Examining the Historical Firmaments of Racing as a New Gaming Standard

Examining the Historical Firmaments of Racing as a New Gaming Standard

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 21st Jun 2012

Gran Turismo 5

-- Need for Speed Series --
On the surface the Need for Speed series would seem to own the organized alternative street racing scene, so in throwing down the gauntlet with Forza Horizons it is largely the Need for Speed series that is the direct competition -- and who Turn 10 is choosing to go head-to-head with. A brief examination of the Need for Speed series reveals a huge and unbroken line of games that explore practically every aspect of racing outside of the organized track style, and in fact in reviewing the series for this piece we were shocked to learn how many games there actually were in the Need for Speed franchise!

Need for Speed, from the beginning, includes:

-- Need for Speed (1994)
-- Need for Speed II (1997)
-- Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit (1998)
-- Need for Speed: High Stakes/Road Challenge (1999)
-- Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed/Porsche 2000 (2000)
-- Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (2002)
-- Need for Speed: Underground (2003)
-- Need for Speed: Underground 2 (2004)
-- Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005)
-- Need for Speed: Carbon (2006)
-- Need for Speed: ProStreet (2007)
-- Need for Speed: Undercover (2008)
-- Need for Speed: Shift (2009)
-- Need for Speed: Nitro (2009)
-- Need for Speed: World (2010)
-- Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010)
-- Shift 2: Unleashed (2011)
-- