Examining the Historical Firmaments of Racing as a New Gaming Standard
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 20th Jun 2012
-- A Changing Focus --
The history of the racing game genre suggested that the technological aspects of the faithful recreation of racing tech as an experience served as the criteria by which games and their series were measured, with story, legend, or car type largely being thought of as gimmicks rather than a basis by which a game might be measured. That observation may be more significant than it first appears, since to some degree it is those elements -- previously thought to not factor as a meaningful criteria -- that now emerge as the core system of evaluation in modern racing games!
As video gaming enters its 8th official generation there is no shortage of niche-type racing games, making it difficult to explain how it is that two basically identical racing franchises somehow dominate the genre, with their primary differences coming down to their platform-exclusive presence in the racing genre. Is the platform the primary meaningful criteria upon which judgment is based? Does the introduction of a strong third party and platform in the form of the PC's iRacing franchise represent, as it appears to, a new element in what has historically been acknowledged as the routine perennial struggle?
The evidence suggests that the previously dominate and predicable struggle is no longer the cut-and-dry issue that it was, begging the question: was this ever the cut-and-dry issue it appeared to be?
In the past when the issue of racing games and which was the best was raised, the players in the field always came down to Microsoft's Xbox and Forza Motorsports, or Sony's PlayStation and the Gran Turismo franchise, and despite their similarities and the battle within those two series to obtain an edge in the form of endorsement by a particular auto manufacturer and exclusive rights to feature specific models of cars, in the end the question of which racing game was best was often decided by which console a gamer happened to own...
The launch of the racing game Blur (2010) by Activision/Blizzard offered gamers a new take on the traditional arcade-style auto-racing game, with a wide variety of licensed cars and a career mode that saw gamers facing off against each other in venues from all over the world, in which they not only needed to master the basic skills of controlled chaos that are high-speed racing, but also the plethora of special abilities, bonus effects, and twisted strategies that made it a challenging play in single-player mode, but when booted into multi-player it was a very different game whose ability to get at the player's emotions quickly and completely made it an exciting play cementing its role as a fusion of the traditional and nontraditional racing game...
The Xbox 360 and Forza Motorsport Franchise?
For gamers who declare Microsoft's Xbox 360 as their console of choice, the "best" racing game to be had (when we ignore a plethora of other titles -- more on that later) would naturally be the realistic racing game created by Turn 10 Studios that makes up the Forza Motorsport series, with the most recent incarnation being Forza Motorsport 4.
At its basic level the Forza Motorsport games seek to emulate the performance and handling characteristics of a large number of real-life, high-end production cars whose basic models are obtained in the game either as prizes or by puchsing them using money (credits) obtained for racing. These base models are then modified by the player to create their own personalized racing verisons of the cars, this being the key difference between the Xbox exclusive Forza games and the often compared Gran Turismo games on Sony's PlayStation platform.
Where in Gran Turismo the emphasis is placed upon the large field of drivers who are racing in largely similar to identical cars, the emphasis in the Forza games is a large field of drivers who are basically racing in heavily modified and customized versions of these racing vehicles. In spite of what are clearly major philosophical and physical differences in the art of racing, the Forza series is often seen as Microsoft's answer to Gran Turismo for the Xbox platform...
The word "Forza" is Italian for "force" or "strength" -- and it is no coincidence that the two most popular and platform-exclusive racing games happen to both be named with Italian titles -- in fact the relationship between auto racing and Italy is such that the naming, which is said to not have any relationship to the rivalry between the two racing series, is said to be more of an homage to the many contributions that Italy has made to the sport of auto-racing.
The first installment in the Forza Motorsport series -- and the game that christened the series -- is Forza Motorsport, which was released in 2005 exclusively for Microsoft's then new current console, the Xbox 360.
The E3 2011 Official Forza 4 Trailer highlights the new focus of the Forza Series: The Cars. With the integration of Microsoft's Xbox 360 Kinect motion-sensing controller into the game, the walk-around, step-in step-out car touring features made possible by Kinect brought the visual focus upon the reality -- or perhaps unreality -- that the cars in the game were virtually identical to the cars in real life...