I didn’t think I’d have anything to post today, but Slightly Mad Studios appear to have sent me a literal gift. Today, the same studio that brought you the absymal Project CARS have announced Red Bull Air Race: The Game.
There are two things that need to be addressed when it comes to this announcement.
First, this is fucking awesome. We desperately need a bold and innovative driving game, regardless of how obscure the racing series is. I’m the guy who pushes for hardcore Drag Racing and Monster Truck simulations to offset the bland circuit-based sims we’ve got out there currently, and even though I’ve never watched any Air Race events aside from the demo displays you’ll see at Best Buy, this is exactly what I’ve been advocating for.
Cause I mean, taking stock of what’s currently available on the market in the Summer of 2015, virtually every major racing game is the exact same as one another. rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa, Stock Car Extreme, iRacing, Project CARS, and Race Room Racing Experience are all essentially the same title as imagined by different developers. While there are some exceptions to each bullet point, all modern sims follow the same general path:
- An all-encompassing vehicle roster centering around both professional GT and Open Wheel cars, with several semi-pro cars to round out the selection and give a sense of progression, with the user being encouraged to start in slow cars and move to faster cars as they get more comfortable with the game
- An all-encompassing track roster of about 20 – 25 locations (complete with alternate layouts to pad the track count), overlapping the roster in rival sims by about 70%
- A constant stream of updates marketed to grossly hype up behind-the-scenes physics changes as a complete revolution, leading to the creation of buzzwords such as tire model, surface model, weather model, transmission model, weather model, aero model, force feedback model, and loose surface model, while features seen in games ten years ago such as a detailed career mode or online ranking systems are deemed out of reach or for console players
- Robotic AI that is unrewarding to race against and suffers from slow-down issues and/or pit strategy issues that prevent Single Player races from being anything other than a prep for online events
So it’s cool as hell that a Dev team with experience pushing out AAA-titles (not that they’ve been good) has dropped a freaking licensed airplane racing sim on us out of nowhere. This is really taking it old-school, back to the PS2 era where alongside the latest iteration of Gran Turismo on store shelves would be a World of Outlaws, D1 GP, or NHRA sim. We need this crazy innovation.
And it’ll capitalize on recent advances in hardware. A flight sim with extremely detailed sprawling landscapes is the best way to show off the processing power of the not-so-new-anymore console generation, and with Virtual Reality headsets a year or two away, early adopters of peripherals like the Oculus Rift will gain a distinct competitive advantage in a game where you’re either upside-down or barrel-rolling 90% of the time.
On the other hand, Slightly Mad Studios is now working on five games simultaneously, and with a little over 140 members composing the core SMS staff, this won’t end well.
Above is footage from Project CARS, which released about two months ago. The game was notoriously buggy during the community assisted development phase, turned a large majority of driving game media outlets into viral marketers, and is still nearly unplayable in any serious fashion after several patches. Voicing your issues with the game on the official forums will also lead the head of the studio to personally insult you, the same guy who’s openly tried (and failed) to bribe other media outlets to silence criticism about the game. Slightly Mad Studios have announced that they plan to support Project CARS well after release, but I do not understand how that’s possible, given these next four projects they have on the go:
Before Project CARS was even on store shelves, Project CARS 2 was announced internally to those who participated in the paid beta program, and I got a chance to play an early version last month. The sequel appears to have no noticeable improvements on the original, to the point where the game believed it was already installed on my system, and based on the content already available within the beta builds for testing, was removed from the original game intentionally to justify a sequel.
The beta for World of Speed has still not landed in anyone’s hands yet, despite being worked for a couple of years now. This game was previewed by several sites including InsideSimRacing, and has seemingly vanished into thin air, but not outright cancelled. Instead, developers have said it’s been facing difficulties, which isn’t a good sign for a game that hasn’t even gone into beta yet.
Biker Bash, a spiritual successor to EA’s infamous Road Rash of the late 1990’s, was teased on the WMD Member forums during the development of Project CARS. Nobody is really sure what’s become of this title, other than it hasn’t been shit-canned, and the general public haven’t seen much of it because the majority of WMD Members were interested in Project CARS and only Project CARS.
And that brings us to Red Bull Air Race. Again, the concept is something we desperately need on the market, but with a little over 140 employees spread across what’s now five different games, and the one that’s currently on the market has a bleak future ahead of it, this might be something everyone should be cautious about.