Racing games are one of the oldest genres in video gaming. In fact, the first racing game, Atari’s Space Race, was released just six and a half months after Pong. We are now in the 5th decade of racing games and they are more impressive than ever. Games like Gran Turismo Sport and Forza Motorsport 7 are incredibly close to being photorealistic. Games like Driveclub, Forza Horizon 3, and Need for Speed blur the lines between online and offline games. Ubisoft’s The Crew provides one of the largest playing areas in all of gaming. There are games where you can race cars, motorbikes, boats, jet-skis, planes, wing-suits, and of course on foot (check out RageSquid’s brilliant Action Henk). But with nearly every vehicle catered for, all types of players covered, all styles (from simulation to arcade and beyond) included, where could racing games go next? Recently I have been playing a lot of Wipeout: Omega Collection and Micro Machines: World Series and it got me thinking; is the future of racing games in the past?
Wipeout: Omega Collection is one of the first racing games to get the remaster treatment. The developers recognised that there’s nothing inherently wrong with the old games that it features, it’s just the graphics look very dated and online play is now available for consoles. They have taken the original ships and courses and given them a facelift for this latest console generation. The results are amazing. The game looks stunning in 4k at 60 frames per second on my PlayStation 4 Pro. There was nothing wrong with the gameplay or the design of the game; it just needed a polish to bring it in-line with today’s racing games.
Codemasters have just released a new game in the Micro Machines series of games. Micro Machines: World Series is another budget title that takes inspiration from old racing games. The Micro Machines games were among the best top-down racers when they were released back in the mid-late 90s. This latest entry takes the same style of racing, vehicles, tracks, powerups, & events and compliments it with modern graphics. Codemasters have also added online play and leaderboards as well as new battle races that focus on the combat side of things. In the battle events there are deathmatch, king of the hill, capture the flag, and plant the bomb style events. This game really takes me back to the very start of my gaming career, arguing with friends about who knocked who off of the track as we sat next to each other on the sofa.
Both of these games, one a remaster, the other a revival of a beloved series, show an exciting new direction for the racing genre. I’m not suggesting that all old racing games should be revisited. There’s no point in remastering something like Gran Turismo 2 or the first Forza Motorsport games as we have a steady stream of those titles, often featuring the same tracks and cars. However, classics like Destruction Derby, V-Rally or Project Gotham Racing could be incredible again with a new coat of paint. A revival of the Motorstorm, Burnout, or Midnight Club games would also be very welcome. All of these titles have enough of a nostalgia factor that they would feel fresh again, and also have fans of these series grinning from ear to ear, eager to put their money down for new games.
New IPs are always welcome on any system, but I don’t think we should be so quick to forget the games of the past. With there not being many new ways that you can revitalize the racing game format, borrowing from the past could give a fresh new vibe to the genre. Even Call of Duty is going back to its past and revisiting World War 2 with this year’s entry, so I don’t see why racing games can’t do the same kind of thing. I don’t think it would work with every dormant franchise but pick the right series and this could be very successful. As much as I would love to see a new Split/Second game, I just don’t see the fanbase being there. However, if EA were to step away from Need For Speed for a second and allow Criterion to make an amazing new Burnout title, I think the fan reaction would be through the roof.
Do you think there is a place for old racing franchises to come back? What series would you like to see revived/remastered? What games should developers leave alone? Feel free to shout out in the comments section below. Anyway, I’m off to blast along the tracks of Wipeout in my AG Systems Prototype. See you on the track!