I've tried tons of racing games over the years, everything from Forza to Need for Speed, and I have to say that a lot of them just fail to appeal to me as a gamer. I want to talk about my issues with them and what can be done to resolve the issue.
First on the chopping block: racing sims. My God these can be so utterly boring and sterile. I've played Forza 2 and 3 and they have the personality of a carboard box, Gran Toursimo is better in that regard, but it still has a lot of the same issues. All the menus are clean, the car models and tracks are detailed to a tee, but I can't help but be bored to tears by the actual gameplay/ Controls feel stiff and unresponsive, just a basic turn needs just the right amount of gas or break. You aren't supposed to bump into anyone of your car or you'll get a penalty, going slightly off road makes your car come to a hault or even spin out. Load times are horrendous for whatever reason, and the sense of speed just isn't there. What's worse is the the upgrading system. For instance, I was trying to win this cup in Gran Tourismo, it told me my curent car was incompatible. Fine, so I wanted to get another car that was, well they gave me a list. The problem with this list is that I basically had to remember what cars I can use, and they all have a make, model and range of years, with like 20 cars on the list that makes it hard to purchase without being able to cross reference it with the shop. So I closed the list remembering a handful of the makes and models and went to shop, there's like 30 different car manufactures that have to be brought up individually. Great. So I search and search and finally find a single car that's compatible. It's literally called the Midget. It's grossy underpowered, but I purchased it anyway. Much to my unsurprise, it has no chance in hell of keeping up with the pack. So I dump basically all my savings into it, and its just a little faster. At that point I gave up, there's $20 and 3 hours I'll never get back.
So how does this even happen? Do people really enjoy endlessly tweaking nuts and bolts and collecting hundreds of cars that look very similar to race the same handful of tracks over and over again? Because I for the life of me stuggle to find the appeal in this kind of game. Yes, I get RPG elements, but I need compelling gameplay to back it up.
Next we get to what I clasify as street racers. Now these games sound great in theory, you get faster paced action without all the jazz that boggs down a sim game, yet are true(er) to real life so you don't feel like your playing Daytona or Mario Kart. I can respect that, at least in premise. But these have failed to get my attention too. The worst culpurite is Need For Speed. These games tend to have a little personality, but nothing that distinctive. Now I will say I enjoyed Need For Speed Underground (GCN) and the demo to Need For Speed The Run (360), but beyond that, I feel like the NSF games never get above mediocrity. Project Gotham Racing seemed like it was a step above, but so was the difficulty, about half way though I just couldn't keep pace with the rest of the racers. I think this genre has potential, but I haven't seen one that delievers on it, at least not yet.
I suppose someone likes these games
So what kind of racers do I like? Well I got to thinking about it, and I like anything that doesn't fall under those categories. Mario Kart for instance is an absolute blast, the mechanics (post N64) are rock solid, the controls are tight, has a level of customization that's not too deep but enough to give it variety, it's easy to learn and hard to master. To top it all off the multiplayer, both local and online, is stellar. Why don't we have more racing games like this on the market? Well we do, Sonic All Stars Racing, which takes the same genre but plays completely differently. I can see where someone would like one but not the other, but I love both. My kingdom for another Diddy Kong Racing though, that game was excellent.
You know what else I enjoy, futuristic racers. F-Zero was probably the first racing game I ever fell in love with. It's not an easy game by any means, but it does have tight controls, excellet graphics, a ton of personality, and enough content to keep you busy for a good long while. They aren't so great for multiplayer, but I would still do just about anything to get a new entry for Wii U. But F-Zero isn't the only game like that, we also have the Wipeout games and the Extreme G games, plus there's some clones out there. That's the thing they all have in common though, great mechanics, fast, frantic gameplay, and have memorable gameplay. I just can't play these racing games where all the tracks look the same, and the music is just there to fill the background noise over the humming engines.
Tell me this doesn't look more fun than your boring racing sims
I also like "other" racing games. And by other I mean non traditional racing games. I still want a legit sequel to games like Jet Moto, SSX Snowboarding, 1080 Snowboarding, and Waverace. These are games that don't fit the traditional bill of what people think of when they talk about racing games. The nice thing about these games is they incorporate a trick system into the racing mechanics. With SSX its an integral part of the gameplay, no tricks, no boost. Jet Moto more or less adds it on the side, and that works, its fun to fool around with. The last two just separate them completely, it's either tricks or racing. And frankly, I'm cool with that. Whatever works.
And then there's Burnout. Burnout is or rather was, amazing. I remember my friend showing Burnout 3 to me and just being blown away. I picked it up shortly thereafter for $6 new (best $6 I even spent on a racing game). The graphics were phenominal, the controls were flawless (somthing more racing games need to address) the game was blazingly fast the soundtrack to this day is my favorite licensed soundtrack for any game. You not only can run other cars off the road or into traffic, its encouraged and you are rewarded for doing so. Burnout Revenge and Paradise are excellent too, not quite as good as 3 but still great. Why that franchise has been abandoned is beyond me. It is quite literally a racing game for those who don't like racing games.
Burnout: Bring it back
But there's so much more than can be done with the genre. I want to see more racing games incorperate elements like weather effects and track editors. Let me have more features like Crash mode in Burnout (where you compete to cause the biggest pile ups) I want anti gravity sections like Mario Kart 8 and maybe even bring back combat like Twisted Metal. Point is, I don't think we need more games like Forza, they've been done to death, it's time we made the genre a little more interesting.