Apples ‘n’ Oranges: The Premise

July 23, 2009

If you walked by my DVD/video game shelf thingy, you would probably notice that I likes me my racing games. I have a whole section full of them. We are in a bit of a lull, as far as racers are concerned, but there are at least 5 with the potential to be excellent coming rather rapidly down the pipe (Split/Second, Blur, Forza 3, Dirt 2, and [knowing I am probably going to start a flame war with this one] Need For Speed: Shift). So, if I am going to finish getting all the reasonable-to-get achievements for the ones I have, I’m going to have to get a move on.

I am going to use that excuse to do a little comparison here of my current stock (and maybe add a couple older ones to it) to try and figure out the one racing game to rule them all. I realize that this is going to be a little like comparing apples and oranges (thus the title), but there are some commonalities that make a comparison relatively useful.

Racers tend to come in two different flavors: arcade and sim. Arcade racers, in my tenuous analogy, are the oranges. They tend to be thinner (yet more intense) experiences that rely more on twitch than general race skill. Sims, being the denser and more serene of the two, are the apples.

Here is the list of competitors in Round 1. They are all either the first or second entry their developer made this hardware cycle. I have completely played through all but 3 once already (and one of those 3 I played most of the way though on the original X-Box):

  • Need For Speed: Most Wanted
  • Need For Speed: Carbon
  • Dirt
  • Grid
  • Project Gotham Racer 4
  • Burnout Paradise
  • Forza 2

Burnout 3 and PGR 3 might be added into the mix. I’ll update this one appropriately if they are.

Let’s look at the points of comparison that are specific to the racer genre (or are missing from the normal video game review rating system).

  • Car Quantity– How many cars are in the game
  • Car Quality– How many cars are in the game AND actually fun to drive
  • Car Modification (Visual)– How can you make the cars pretty
  • Car Modification (Performance)– How can you make the cars drive better
  • D’s of Doom– There are a couple of race types that, in my humble opinion, should be banished from the realm of racer. They both happen to start with “D”: Drift and Drag. They throw the game physics out of whack to make drift work and still then think it is somehow fun to slide around like your car is a greased brick. Frustration abounds. And drag boils down to annoying pattern recognition game design that went out of style in the 90’s. Again, frustration abounds.
  • Unique Race Types– Are you just doing circuit/point-to-point races, or does the game have more variety?
  • Currency– How does the game’s economy work. Just cash? Earning reputation, too? How is cash (and rep, if applicable) earned?
  • Achievements– How many achievements are offline? How many are reasonably attainable?

Expect the first review (Forza 2, as it is the racer I have played most recently of the ones I have finished) this week. This will be fun.


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