The day after E3 2021 closes its virtual doors, many of the games showcased or revealed are now available to play for PC users thanks to the Steam Next Fest.
Now, there are many caveats here. Yes, there are hundreds of free demos to download and play, reminiscent of the days you would get a demo disc with a monthly gaming magazine, but it is worth noting that these are just any old ‘regular’ demo. Oh no.
You see, these are not slices of finished products, rather early sneak peaks of games approaching the end of the development, which is worth bearing in mind. So, while it’s fun to try games before they are available, just bear it in mind that many days, weeks and months still lie ahead to optimise performance, add more content and deliver a final finished product.
With all of that in mind, let’s jump into what the Traxion.GG community can play between the 16th and 22nd of June 2021 if you own a PC with the requisite specifications and a Steam account.
We’ve been hands-on with the next officially licensed rally game of the FIA World Rally Championship, playing through some of the new stages and now PC owners (reasonably beefy specs recommended). We were suitably impressed at this early stage, but there are clearly many items to work through and smooth over.
The demo that’s available via Steam Next Fest is identical to what we played for our recent hands-on, which you can watch embedded above so you know what to expect. Three stages, one in Estonia, one in Croatia and one in Spain, plus reverse layouts, all time and weather options and the top WRC class cars are present.
The full game releases on 2nd September 2021 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series and PC.
Here’s another racing game that we’ve been playing of late. RiMS Racing is unlike anything we’ve played in recent times, with a focus on the parts that make up a motorcycle. Really, the best way of explaining it is to not explain it at all and for you to play it.
So, I’m going to stop writing now and implore you to download the most intriguing racing game in quite some time.
Lawn Mowing Simulator
Right, hang on. No, this is not a kart-racer on Switch, an open-word car game on Xbox nor a hardcore super-serious subscription simulator on PC. But, because you sit on the lawn mowers, you are technically driving them.
That means Lawn Mowing Simulator is a driving game. Yes, we’re being tenuous here. But hey, we live in a world where Euro Truck Simulator 2 has over 20,000 active players per day so there’s space for a game like this. In our brief hands-on, we were impressed by the authenticity – the mowers are even licensed.
It does take things seriously, as mowers can be damaged, or become over-used, and you don’t want to set your blade to the wrong height in fear of failing a mission.
This limited-time demo is also available on Xbox consoles as part of the ID@Xbox Summer Game Fest Demo Event, so download it and see if you have the skills to cut it…
Virtual Driving School
This one really takes the term ‘simulation’ to the next level. The aim of Virtual Driving School is to provide players with guidance on how to become safer drivers in real life.
With over 30 levels available, set in a world that incorporates city streets, mountain roads and scenic highways, there certainly seems to be a lot of variety here. But don’t be flooring the throttle of your Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X-esque car. Remember, this is also about driving safety.
You must obey speed limits and traffic laws, keep in line with traffic jams and get used to night driving. This is a very early build, so the development team at CGA Studios is looking for feedback ahead of a final version which will also release on PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch.
Have you ever thought that the car combat genre of games has lacked harpoons? If so, you’re in luck!
Carpoon, in many ways, does what it says on the tin. You drive a car that has a harpoon attached to it. You use the harpoon to reel cars in and deliver them to a crusher before a timer runs out.
Developed by Tom Arnold, it uses a twin-stick control method and there’s multiplayer for up to four players.
Wrecked! Unfair Car Stunts
Whenever a game was the word ‘wreck’ in the title, I immediately think of the superlative Wreckfest. That’s probably a bad habit one wouldn’t want to build up an impression of a game based on the name alone.
And so, to Wrecked! Unfair Car Stunts, which aims to recreate hand-doodled car stunts that you may have drawn when you were younger in the back of your science lesson textbook. There’s a cell-shaded design, although it’s hard to tell what specifically is unfair about it all? Perhaps it’s just very difficult? Download the demo to find out.
No, this isn’t another simulation that teaches you how to drive stick (see Virtual Driving School above for that), but a top-down driving game with guns. Lots of guns.
Each level will feature different enemy patters each time you respawn, so this is a rogue-lite and the main mechanic is, and I quote “Drive. Destroy. Get paid. Upgrade!”
You can’t get clearer than that – it’s a shmup but with vehicles and that could be rather fun.
This game is described as an “arcade-action-murder-racing game” – well, that’s certainly a new one on me!
