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Whatever happened to normal cars?

From its November 2005 release, Need For Speed: Most Wanted spent a total of 10 weeks at the top of the charts. Displaced twice during its long reign - once by King Kong and then by the long-anticipated Dead or Alive 4 - the street racer then shot straight back to the top after each interuption. A year before, the previous Need For Speed also spent 10 weeks at number one.

Yet NFS is arguably not the best racer by a long way - especially on consoles, where it's up against the superb Burnout series, Xbox's Forza Motorsport and Rockstar's Midnight Club. And of course, Gran Turismo's driving model blows it into the weeds. NFS's appeal obviously lies elsewhere. And that elsewhere encompasses customisation, thrill and rebellion.

As brilliant as the Gran Turismo games undoubtedly are, can offering players a bog standard Nissan Micra appeal any more? That is, when other games let you fit nitrous and stupidly big wheels, lower the suspension, change the paint, tint the glass and sticker it up?

And it hardly hurts that these new racers then let you loose on hilly, windy streets with unsuspecting traffic rather than the gravel-trap smothered 'installations' that F1 has ruined.

In the seasons immediately after the first Gran Turismo of 1997 - and as recently as 2005, with the drab clone Enthusia Professional Racing - other racers rushed to copy its no-nonsense, authentic style. But little has changed in GT's world since then. Has the public had its fill of worthy realism and given its heart to escapist, over-the-top excitement instead?

Burnout Revenge 360 seems to think so. This update of last year's fourth instalment significantly ups the chaos quotient with spectacular looks and birth-of-a-universe explosions that could well deflect attention from the fairly po-faced Project Gotham Racing 3 - a series whose DNA was created firmly within the early post-GT years.



Most Wanted has topped 10 weeks at number one in the charts, equalling that of its predecessor NFS Underground 2

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