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The Project CARS lot are releasing a free-to-play driving MMO this year: World of Speed

World of Speed: dead pretty, like car games all somehow are.

There were a couple of developers I considered commendably mad as a nipper. Naughty Dog (Hark at the way they growl their own name in Crash Bandicoot’s splash screen sequence! Bonkers!) and Team 17 (Listen to their worms sing soul songs I’ve never heard! Nuts!) spring to mind.

Slightly Mad Studios didn’t exist back then, but if they had, I probably would have considered them all too sensible, supping disdainfully at them from behind a McFlurry. After five years of cerebral racing sims in Need for Speed: Shift and Project CARS, they’ve decided to make a driving MMO – which if the whims of the major publishers are any indication, is the most sensible decision of all.

World of Speed will be free-to-play, “AAA”, and out on PC before the end of the year. Never a studio to narrow their focus, Slightly Mad are promising an “endless garage” of cars, ranging from commuter cars to the fastest road vehicles on the planet – and backwards into a first-hand history of auto racing.

Players will race on true-to-life tracks in London, San Francisco and elsewhere, as well as in environments “only a speed freak could dream up,” write the developers.

“At the heart of World of Speed lies a unique massive multiplayer online experience which incorporates a dynamic social elements and entirely new ways to compete in a racing video game – from an individual to a team level,” said Slightly Mad CEO Ian Bell. “World of Speed is an online game and will be continuously supported with innovative and fresh content to keep the competition furious well after its launch.”

World of Speed will compete with Ubisoft’s The Crew, which features a similar mix of social features and wide-scope driving. But where The Crew follows in the tracks of Test Drive and Driver, we can safely expect carefully-modelled simulation here. That’s all Slightly Mad have ever done – though they did veer unconvincingly into the arcades with 2012’s Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends.

There’s been no indication that the release will interfere with ongoing development on the community-funded Project CARS. It’s worth remembering that Slightly Mad have continued to produce other games since work began on CARS a few years back. World of Speed will be published by My.com, who typically specialise in iOS games.

There’ll be a closed beta sometime before the Summer – you can show your interest for that at the official World of Speed site. Do you reckon you might? Be interested, that is?