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Opinion: There are no great PC racing games

After I built a kick-ass gaming PC last year, I vowed never to go back to a console again but one genre of games has given me second thoughts: racing simulators. While there are plenty of PC racing games, they just don’t appeal to me. You have your hyper-simulators like Simraceway to your arcade racers like Need for Speed: Rivals but neither end of the spectrum gives me what I got from the Gran Turismo or even the Forza series. I want to fall in love with the cars I drive on the PC but I haven’t. Here’s why.

Single Player

Grid 2 crash
YOU SON OF A BITCH!

One of the biggest disappointments of PC racing games is the lack of a solid single player campaign. Companies are focused on getting their games online so that gamers can race each other. That’s all well and good but most of the time, racers end up being dicks, ramming you off the road and the slightest latency could be the difference between a podium finish and wrecking your car.

I like to race alone because it lets me rediscover why I love cars so much. I remember being glued to Gran Tursimo when it first came out as it featured tons of cars from the lowly Honda del Sol to the insane 4-rotor Mazda 787B. I would grind and grind for in-game cash to buy every car and would spend hours modifying them, messing with their setups, and creating my own vision of how each car should drive.

History

Forza Autovista Ford GT

The best racing games give detailed histories about each car’s history. Sure the Bugatti Veyron is impressive but tell me how it has ten radiators to keep its massive W-16 engine cool. I love small details that make each car interesting. Every car can be interesting given the chance. The Honda Civic may seem like a boring commuter car but there are tons of variations throughout the years that are interesting. The Type-R and Spoon tuned Civics are amazing and deserve recognition, even if they’re featured in the same game as exotics.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted attempts to give some history and info about each car but it just comes off as a half-assed attempted at Forza’s Autovista mode where Jeremy Clarkson narrates interesting info while you poke around a car in a show room.

Too real or too fake

NFS Most Wanted Mitsubishi Evo
I have a 500-shot of NOS, yo

Physics for PC racing games leave a lot to be desired. While racing simulators are awesome on the PC, they’re often punishing and require a full wheel and pedal setup. I’m looking for a good compromise between ultra-realistic sim and arcade style driving but haven’t found a game where that exists yet. Although Gran Turismo games tout themselves as “The Real Driving Simulator,” the fact of the matter is that the series is a blend of sim and arcade. That’s not a bad thing, as it helps bring players who usually aren’t into simulation racing to the genre.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, PCs do have a ton of arcade racers, but there are only so many physics-defying slides I can take before it gets ridiculous. I’ve been playing a ton of racers developed by Criterion Games like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Grid 2. Both are great games and I can see why they have a following but the driving dynamics, story, and depth of each game just isn’t there. Grid 2 is so shallow it doesn’t even give racers an in-cabin view.

Hope

Project Cars Pagani Huayra

There is hope yet as a couple of PC racing games have caught my eye. Assetto Corsa is out on PC as a Steam Greenlight project and it’s definitely unfinished. There are only a handful of cars, no career mode, and the driving dynamics need some work. I bought the game as an early-access player in hopes that it will improve down the line.

Another promising racer is Project C.A.R.S.. From the screenshots that are out right now, it looks to be the most graphically impressive racing game of all time. The developers of Project C.A.R.S. are bringing a “Franchise mode” to the game where you’ll have to work your way up from professional Karting to become a specialized racer in touring cars, open-wheel, Le Mans, and more. Color me intrigued.

Gran Turismo made me love cars and the series continues to make fans fall in love with four-wheeled machines. I want to feel excited about cars and racing but no PC game has given me that just yet. I want to feel like I’m twelve years old perfecting my racing line in a shitty Toyota Vitz. I want to turbo charge a Mitsubishi 3000GT to 1000 horse power drag monster. Let me fall in love with cars again, PC developers.

2 thoughts on “Opinion: There are no great PC racing games”

  1. Wow what a great article! Sounds like you’ve been eves-dropping on my thoughts…
    I remember “Porsche Unleashed” and “Gran Turismo 4 and 5” (6 was really a let down) and “Nascar Heat” was a blast to play. They were challenging and had the feel of real driving but forgiving enough to still be fun. I think programmers now days are too busy trying to convince us that they are legitimate scientist to be able to make a fun but believable game. We need some story tellers back in the business.

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