I think the most common complaint we receive about PretendRaceCars.net is that both myself and Chris are supposedly pissed off nerds with an axe to grind, who “hate everything” and should just sit back and enjoy playing video games again. Now, y’all are entitled to your own opinion, but for some of you, your opinion is wrong, and we should at least try our best to explain our stance on the current roster of driving games.
And our stance isn’t hard to understand – racing games have declined in quality since Autumn of 2007, when Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 rocked the gaming world. The immense following both franchises received sent every company into a mad dash with the mantra we want the CoD audience, and number-crunchers slowly infiltrated their way into management. Driving games, once their own thriving genre with a loyal fanbase, were seen as an afterthought.
It’s easy to demonstrate what I mean, just by using clippings from mainstream review sites.
Released in 2004, GTR 2 was a smash hit, a critical success, something you don’t see from hardcore racing simulations. Everyone praised its fantastic controls, competent AI, and phenomenal driving physics. A decade later, (roughly) the same team released Project CARS, a title plagued by technical issues that revolved around the game’s poor controls, lackluster AI, and lack of overall polish. I thought video games would get better throughout the years.
Released in 2002, NASCAR Dirt to Daytona is largely regarded as one of the best console racing sims ever, and the game even included an unlockable hardcore physics mode for wheel users. The game featured not one but four different NASCAR sanctioned classes, and a highly detailed career mode with several RPG elements. A decade later in 2012, some of the creative geniuses behind the NASCAR Heat series of games released NASCAR The Game: Inside Line, a title that was virtually unplayable according to both critic and user reviews. I thought video games would get better throughout the years.
2002 saw Electronic Arts give us Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, the absolute best racing game you can buy for Sony’s landmark console. Critics loved its tight controls, lengthy campaign mode, brilliant AI, and large car & track roster. A decade later, Criterion and Electronic Arts gave us a bland Burnout Paradise clone that could be completed in an afternoon, drove poorly, and had performance issues on consoles. I thought video games would get better throughout the years.
Polyphony Digital gave us a disc that was a virtual automobile encyclopedia with Gran Turismo 4 in 2005. The game was praised for its solid physics, ridiculously huge library of tracks & cars, and career mode that took people months and sometimes years to complete, which was an incredible feat on what was then aging hardware. Gran Turismo 6, a game released nearly a decade later on a console used by the United States Air-Force to build a supercomputer, still used PS2-era car models, AI behavior, and audio samples. I thought video games would get better throughout the years.
Formula One Championship Edition raced onto the PS3 in early 2007. The game featured a lengthy, realistic career mode with driver contracts, test days, and performance incentives, along with solid physics and fantastic graphics. The game also featured unlockable historic cars that spanned every decade of F1’s existence. F1 2014 removed the additional historic content that was seen in previous editions, failed to rectify bugs and complaints of the previous three entries in the series, and gave all but the most hardcore of F1 fans no justifiable reason to purchase the new version of the game. I thought video games would get better throughout the years.
We’re just angry nerds with an axe to grind, though.