A huge throwback today, and there may be quite a few of you who don’t remember this game:
Wikipedia writes that Motor City Online was a massively multiplayer online racing game released by Electronic Arts on October 29, 2001. The point of the game was to buy classic cars (mostly American muscle cars) ranging from 1930’s to 1970’s models, customize them, and race them against other players. The game was taken offline on August 29, 2003 so EA Games could focus on their current online game at the time, The Sims Online. Originally conceived as part of the Need for Speed series under the title Need for Speed: Motor City, all single player elements that may have been developed for the game were discarded in favor of an online-only model. The game featured some RPGlements, such as leveling up after completing tasks, and a functional, supply and demand economy for players to get involved in.
It was an online-only version of Need for Speed High Stakes, with classic muscle cars, a Forza-like storefront, and when it went offline, you couldn’t play it anymore. Customization played a huge role in Motor City Online – with over 2,000 authentic and licensed styling and performance parts, each player was tasked with building their car from the ground up, sometimes mixing and matching parts like one would do in Forza nowadays to prep the car for a certain class.
For those who still have the original CD kicking around, a Russian Mod team has built a launcher to run the game in an offline state, allowing you to try a portion of the game, sans MMO elements of course, on a modern PC. While you won’t be able to customize your car, buy upgrades, join car clubs, or participate in 90% of the activities which made Motor City Online unique, being able to check out the full roster of cars and tracks in Quick Race mode serves as a nice throwback to a title that paved the way for much larger MMO racers such as Test Drive Unlimited and Forza Horizon.
Ultimately, the online-only format lead to the game’s downfall. This was the early 2000’s, where lag was a major issue in all online games, and despite a reported peak of 36,000 active subscribers (a huge amount for an experimental title that deviated away from standard racers at the time), the game was killed off, with active members rewarded with a membership to either The Sims Online, Ultima Online, or Earth and Beyond.