So what makes a good car game ?
|Car games have been around as long as there have been platforms to play them on. From the days of the 80's BBC and it's huge square disks thru to the Spectrum, Amiga, modern PC's as well as the swarm of consoles which have been available over the years. They will no doubt continue to be one of the most popular genres, but just what are the elements which make a great car game ?
Graphics :Let's start with possible the most obvious, but misunderstood aspect. Today we expect amazingly realistic graphics in our car games but this was not always the case, and quite frankly just wasn't possible for many years. Good graphics may not necessarily mean looks but also motion. The way the car and / or extra-vehicle objects and sprites moved often distinguished a good game from a bad one, sometimes fluidity was sacrificed in place of 'nicer' surfaces which ended up giving an overall detrimental effect.
Having said that of course there are a few games which do brilliantly - Gran Turismo 5 look simply stunning, and it does a damned god job at the rest too !
This brings us nicely on to our next criteria for a good car game...
Sense of Speed :As above, this used to be achieved with the good 'use' of graphics (and sound) rather than the 'prettiness’ or realism of them. Take 'Stuntcar Racer' on the Amiga for example, some would say terrible, pixelated graphics even for it's day, but the sense of speed and the involuntary cringes as you plummeted several hundred feet from the track were legendary.
Predictable Handling :There was for many years one single defining game when it came to the 'best handling' car game - TOCA 2 on the PC was leagues ahead in the way it made you feel as if you were actually sat in the car. Very very few games have matched it since. Even the later TOCA games have not all met their self-set standard.
Side gamesOK driving around a track for 75 laps can be fun, but a little trip outside that can be rewarding, sometimes.. A gaming icon which springs to mind is of course the Grand Theft Auto series, although whether GTA is a car game or not is up for debate. At least it can't reasonably be described solely in that vein.
Longevity :Once again, this is something the Gran Turismo series has excelled at over the years, TOCA Race driver has come reasonably close without ever threatening its dominance.
Arcade or 'pick up and play' modes :This is especially important for games which are intended to be racing simulations. A game which takes hours, or days to master can be extremely rewarding but sometimes you only have the time or the will for a quick blast. Also a good way to get a feel for a new game without having to set aside a whole afternoon to immerse yourself.
Multi-player modes :Now largely internet based, almost gone are the days of teenagers lugging pc's and crates of beer to weekend LAN parties only to spend 3 hours attempting to get all machines to talk to on another on the network ! Having said that they were an amazing use of a weekend..
Games with several differing modes available, and where it is obvious that significant thought has gone into developing that area come out on top. It is usually apparent when a multi-player mode has been tagged onto a game as an after-thought.
Humour :Carmageddon - enough said !
Goals and reasons to revisit :With games today hovering around the £50 mark, you really don't want to have it completed in a couple of weeks and from then onwards have it simply wasting shelf space. Reasons to revisit a game can be varied, from beating that last lap time, or simply because it makes you feel good, for example - 'Burnout Takedown's crash mode is great for venting the days frustrations !