Milestone's Superstars V8 Racing hit consoles and the PC in June 2009. And just eight months down the line, the developer is just about ready to unleash the second entry in the series. Named Superstars V8 Next Challenge, the game uses the latest version of Milestone's in-house X Engine technology. It also incorporates AI refinements, smoother handling, and new multiplayer features. We got to check all these out and more when we went to meet the developer behind the game.
As with Milestone's other upcoming racing game, SBK X, Superstars V8 Next Challenge uses the developer's in-house X Engine technology. The X Engine allows for increased polygon count on the vehicles, faster loading times, better lighting, and more detailed environments. And, generally, it brings the visuals up to what we expect from contemporary racers.
Rather than aiming to be a sim like Forza or an arcade game like Need for Speed, Superstars V8 Next Challenge aims to offer both experiences to cover off all markets. The default difficulty level is arcade, allowing most players to just jump in and drive--even bounce off opponents without too much of a concern. But by tweaking the settings, you can easily take it up to a proper simulation experience, activating in-car view, deactivating such aids as ABS, and switching over to manual shifting.
The X Engine has also helped Milestone incorporate what it calls a 3D damage system, with the results of a crash applied to individual components, such as steering and brakes. As part of the customisable difficulty options, you can also implement tyre wear and force penalties for crashes.
The opponent AI particularly impresses, with the pack swarming together around the first corner and then picking its own agenda thereafter. "We worked a lot on AI--it was too aggressive," said producer Irvin Zonca. "This year, they will be easier on the driver; they'll be more aware of you." To get help with developing the AI, Milestone enlisted the help of real V8 racers and teams. They were particularly helpful in nailing the handling model, according to Zonca. Correcting both under- and over-steer also produced a smoother driving experience overall.
Of course, there will be a substantial group of players whose first priority will be taking the game online. Thankfully, Milestone has also worked on improving the multiplayer from the first game. The headline improvement is the jump to 16 players, up over 12 in the original game. According to Zonca, a new peer-to-peer connection system has allowed this growth while simultaneously improving connection speed.
One of the most attractive selling points in Superstars is that it features new tracks never before seen in a racing game. Unsurprisingly, given Milestone's Italian heritage, two are based in its home country, with Varano and Magione featured. As you progress, you'll be able to play 14 tracks in total, including the famous Monza, although this is one of the few that has to be unlocked. Real GPS data was put through 3D Studio Max to build each track, which should ensure that every corner is as accurate as possible.
We also spoke to Zonca about the PC version of the game, which he promises will be the definitive version. While the console versions are limited to 30 frames per second, the PC offers a resolution boost and a frame rate that's only dependent on your hardware. The textures are also uncompressed on the PC, and on the audio side, there's a better 5.1 audio mix.
We don't have long to wait until Superstars V8 Next Challenge is released, as it hits stores at the end of February. Be sure to check out the latest trailer for the game to find out more and check back in just over a month's time for the full review.