Our first reader submission of the weekend comes from Nathan way over in the United Kingdom. After recently getting into driving sims and being let down by F1 2015, Nathan wants to know what other games dropped the ball this hard.
Hey guys, I’m not sure if the Submit feature is meant for these kids of posts, but I will try it anyways. I haven’t played driving sims for very long. I got into F1 2014 six months ago when it was discounted on Steam, and also bought Assetto Corsa and Project CARS to give me a little bit variety. Since I follow Formula One in real life, I bought F1 2015 yesterday.
It’s really bad but I guess you already made an entry on that. More glitches than the new Batman game that got pulled from Steam. I’m not the fastest but I like to think I’m a very clean driver, especially with AI cars (I treat them like they’re real people). Project CARS also has similar glitches, but I think F1 2015 is worse. The reviews on Steam have 70% of customers dissatisfied with the game. Go look if you don’t believe me.
Driving games, and racing sims in general, don’t receive the hype that your average Call of Duty or Halo title do, so there aren’t many crushing letdowns when it comes to pretend race cars. Most people just accept that a new title is shit, and go back to whatever game they were playing previously. When a new NASCAR game comes out and it’s predicitably shit, people go back to NASCAR Racing 2003 season. When a new F1 game comes out and it’s full of bugs, people go back to rFactor or Game Stock Car Extreme. When modern rally titles would ship with absurd amounts of Monster Energy ads and very little actual rallying, people booted up Richard Burns Rally.
But there are indeed a few games out there that really sucked ass.
Test Drive 6 was a special kind of brutal. I’m not sure if people remember this game (or if they do, the nostalgia goggles add a much-needed filter), but the Infogrames title was a huge step back compared to earlier games in the series. Back in the late 1990’s, both the Test Drive and Need for Speed series were on relatively equal footing. I think the sales were in EA’s favor, but objectively, both games had roughly the same positives and negatives. Infogrames also put out a killer spin-off game called Demolition Racer with the same engine as the Test Drive series that received unanimous praise in an era where mainstream gaming sites weren’t paid off. There was also the Test Drive Off-Road series, but I personally remember those games more for the killer soundtrack more than anything.
Anyways, Test Drive 6 was released and instantly relegated to the bargain bin. It looked and played like a Flash game. The only positive aspect I can remember is that the game’s intro included a Remix of the Gary Numan hit “Cars” by Fear Factory.
It’s not something I’ll add to my personal list of letdowns, but a lot of people hated DiRT 2 when it came out. While the simcade driving model was superb and it was one of the best racing games you could play on Xbox Live, the DiRT series, formerly known as Colin McRae Rally, had a reputation that carried over to the Xbox 360 with the first game in the DiRT series for being a hardcore rally sim, eventually expanding to multiple types of off-road racing. A lot of people hoped DiRT 2 was going to be this killer off-road title that put racing games on the map, and instead it was tangibly dumbed down for the Call of Duty audience. Track design was incredibly simple regardless of the racing discipline you selected, and the game was essentially a big Monster Energy advertisement. I was seventeen when the game came out so I predictably ate it up, but many people found the revitalized presentation beyond obnoxious and most agreed it was the death of the Colin McRae Rally series.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 is the first modern game that really shocked me as to how bad a game could land in the hands of a consumer. The original game, released in 2006 (I think) was this huge open world racing game that took place on a 1:1 scale island of Oahu – in fact the local Hawaiian news even did a segment on how accurately the island was portrayed. The game was a huge hit, had tons of online functionality, a really good roster of DLC, and even had a Hardcore Mode for wheel users wanting to take advantage of the newer racing wheels landing on the market at that time.
