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Superstars V8 Racing – hands-on with the upcoming US PSN release

Superstars V8 Racing has actually been out in the UK for a while now, but soon US gearheads will get a chance to try out its unique brand of not-quite-supercar racing. As the title suggests, the cars in Superstars are all of the V8 class, so its stable is more representative of realistically attainable dream cars – Beamers and Mercedes, as opposed to Ferraris and Lambos.

Superstars won’t be trying to compete with Gran Turismo 5, Forza III, or GRID – instead it’s going to be a PSN exclusive and will only cost $19.99. Still, this isn’t some typical downloadable game – we’re talking what was a full retail game in Europe squeezed onto PSN at a very wallet-friendly price. So how exactly is it a full-size game? Try ten tracks, all unlocked from the start, and all based on real tracks across Europe. It supports 12-player online races, and a bunch of other features to extend its bang-for-buck value.

There are quick races, which allow for customization of laps, weather, starting position, and a bunch of other parameters; a training mode where you can race against a ghost and explore the tracks at your own pace; Race Weekend, where you take on the realistic qualifying runs before a race, allowing you to tune your car to perfection before taking on competitors, a Championship mode composed of an entire season; the Superstars Licenses mode, which pits you against particular challenges within a race, demanding perfection in increasingly difficult designed situations; and of course the online racing. The game also attempts to straddle that difficult area of both sim and arcade – it has both modes, allowing the hardcore to have their realistic physics and the more casual to not have to worry about the intricacies of keeping a real car from sliding off the track.

Above: We slid off the track several times anyway. Hey, it was our first time!

For those in the know about the real-life Superstars racing circuit, the game will be including a host of official teams and drivers all unlocked from the start, but to keep it like the real world, drivers are attached to the actual cars they drive and won’t drive anything else. In the customization area, tons of decals can be applied to your car to give it the look you want, with all sponsorships based on what’s seen on the real cars.

The multiplayer aims to be seriously competitive with online leaderboards and the ability to reserve starting positions for your buddies and even limit race parameters to things like manual-transmission only or restrict views to just inside the car. If you want to tweak your car until it suits you perfectly, you canalter the suspension, compression and extension dampening, transmission, brakes, tires, spoilers, and even engine mapping. Of course, if you’re too lazy to tinker with all these settings, you can go with pro recommendations with presets.

Our hands-on time with the game was brief, but from what we saw this looks like no cheapo budget title. The car models are detailed, the handling is tight but not unrealistically responsive, and the weather effects are nifty. The big question will be whether online holds up – will it perform properly, and will the niche audience provide enough players to keep competition lively? Superstars V8 Racing is set to hit PSN on October 26.

Oct 8, 2010

My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.