Can you feel it? That low rumbling sound that's vibrating through your lounge room and echoing into your very bones? That's V8 grunt, baby, and its glorious voice has never shouted louder, harder or more realistically than it does in the latest instalment of Codemasters' V8 Supercars series. If motorsport is your thing, then make no mistake: V8 Supercars 3 is your game.
It has finer controls and greater variation than any other title in the genre. In fact, its whopping new roster of gameplay options hits like a large blunt object to the head. Gamers now have access to 35 different vehicles and 80 real-world tracks, with the series' impressive garage added in for cool (Euro Karting Championship), fun (Off-road Buggy Nationals) and completely left-field (4x4 Monster Trucks) ways. Testing out the new disciplines is great fun, but Codemasters may have overstretched itself slightly, as the variations in vehicle physics between some categories is minute, to say the least.
Still, variety is the spice of life and, like the previous game, the World Tour is your main destination: an exhaustive story-based mode that channels you through all the major championships (over 120, including the full 2005 V8 and HPDC V8 series), courses and disciplines. The cut-scenes in this mode look sensational, but the story is nowhere near as engaging as the last outing, which is a big disappointment.
The only other non-generic racing option is the new Pro Career Mode. It asks you to win whole championships across every single discipline, a seriously long-term objective. Plus, it throws rudimentary tuning and car upgrading into the mix, which should appease vehicular fanatics.
Get out of the menus and onto the track and the majority of racing fans will not be disappointed. Unlike simulations like Gran Turismo, this is pick-up-and-play gaming. But Codemasters is skilled enough to deliver a depth that will find veteran players continuing to shave seconds off their lap times months down the track. This is thanks to the game's physics, which handle body-roll, tyre grip and acceleration impressively.
Although it keeps one foot very much in arcade territory, V8SC3 does have sim-like aspirations, and new to the series are the in-race effects like tyre wear, tyre temperature and engine overheating. The graphics are also improved, with better trackside detail, and accurately-mapped copies of the real-world circuits like Bathurst feeling altogether more convincing than before. An online mode and local fan base ensures that there will always be low-ping human opponents available when you need a new challenge.
There are features that we'd still like to see - namely instant replay, more multiplayer combatants and a more sim-like driver experience when the driver aids are removed - but that just leaves something to look forward to next time.
Click here to view a screenshot.
Verdict: While the many additions and enhancements make this a no-brainer for V8 fans, the game is not quite all that it could be. However, the subtle craftsmanship takes it way beyond its predecessor, and bodes well for future versions.
Score: 4 out of 5
URL: http://au.codemasters.com Price: $89.95