I'm sure everyone is busy with their favorite AAA fall game release(s) at the moment, but if you can carve out a quick respite from your epic questing or ho-slaying activities, there's a particular indie game called Nitronic Rush that I recommend downloading immediately. Developer Team Nitronic (of the DigiPen Institute of Technology), has crafted what it calls a "survival driving" from the ground up. It's gorgeous, fast, features some very fun innovations, and is very hard to put down.
It's also totally free.
One look at a screenshot or trailer, and the neon, Tron-like aesthetic is the first thing you'll probably notice. Beyond that is a refreshing and creative gameplay design that make it even more fun than a lot of mainstream retail racers I've most recently played. Clearly best played with a gamepad plugged in, your vehicle will accelerate, brake, and steer just as you'd expect. Turbo? Check.
Things get interesting when you realize the right analog stick can be used to activate turbo jets that can be used to hug particularly tight corners without braking, or do barrel-rolls and flip end-over-end when airborne. Not enough? One button makes your car deploy wings and fly.
In Story and Hardcore modes, you'll proceed through a number of obstacle course race tracks, aiming for the fastest time while pulling off the most tricks. Story mode is a good introduction, but Hardcore mode is aptly named. One of its first challenges requires you to turbo, hop, and then rotate your car ninety degrees in midair, in order to land on a perpendicular track. It can get pretty tricky, pretty quickly, and is a fun challenge.
Challenge mode presents the player with some interesting bite-sized conundrums like flying through a minefield, and Stunt Mode lets players rack up as many points as they can while flipping, rolling, and flying across a huge playground ramps and loops. There are even some "old" tracks from earlier in development that you can race on which Team Nitronic has decided to include. These modes are all fun, but I think I prefer the pure survival-racing style of the Story and Hardcore modes best.
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It's an awesome package of content, and while the online leaderboards and ability to race against the online "ghosts" of other players' best runs are great, Nitronic Rush's only real shortcoming--if you can even call it that--is a lack of multiplayer. It's totally understandable and not to be viewed as a negative, given that the game is free, but it's hard not to imagine how awesome a real-time competitive survival race against a friend could be. One can only hope that Team Nitronic will be able to parlay the concepts in Nitronic Rush into a full-blown release, somewhere down the road.
You can find free download links for the game (which clocks in at about 500MB) and check the system requirements on the official website.