Here's one of the best free games we've seen in a long while.
Launched yesterday, Drift City is a game from the madly named ijji (which is an awful lot of fun to say out loud, and also free). It's a driving MMO-alike, very much like Test Drive Unlimited, except with cel-shaded graphics, and it runs via your browser.
It comes from the homeland of the free MMO, South Korea, with a mostly decent English translation, and lets you lark around in a really bright, cheerful city, driving nicely balanced arcade cars. To get started, you'll need to visit the game's site and click the Play Live button. This will get you to create an account (that asks for some completely unnecessary personal information, including, oddly, your race, but can all be bluffed through with made up info, other than your email address), which once verified, will let you log into the site. Hit the Play Now button again, and it will ask you to download a small app that modifies your browser (and it worked perfectly in Firefox, so no need to dig around and find your dusty copy of IE). Relaunch the browser and... guess what? Press the Play Now button once more, and it boots the programme up into a full-screen window, limited to a pretty low resolution. And then you need only create a "license" and you're in, with a quick and practical tutorial showing you the ropes.
More details after the checkpoint.
There's missions, which invariably involve reaching various targets, sometimes within a time limit, other times within a crash limit, by charging around obeying the giant Crazy Taxi floating arrow in the sky. Then there are instant missions, which can be completed as you trundle about elsewhere, asking you to do so many of this, or driving past enough of that, boosting your XP as you progress.
Mittron Island, the game's setting, is made up of a number of large cities, each designed for a band of levels, and each featuring Battle Zones where you can take part in races with other players. Of course, others are around all the time, filling up the roads as you pursue your private missions, and available for teaming up with (Crews). Which begs the question: what about ruining other people's games by crashing into them? Rather than taking Test Drive Unlimited's rather disappointing 'ghosting' solution, here you certainly do make impact with others, but it all seems rather cleverly biased to hurt the person who did the crashing, rather than the crashee. High speed impacts don't send you flying off the road, but instead take a chunk out of your boost bar - a meter that fills up as you drive and lets you launch into speedy bursts when filled.
The Drift from the title refers to one of the two buttons other than the cursors. There's Ctrl for firing off a Boost, and Shift for Drift, which is a bit like a self-righting handbrake turn. As the game explains, it takes some getting used to, but it's essential if you want to compete in the Battle Zone races. It's also lots of fun when madly wheeling around corners at ludicrous speeds.
As you progress you earn Mito - the in-game currency - which can be spent on parts for your car, letting you modify and tweak them individually, and boost your ride. It's all very simple and unfiddly. If you're short of cash, there's an auction screen for offing your extra bits, and picking up other items cheaply. And there's clearly plans in place to let the eager player increase their machines by spending real world money on G Coins, but this hasn't been activated at this point.
South Korea really does have an excellent mentality when it comes to these free MMOs, with fresh and original ideas that in no way make you think about orcs. This one in particular is a great find. Go find it.