Or is it? After pondering FRANZ FURY for a while, I was reminded of Carmageddon or Zombie Driver HD, but from a direct top-down perspective and with machine guns. The tagline is ‘kill them all’, but where not quite sure why Franz is quite so angry. I guess there’s only one way to find out…
Engine Evolution 2021
Motorcycle racing games seems to be in resurgent mood of late, what with the aforementioned RiMS Racing, Ride 4, MotoGP 21 and TrackDayR. Engine Evolution 2021 is another addition to this burgeoning arena – focussed purely around online racing.
In PvP races against 11 other riders, the aim is to earn XP which can then be spent upgrading your bike to then hopefully win more races and rise through the ranks. No licensed motorbikes or tracks are included, but we don’t mind that if the on-track action holds up.
It’s scheduled for a Q3 2021 release at present, and you can try it earlier than that right now.
Much like motorcycle racing, drifting seems to have found an expanding gaming audience. CarX Drift Racing Online is at the peak of its popularity, DRIFT21 just released last week and the Assetto Corsa community is still going sideways seven years later.
Drift King aims to capitalise upon this trend and is slated for an August 2021 release. By the look of things at present, while the cars look familiar, they aren’t licensed. Items such as your engine, rims and colours can be edited, and the tracks look to be mostly of the hillclimb or point-to-point variety.
As the game description enthusiastically states: Let’s drift!
Fans are always talking about their most and least favourite race venues, but what if you had to make the decisions into building a proper racetrack? Car Looper is more like racetrack sandbox, a very minimalistic yet puzzling game to build a looping course, either against the clock or in free mode, for the best possible score.
Utilising a tiled overworld, build your track around obstacles, sometimes over other built portions, and make the best of your surroundings to give cars a proper closed circuit with the tiles provided in that challenge. Try it out now, but expect a full release next month.
Super Woden GP
How about a bottom to top from a top-down view racer? That’s a bit wordy, but Super Woden GP has a lot in a little. Tiny cars, but a huge amount to choose from. As it states in the description, players will race in all sorts of competitions, ranging from circuits to rally stages, with championships or just bragging rights on the line.
This game has six manufacturers across compact, rally, and prototype builds, and also has a four-player multiplayer mode. The graphics look decent. Nothing more known about this one though besides it’s expected at some point this year.
Racing, but where we’re going, we don’t need roads. This very futuristic take on a racer, Speedpunk is quite literally, at times, out of this world. Star Wars, The Fifth Element, Futurama and Back to the Future are a few references I’m picking up on looking at this flying car racer.
Race across the skyline and reach for the stars across a multitude of different planets. Seems pretty simple for a flying car game.
That’s all there really is on this new game so far, but feel free to give it a try this week. This one will be dropping in August.
Power of Slide
Ken Block and Gymkhana drifter. That’s all this one says in the description. If you’ve ever watched a Gymkhana video, you know that Ken Block is able to drift his car around tight spaces, and that’s what this game is trying to recreate.
Drive around different obstacles, pick up points to advance, customise cars, and invoke your inner drift demon.
I know this is cliché at this point, but we’ll have to make sure Aero gets his hands on this one, being a drifter and all. Demo ready for now, but the full release will be at some undisclosed point later this year.
BUMPER CARS! Who doesn’t love whiplash and concussion inducing-type carnival rides? Anyway, the bumper cars are now virtual, and this game is absolutely destructive. It’s almost like a Mario Party mini game, but all the time. Up to four “friends” compete against one another to bump their way to the top.
If you don’t start knocking people off quickly, the map will collapse around you, which will help keep matches shorter and more intense. Friendships will be tried.
This game is in Steam Early Access. The demo is out currently, and the full release should be sometime this year.
This one is VIBING. With aesthetic synthwave visuals, invoking the gaming style of OutRun, PalmRide is just another classic-styled driving game that’s sure to lead to reminiscing about old retro arcade racers from the eighties and nineties.
Drive fast, avoid obstacles. Pretty simple concept until there’s rush hour traffic to navigate.
PalmRide says it’s coming this quarter, so hopefully that means by the end of the month.
That’s it for driving games that are part of the 2021 Steam Next Fest. Another reminder that these demos are based upon early builds from mostly independent developers, please bear that in mind. If you do play something that you enjoy, please let us know in the comments.