A Racing Game Retrospective

Next to fighting games, racing games are probably the ones I most enjoy with others. Actually, racing games are just about the only games that I prefer to play with other people. See, I like cars well enough. I know what kinds of cars I like to look at and drive. I know what makes them go and stop and take curves well enough to not crash into stuff. But I don’t know much about their actual workings, like, engine improvements, weight distribution, tire spans, etc. I know there are all sorts of things that can make cars more aerodynamic and efficient, but I don’t know the mechanics of those things. In the end, though I like racing games, I find their single-player modes to be rather intimidating. And I’ve tried, really…but once I’m in that garage with my chosen pretty car, it’s all I can do to stare at the upgrades and not be confused.

Also, while I’m being honest, I HATE not making first place in racing games. Like, I’ll get really, really, really discouraged with a game if I just can’t win. So that makes me something of a poor loser. And sometimes when I’m a poor looser, I get a tad uppity, which occasionally causes me to throw things. At people. This is why I’m not allowed to play Pictionary. More to the point, I get easily discourage by racing games, sometimes.

I can't get into the incident right now, but it involved a continent, a flying saucer. and a bad case of mistaken identity.
I can’t get into the incident right now, but it involved a continent, a flying saucer. and a bad case of mistaken identity.

I’ve got about a half-dozen racing games on my games spreadsheet, and the only one into which I sunk a significant amount of time is Pole Position. (And that’s probably because the game was about racing rather than cars.) Looking at them separately, I could probably eke out a solid post or two about couple of them, but the rest are little more than figments of my gaming past. So rather than babble on about cars and random stories, I figured I’d cover my three most memorable racing games here. This isn’t a favorites list or a “top #” list by any means, though these were and area all great games.

Ridge Racer 5

Ridge Racer V cover art © Namco, Sony
Ridge Racer V cover art © Namco, Sony (source)

On my list are both Ridge Racer 4 and 5. I clearly remember playing RR4 at least once or twice, because it contained several teams to choose from, and I clearly recall being too baffled by them to pick even one. Playing RR5 felt much better and simpler. Gone were the teams and back, apparently, was car customization (or so the magazines said). It was also a very pretty PS2 game that showed off well the console’s graphical capabilities. I also remember my preferred car from that game, the Mercurio. Reading about it now in articles that compared its “grip” versus its “drift,” make me laugh in that uncomfortable sort of way. Like when everyone in your dinner group starts laughing at a joke about Chaucer and you laugh along too. Meanwhile, all you’re thinking is “I can’t believe I paid $20 for goddamn spaghetti.” And that’s a totally relevant metaphor, or analogy or something. I liked the Mercurio because it looked good and went fast. And going fast in racing games is my main goal. Always.

Burnout 3: Takedown

Burnout 3: Takedown cover art © EA, Sony (source)
Burnout 3: Takedown cover art © EA, Sony (source)

Alright, so technically this isn’t a racing game — it’s more of a multiplayer, smash ’em-up fest. But it primarily involved driving cars at high speed, so dammit, it’s on the list. I’m not going to lie — I like smashing cars into things in games. Just ask anyone who’s watched me play GTA…or any other game that’s involved cars, ever. The premise behind the Burnout games was simple: purposefully crash into things for points. Hells yeah, I say — that’s MY Kind of racing game! I’ve played a couple of its games, but Burnout 3 on the PS2 was my favorite. It contained “Road Rage” events, which I was all over like the people I splattered in midst of scoring hella-points. Perform the correct number of takedowns (i.e. cause your opponent to crash out of bounds), and the Road Rage course was yours. And though the game didn’t feature fancy named cars, there were lots of different vehicle types at one’s disposal. I always went for a muscle car because of course.

Gran Turismo 5

Gran Turismo 5 cover art © Sony (source)
Gran Turismo 5 cover art © Sony (source)

When we got Gran Tursimo 5, I swore I would at least try to play single-player mode. This PS3 game so just sooooooo nice looking it practically begs for some “alone time!” I know I know, Need for Speed Rivals and Driveclub are sure to heat up the next gen driving wars; but for this generation, I don’t know that there’s a better looking, pure racing game than Gran Turismo 5. And by the gods of carburetors and pistons, does it make me wanna learn a thing or seven about cars. After playing through a couple of the tracks in multiplayer, I decided to go ahead and start a single-player game. As of this moment, I’ve gotten as far as coming in 4th place on the first track with the starter Honda Civic. If Gran Turismo 5 taught me one thing about driving, it’s that I don’t know dick about driving.

In my backlog right now is Forza Motorsport, the Essentials Edition that came with our new 360. I’ve played it — it’s alright. It’s not as balls-to-the-wall as Gran Turismo V, but that’s probably a good thing, for me anyway. I’ve got a pretty long way to go before I get anywhere near as comfortable with racing games as I am with other types of games.

13 thoughts on “A Racing Game Retrospective”

  1. Holy Cow! I’d almost forgotten about Burnout 3! That and it’s sequel are the only “racing” games I’ve ever really enjoyed. The best part was the guitar fanfare when a new car was unlocked! Thanks for the reminder!

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  2. I spend by far the most amount of time with racing games even if I don’t notice it. I also learnt pretty much everything I know about cars and racing from countless hours spent with far too many racing games to mention. I even began a fascination with rotary engines back with the original GT for PS1. Memories.

    It’s worth going back to RR Type 4 if you have a chance, it’s the best in the series. In absence of that Ridge Racers 6 and 7 were great HD versions of a solid series of racers.

    Forza is brilliant, I’ve always felt it gets the feel of racing better than GT5, even if GT5 is better ‘on the road’ so to speak. I just finished up Forza Horizon (http://amostagreeablepastime.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/forza-horizons-open-world-is-fast-furious-and-fantastic/) and can’t recommend it enough. Strikes that perfect balance between accessible and deep. Give it a go!

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    1. Yes, yours was a great article on Forza! I should really spend a little more time with the version we have. Knowing it’s a little more friendly than GT5 helps.

      I remember that once I got past the teams thing in RR4, it was a really fun game. I can’t really say why it ended up on the shelf in favor of RR5. But I thought it looked really good. Not that RR4 was a graphical slouch (just the opposite was true). Never got into any of the other games for reasons, but it was a very strong series.

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