TDU2 was supposed to be bigger and better, as is expected with all sequels. Not only would the game include a revitalized Oahu, but an entirely new second island, Ibiza, off the coast of Spain. I bought the game for myself and two of my buddies as the hype train promised a killer open world arcade racer with tons of PVP aspects, and it ended up being a buggy mess. The car roster was considerably smaller than the first game, a problem magnified by the obvious lack of certain marquee licenses and strange omissions from notable manufacturers already present. The story mode, centering around an illegal street racing ring, was cringeworthy, especially as these characters nagged you to race them while casually free-roaming around the map. Cruising with your friends was a challenge due to the game’s problematic servers failing to keep you connected for more than a few minutes at a time, and online matchmaking rarely found you anyone to race with as there were simply too many tracks and car classes that split up the userbase. Most people didn’t own enough different vehicles or had progressed far enough into the game to be matched up with each other.
And the PVP aspects, known as Car Clubs, were broken at launch and not implemented until three months after the game had released and most players had already returned the game to the store. For myself and my two buddies who lived down the street, we tried embrace the PVP feature, only to find it was a hasty last minute addition where you couldn’t even restrict car classes to ensure a fair race. We’d often enter into a match with a rival clan, only to find that they were all little kids using one of the DLC Bugatti Veyron’s that was added to your garage for free after spending a meager 160 Microsoft points, or $2.00. When the kiddies got bored of club races, the preferred PVP car that everyone unanimously agreed upon was a fully upgraded Subaru Impreza, and that’s when we began to climb the club leaderboards according to my Facebook profile from four years ago.
There were other issues, too. The DLC added nothing of value to the game, in some cases the additional cars were mere palette swaps of cars already in the game, such as the Synergy Camaro. The game suffered from a cycle of never-ending patches that added new bugs while fixing old ones, and the Community Race Center, where you could create your own layouts within the game world and allow people to fight for leaderboard times, had an issue where you could charge an entrance fee several times higher than the payout of the event, effectively allowing veterans of the game to screw people over who didn’t read the event information carefully. The whole game was just really bad, and according to someone who used to be in the closed beta, Atari just flat-out didn’t care.
Anything from Slightly Mad Studios should get a mention, although I admittedly haven’t spend nearly enough time with both Shift games or Ferrari Racing Legends to elaborate about the precise ways in which they were broken. I know Shift on consoles had really terrible controls, and the PC version suffered from input lag, poor optimization, and needed several patches to unfuck, but the massive hype from being a Need for Speed title allowed the hype train to gloss over all these issues with several bought reviews that in no way reflect how the game actually plays once it’s in your console. Evidence of this is in the many video reviews of the title, where reviewers praise the handling model and AI while footage shows them helplessly crashing into every trackside object and getting run over by other opponents.
I think the biggest letdown goes to NASCAR The Game 2011 by Eutechnyx. I’ve had to type out the following few paragraphs numerous times over the years, so my most sincere apologies if you’ve read this before:
Once EA Sports secured the exclusive license to make NASCAR games after a string of phenomenal NASCAR console releases, EA promptly sent the best and brightest of the Tiburon Studios NASCAR team across the hall to work on the Madden NFL series. The quality of the oval racing games slowly declined, and EA Sports lost the exclusive license after the release of NASCAR 09. NASCAR fans went two years without a game while the license changed hands, and the new rights owner was a small company in Europe by the name of Eutechnyx. The initial trailer impressed even the harshest critics of the EA games, and most believed we were ushering in a golden age for oval racing fans, as iRacing was still relatively new and incredibly pricey compared to what else was on the market.
Instead, we got this:
The game couldn’t live up to the ridiculous hype that Activision and Eutechnyx had generated in the months leading up to release, and when someone got their hands on the game a few days early, the first livestream by a very pissed off customer merely hinted at the years of despair that would follow. The game was barely above the quality of a shovelware title, and users quickly took to the official forums to voice their displeasure with some of the most ridiculous glitches ever to grace a driving game. As you can see in the video above, the game is virtually unplayable. People who drew attention to the sorry state the game released in were promptly labelled as trolls and banned. None of these issues have been fixed, the game received three sequels all with roughly the same amount of bugs, and most people who consider themselves NASCAR fans have bitten the bullet and signed up for iRacing.
I think that’s everything off the top of my head. Might be missing Gran Turismo 5, so maybe a PS3 owner can fill me in on what went wrong there.