Monday, June 05, 2006

Why does the racing genre suck?

The other day I was reflecting on how boring racing games have become. Although the cars look fantastic in the likes of Gran Turismo, Ridge Racer, Forza, and Need for Speed, is that all it takes? What is the premise of a racing game?

The sad part is, that racing is generally limited to driving around in circles repetitively. No matter how great the cars look or how awesome the surround sound can never capture the rush of actually being at the wheel with your right foot planted. Even with a steering wheel controller, the experience very much lacks the rush of going 100+ mph.

So I asked myself, "Why did you like Gran Turismo 2 so much?" After wincing at the memory of completing the license tests, it become obvious. Gran Turismo 2 had a model of one of my favorite cars: the Ford Taurus SHO (3rd gen).

However, GT2 did not let the player add forced-induction to that car, which is crap; you can add FI to about anything. With my naturally aspirated underdog, I was able to complete over half the races in first place. At that point, the NA SHO just didn't have enough nuts to keep up with the higher horsepower vehicles without some serious ramming and cutting off (which I already had to fight hard to beat some of those races). I think that's when I stopped playing the game. It was no longer interesting to win races if I had to change cars.

The thought process cascaded, taking me even further back to the first NASCAR game I had on PC. Did I actually race in that game? Nope. I flipped a 180, and drove straight into the other cars to see how much destruction I could cause. Crashing was the best I could get out of the game, since straight up racing against AI left a lot to be desired {hopefully online play will fix this in the future).

The problem with both games is that once I had to follow the "correct" path, I was just back to racing in circles.

Games like Mario Kart, Burnout, and Full Auto bring a breath of fresh air to the idea of video game racing. Instead of relying purely on the monotonous circle driving, they added weapons, aggressive bashing/wrecking, and insane amounts of speed. Each of these livens the experience and ups the competition. We need livened experiences for all genres, but racing is probably in the top 5 of "needs help drastically".

I hope more creative additions are a trend we'll see more of in the future with the genre. Until virtual reality is available that will emulate the 5 senses, I think straight up racing will continue to be mostly uneventful.


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