Free games for the New Year: Nitronic Rush

Chris Thursten

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Nitronic Rush Ramp

Christmas is behind us, but the holidays continue. For the next couple of days, we're going to be showcasing a number of great free games that you might have missed amid the smoke and spectacle of the last couple of months. Whether you want something to play while you queue for The Old Republic or are simply looking to save a couple of pennies as we head into the new year, we've got you sorted.

Nitronic Rush is an arcade racing game set in a Tron-style virtual reality. You control a sportscar-shaped streak of neon as it boosts, jumps and tumbles through a twisting obstacle course. Billed as a 'survival driving game', the aim is to reach the finish line while racking up points and trying not to hit any of the number of obstacles in your path. Built from scratch by students at DigiPen, it's an impressive debut.

Unlike pared-down challenge racers like TrackMania, Nitronic Rush piles on the extra abilities and features. Your car is loaded with rockets that allow you to jump, roll and fly, provide emergency braking power and a regular speed boost. Their use is limited by your car's maximum heat capacity, which drains to zero over time and is reset when you pass a checkpoint. This divides each stage into self-contained chunks of challenge: you might be expected to chain a series of jumps into a loop-de-loop, or fly for a proportion of an obstacle course and drive the rest. Extra points are rewarded for barrel rolls and back-flips, and there are online leaderboards for the competitive. Definitely play it with a Xbox controller if you have one, though: this was a game designed with two analogue sticks in mind.

It's also a lovely looking game, with bright, detail-rich environments and lots of incidental movement. While car handling is fairly floaty, the physics model is robust enough to give the game a solid, satisfying feel. Described by its creators as a tribute to the racing games of the nineties, Nitronic Rush has a surprising amount of depth. Definitely worth your time - download it here .

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