered. But in reality, many games follow the same path, trying to break ground but in effect falling into a very similar trap. Misunderstanding their market and aiming for a casual gamer as their core rather than considering any benefits of the dedicated hardcore. It is for this reason that simple titles such as Touring Cars have been sadly neglected. However, there are developers who appreciate the options available to them and 2010 is the year that Black Bean intend to make their stake as a serious contender.

When you pick up a game like Superstars V8 you have to consider the size of the developer, and the pressures they may be under in developing something new. For these smaller developers, the racing fraternity can be somewhat supportive, overlooking many issues with the collective sight of the end goal. But as every iteration comes out, improvements are critical to retaining this dedicated support, budget restrictions are now no excuse for shoddy work. If you’re going to compete, you’ll need to raise your game, so I was keen to see what developments Black Bean had made on their ever-growing franchise.

Superstars V8 is a European racing series, focused on many Italian circuits, though following Giannia Morbedelli’s win of the 2008 title, the series appeared to fall into a limbo with no future dates planned. However with the series now back on course to restart at the end of March, gaining the license has given Black Bean the opportunity to involve Gianni in the game’s development and we’ll delve more into that at in an upcoming interview.

The Superstars V8 prequel was launched in August 2009, a time when many console fans were looking forward to Forza Motorsport 3 and Gran Turismo 5. The game was standard fare, unspectacular and more of a stop gap, so news that the sequel would be essentially a spruced up version of the original came as somewhat uninspiring. Following our preview, though improved it certainly didn’t dispel those initial fears.

Now we have our hands on the retail copy it’s time for a detailed look at the inner workings of this new racer. Starting up the game and its standard fare, a rawky rock intro before making our way to the menu screens. Going through the initial options, these include track conditions, number of laps and assists, with the now standard quick race, weekend and career options.

Of course, before all of that, players are urged to complete the Superstars driving tests in order to unlock all circuits. These vary in difficulty from simple corners to racing in rain and full race challenges. Some of the racing challenges are nicely implemented, “you are on lap 12 back in 12th place after a spin, make it to the front with 3 laps to go”, it’s always fun to have a large field to race against though I have to admit many of these do turn into bumper-car challenges.

Besides standard options, there are the online modes though at the time of writing I have been unable to test these and make any opinion on lag issues, suffice to say we will add additional notes later. Car selection is basic, with not a huge performance difference between the different models, but there are options to fine-tune your vehicle, though these are somewhat simple. Track selection is decent, featuring regular faves such as Monza and a personal favourite of mine Imola, which always made for great racing.

Following my previous outing it was time for a quick Time Trial, call it a shakedown if you will, to focus on steering enhancements. With the console versions of the game not having any steering sensitivity options, I was keen to see what the developers had done in improving this situation. Indeed improvement have been made, it is far more playable but by no means ideal. Using a steering wheel, I found the wheel had a dead zone of about 10 degrees but when the steering cut in, it came in at 5 degrees? So keeping straight was again almost impossible, this results in being unable to perfect the racing line and overall the steering just didn’t feel right.

Handling is curious, SV8NC is one of those games that doesn’t really know where it stands? On the one hand, it has simulation elements on the other it just doesn’t feel like a real driving experience. Braking late spins the car out, accelerating quickly spins the car out. But on both of these situations there is no feel of the limit, it’s like a pre-programmed slide. This results in an unsure driving style, I brake early into corners and accelerate very slowly on exit, if I carry good apex speed, I need to slow down on exit, it’s as if there’s a speed cap, over-run that and you’ll spin. So with this limited handling model combined with a curious steering response, it doesn’t come together, I always feel somewhat disconnected from the driving experience unable to really push.

Moving into the racing and it’s all good fun, I enjoy jostling with a big pack, the rival cars race well and race cleanly. Indeed the AI appears reasonably solid on the higher settings, certainly a decent step when you have this many cars running. Though on shorter races it can get a bit bumpy if you have to cut through the entire field in a short space of time.

Graphically the game has seen a range of subtle improvements since the earlier build, little refinements in lighting and tarmac textures. But overall it has a dated look, car models are nice though a note about the bonnet/hood reflections, not only poor, they run at about 4 frames per second, you can literally count the frames. When things this are this poor you have to consider if it’s worth putting real-time reflections in at all? Not only that, but the lack of the rearview mirrors is also a key loss. Milestone needs to raise their bar, both in environments and frame rate, SV8NC is stuck at 30fps and can often drop when there are more cars on screen. With environments looking dated in their execution, it’s all there but artistically it doesn’t compete, it doesn’t feel big enough, cars and tracks lack a feeling of size and scale.

Had the handling been better I feel the racing community would cut some slack but 2010 is a huge year for racing titles and if this franchise is to grow, we’ll need to see big improvements and greater ambition to the overall package. Black Bean have some decent licenses to build on, now they need to come good on developing games which live up to their potential. Superstars V8 Next Challenge is fun enough but it doesn’t take the genre further and doesn’t make it’s own niche, alas it’s likely to be an also run rather than a field winner with its appeal limited to hardcore racers looking for a new fix or casual racers who really can’t tell the difference.

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Article Rating

Our Review

6 /10

Summary

Had the handling been better I feel the racing community would cut some slack but 2010 is a huge year for racing titles and if this franchise is to grow, we’ll need to see big improvements and greater ambition to the overall package. Black Bean have some decent licenses to build on, now they need to come good on developing games which live up to their potential. Superstars V8 Next Challenge is fun enough but it doesn’t take the genre further and doesn’t make it’s own niche, alas it’s likely to be an also run rather than a field winner with its appeal limited to hardcore racers looking for a new fix or casual racers who really can’t tell the difference.

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