Whether or not there is a correlation I don’t know, but for some reason ever since I have started having driving lessons in real life, I have had a growing desire to play racing games. It could be interesting to look into that, and if you have ever had a similar occurrence, let me know, but that’s a topic for another day. What my recent mood has taught me is that racing games – arcade ones in particular – are great, and that there are so few of them releasing in 2015 has me concerned.
Looking at the year ahead, there is only one retail racing game releasing on consoles that has been announced, and that is Project CARS. Whilst the premise of Project CARS is intriguing and the game is looking decent in its own right, the CARS in Project CARS stands for Community Assisted Racing Simulator. I’d like to think that if the racing community assisted with the game it would be more than just a simulator, but apparently not. Don’t get me wrong, racing sims can be great (in a recent trip to Mercedez-Benz World there was a demo set up of Gran Turismo 5 which actually comes close to teaching people what it feels like to drive a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, which is pretty cool) and I know that there is an audience that really enjoy those games, but even for those people, there is very little to be excited about in the near future with the exception of Project CARS.
It’s a shame, because some of the most exciting games are arcade racers. Ever since I first played Daytona in the arcade as a kid I have enjoyed the genre, and my recent kick has led me on an adrenaline-fueled, pulse pounding trip through the likes of Need for Speed Most Wanted and more recently Need for Speed Rivals. These games are fantastic – the sense of speed that you get when you’re cruising on the open road in a beautifully detailed Bugatti Veyron whilst dodging traffic is unmatched, as is sitting inside the cockpit and immersing yourself in what it would be like to travel at such speeds in Need for Speed Shift. The wonderful thing about these arcade racing games is that they are not very limited in the kind of experience they can go for. Even though the majority of the games that I have mentioned are from the same series, that hasn’t stopped them from venturing into new ideas – for instance, whilst Need for Speed Shift heavily focuses on tight circuit racing (as does Project Gotham Racing 3, which I am not ashamed to admit I have also played recently), Need for Speed Most Wanted (the 2012 release) lets you explore a wonderfully-crafted open world full of races to win and billboards to smash, reminiscent of Burnout Paradise. What’s more, I was fairly surprised to find that Need for Speed Most Wanted still had a large number of people playing online and finding a multiplayer game was never a problem. Evidently, people want to play these games, so why do they seem to be disappearing?
Now, I’m not going to pretend that arcade racing games have been successful over the past year or so, for with the exception of Forza Horizon 2 the other major arcade racing games such as Driveclub and The Crew have not nearly lived up to expectations. So perhaps that could be a reason why demand for these titles is decreasing, but nevertheless, these kinds of games can often provide features that gamers tend to enjoy such as customization and collectibles in a detailed open world. When Need for Speed Rivals was released shortly after the launch of the new consoles, it seemed as though the series would become an annual franchise and that development for it would change hands year upon year, much like the Call of Duty games. This formula seemed to be working for them, because the majority of the recent Need for Speed games have been high quality, regardless of the studio that created them. But since Rivals, things have dried up for one of the most popular names in arcade racing. Last year we got nothing – not even an announcement of an upcoming title in the series let alone a release of one. Need for Speed No Limits was announced yesterday which got my hopes up, before I found out that it was merely a game for mobile.
There may yet be light at the end of the tunnel. Whilst we haven’t heard much at the moment, Criterion are busy creating some form of arcade racing game that was hinted at at E3 2014 even if it doesn’t involve cars, so perhaps there is a glimmer of hope. Moreover, Codemasters – who in the past have been considered the king of arcade racing games – have been keeping quiet for some time now when it comes to fully fledged retail games, so perhaps there’s something brewing there. But ultimately, you look at the calendar for the year ahead in regard to announced console games and not one of them is an arcade racer. Hopefully this can change, because it is a genre that has provided endless entertainment for me and many other gamers over the years. Time will tell.