At the beginning of 2010, the future was looking great for racing games. There were some great titles on the horizon, mostly on the arcade side of things. In addition to the usual yearly titles like MotoGP, F1, and Need for Speed, there were some exciting original properties coming out. Specifically, Blur, Split Second, and ModNation Racers were all set to come out in the first half of the year.
In May of that year, all three of those fresh new titles came out, and lo and behold, they were all good! Bizarre Creations’ Blur felt like a crazy hybrid of Ridge Racer and Mario Kart, offering all manner of powerups and weaponry while providing some realistic looking car designs and environments. Black Rock Studio’s Split Second turned the collision-heavy formula of the Burnout series up to eleven, with the inclusion of player-activated environment changes which could wreck other racers or change the circuit route entirely. Both games received good reviews, aggregating in the low eighties on Metacritic. Continue reading →
As early as the days of Mario Kart 64 and the first few Need For Speed games, I’ve had an instinctual dislike for rubber-banding in racing games, but it wasn’t until recently (while playing Need For Speed: Shift 2 and Forza Motorsport 4 back-to-back) that I could put my finger on what was so loathsome about it. There’s something terribly unfair about an opponent whose speed changes based on how badly you’re crushing them, that much has always been clear. There’s a bit more to it than that, though.
Before we get into it, a quick introduction: For those unfamiliar with the concept of rubber-banding, it’s a mechanic generally found in racing games. Essentially, it’s a method of building AI opponents to always be relatively close to the player. If they’re beating the player they slow down, if they’re losing they speed up. The idea is to make the experience more exciting for the player, by making it feel like a close race all the time.
Unfortunately, there’s some pretty serious flaws in the way rubber-banding is implemented in the vast majority of modern racing games. Rather than having AI that actually improves its driving to catch up to you, they tend to simply “cheat.” Their cars are made artificially faster or slower, instead of having a defined set of power and handling characteristics like the player car does. This, to me, is the crux of why rubber-banding is so obnoxious. Continue reading →
It wasn’t too long ago that racing games firmly divided themselves into two very separate camps. There were two very different breeds within the genre, and it was easy to tell them apart.
On the one side of the fence were the Need For Speed Undergrounds, the Midnight Clubs and the Tokyo Xtreme Racers, holding it down for the arcade racing fans. These games had no real pretense of being realistic, despite having licensed real-world cars and sometimes even real-world locations. They were happy to exist in a world where cars were indestructible, and walls were bouncy. There was certainly a market for them, too; without any obligation to be realistic, they could focus on simply being fun, exciting games.
On the flip side, we had Polyphony Digital and their Gran Turismo franchise, staying true to their mission of making a “driving simulator.” These games were fun in an entirely different way. Gran Turismo tried – and for the most part succeeded – in being an accurate representation of auto racing, right down to the tuning and part-swapping aspects of the sport. For car nerds, this was a dream come true, and these games had their own sizeable market, quite separate from the Need For Speed market. Continue reading →