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ouched avatar 5:15 PM on 08.06.2009  (server time)
Fear and Loathing in the Racing Genre

So last night I was playing Motorstorm again. No reason in particular. I find that lately I have a hard time focusing on any one game lately, which can be annoying as it may lead you to purchase several that may go sitting unplayed on shelf. I believe I still have an unopened copy of Metroid Prime 3 on the shelf I bought the last time I was in one of these fugues.

Any way, I was playing Motorstorm last night. If you haven't played it, on the off chance someone is actually reading this, its not a game for the easily frustrated. The game divides up up sets of races into "tickets" which you clear in order to gain points and advance as well as unlock new vehicles. The problem is that the races generally involve multiple types of vehicles on the track at once, and god fucking help you if your forced to pick from mud oriented vehicle besides "big rigs" and you have to take something like the "mud pluggers", this hybrid class that seem to be a mix of "race trucks" and "buggies".

In short, your handling characteristics make it necessary for you to race in the same areas as the "big rigs" in specific races with much smaller vehicles. The larger vehicles can easily crush you, forcing you into an annoying, slow restart that really seems to penalize you more than it should. If you crash in the middle or end of the final lap, you might as well restart, as its not likely you'll place.

But despite that, I still find that I like this game. Its probably because I don't think any other game has taken the desert setting and turned it into an interesting racing experience, going back to Top Gear Rally on the N64, and even that was just one track. The good sense of speed, and the fact that the vehicles handle roughly how they should on the various surfaces in real life are also strong pluses.

Just be prepared to have to restart. Constantly.

Forza 2 has this issue as well. I enjoy the early and mid level challenges of Forza but the later ones force a level of skill and technical awareness of cars that I will not soon care to obtain in order to win. It basically became a game of seeing if can I cause the lead car to crash in such a way that disables their car but leaves mine relatively unscathed, and able to continue to the race before I am overtaken by the pack. The game expects near perfection in order to win, and if you've gone to the store lately, I'm sure you've noticed that they are all out of Perfection. They had plenty of Pretty Good and Half-Assed, though.

Its almost as though the racing genre is striving to become what Mega Man was to the NES. A brutal test of nerves, memorization, timing, and how many times you can die/restart before you put down controller and not play it again for months.

Not all seem to strive for this, but are still not what they could be. The frustration I experienced in Burnout:Paradise was the obnoxiously high take down requirements set on challenges, especially the last few road rages. What does wrecking 40+ cars prove that I didn't just prove by wreaking 33?

The frustration I experienced in Mario Kart Wii is Nintendo's use of weapons to constantly level the playing field and rubber band the pack together. Being hit with multiple blue shells during a single race, over and over again taught me to just stay in second place and make a move at the end. Much safer. Thank you Nintendo, the most socialist game company. You have shown me I should strive for mediocrity because striving for excellence an entire race just isn't worth the frustration.

Anyway, these seem like common problems in Racing the racing genre today. I can sympathize with the developers, being forced to walk the thin line of making a game too easy or too hard, too flaky or too repetitive, but it seems like some are getting perhaps too wrapped up in one thing or another and forgetting the fun by either making the game too complex, or punishing those who do actually have skill to spare those who don't.

I almost wish Valve would release a kart racer based on its collective properties to show use how it could be done. I know I'd pay to see Gordon Freeman, Bill, Chell(Portal), the Heavy, and various others in go karts, racing through tracks inspired from their portfolio such as Left 4 Dead, Portal, Half Life 2, and Team Fortress 2. That's obviously crazy talk, but a bored fool can dream, can't he?

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