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The excitement from the next generation of consoles and games still hasn’t worn off for me. I still get giddy looking at all the trailers for the games we’ll be able to play at the end of the year. For racing games there does seem to be a focus on large open world games. This has got me looking back at open world racers hat have worked for me in the past along with the games that haven’t and why.

The single most important thing that open world racers need to focus on is fun!

Now normally I’d say that you can’t go too big when it comes to the scale of an open world racer, but unfortunately it isn’t quite as simple as that.

It’s fine having a massive world, but if there’s nothing to do in it, that’s a slight problem. Fuel from Codemasters, was a huge world, but you could drive for seemingly miles, without coming across an event or anything of interest. I still manage to enjoy the game, but I was left wanting a little more to do in this vast arena we were thrown into.

FUEL

“Yeah I drove up this mountain… now what?”

With these vast worlds that we’ll be able to explore, the handling of the cars is also very important. I loved the idea of Test Drive Unlimited 2, it achieves what it sets out to do very well, but I couldn’t personally get on with the handling of the cars, they felt far too light. Now I don’t expect a racing sim as part of these games, but I like the cars to feel substantial. A distinct feeling between different classes is fine enough for me. Which brings me onto my next point: accessibility.

If you can see past the glowing neon lights and ridiculous option to install crazy sound systems…

The balance between an arcade racer and a sim is a tricky one. I absolutely understand why you’d want a game that takes aspects from both styles of driving as it would have wider appeal. This is something that the Burnout games managed quite well: the cars felt responsive but you’re still able to pull off the occasional mental power slide without much effort. One of the most memorable open world racers for me is Burnout Paradise. Of course this has come over to the latest Criterion game, Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

Being a bit of a car nut myself, I love when a game allows me to customise my garage, whether that be a custom paint job, or to deck my cars out with custom parts. This is something which upcoming racer The Crew looks to have hit spot on with the recent trailer showing off the ability to fully customise your car for off-road use including adding extra spotlights, changing the suspension and throwing on some fat tyres. One game which stands out in my mind as having such a huge level of customisation is Need For Speed: Underground 2. If you can see past the glowing neon lights and ridiculous option to install crazy sound systems in your car, the level of customisation was massive.

The Crew

I can’t wait to be a part of this!

The single most important thing that open world racers need to focus on, is fun! We need to have the option to take part in silly challenges, with or without friends. Or if we’re in the mood to explore, just make it easy to navigate about, maybe throw in a few collectibles for good measure. I’m going to give some credit to Driver: San Francisco here for this. I can’t tell you how much fun I had with that game, the random challenges were great to mix up the gameplay, on top of that the multiplayer games were such a stupid laugh. I can’t think of many other racers where I managed to win a game of tag in a Fiat 500. It’s not always about being in the fastest car.

Open world racers are a tricky balance between fun, scale, and accessibility. I’m hoping the new generation brings all us car nuts together in one glorious pile up, a pile up of love!

  • John Brown

    James, you hit the nail on the head! There’s got to be a REASON for open-worldyness (new word and it’s MINE!) and that seems to be lost on occasion. FUEL is an excellent example of this. I remember spending a LONG time driving along the single road which stretched from the coast to the big cliff thinking there’d have to be some sort of reward to doing it.. after all why have a great big long road unless to drive along flat out! No, nothing. For me “open world” is roughly equal to “anticipated boredom”. I need a story or at least an ongoing narrative to hold my attention and sometime “I wonder what’s at the top of THAT hill” isn’t quite enough.

  • James Plant

    Thanks for reading and I’m glad you agree. An massive open world is great, but it really needs to be full of life! Open-worldyness! Great word, I acknowledge all rights belong to you.