A few years ago, it seemed like every week there was a “new and improved” game of the 4 wheel breed hitting the market and finding its way into PlayStations and Xboxs (even a few PCs) all over the world. There were so many different franchises finding their way onto the shelves it was almost impossible to keep track of them all. So I decided to ask, “what happened?”.
Now there are quite a few quality, blockbuster racing games out there, but nothing like before. In the years past a racing enthusiast had no shortage of quality games to choose from. However, now they find themselves waiting long months, even years (GT5 anyone?) until another quality game hits the market. Even some of the best and brightest games of before, such as the Need for Speed series, have lost huge chunks of their fan base and see plenty of lackluster reviews. Why? Because the other games are just too good.
In a recent comparison of last gen and current gen games, Game Informer found that the average racing game review score is much higher than before (remember they mostly review only games with much hype, so many of the others were most likely left out). If that’s the case, then shouldn’t racing games become more popular than before? Store shelves should be overflowing with new racing games, right? Well, in case you haven’t noticed, they’re not.
Playstation has Gran Turismo, the 360 has Forza, and other than a few exceptions, they are the only ones most people care to own. The technology of the current generation allows these games the ability to be closer to perfection in their pursuit of complete simulation. From incredible graphics that perfectly recreate the cars, to amazing controls that allow the cars to behave the way they should, these games are just too good to be dealt with.
Take a look at Gran Turismo 5. Sure, we waited forever for the PS3 exclusive racer and it never became as popular as once expected, but there are very few people who call it anything but the best racing game in every aspect (except for the Forza series which holds in own on the 360). The thing is, while we now have the technology to make racing games of this caliber, the production time and costs get out of hand very quickly, and it keeps many smaller studios from producing games of the same caliber as their competitors. Think of the amount of work it takes to finely craft and tune hundreds of cars to behave and look realistic, not to mention the dozens of tracks, A.I., and even make realistic damage both visually and mechanically.
Racing games aren’t exactly on the endangered list yet, but the glory days of seeing PS2 store shelves lined with racers have past, and a new generation of games are finding their niche. Unfortunately, its going to take a long time and a lot of work to knock the current leaders off of the throne, and it doesn’t look like anyone is really trying to.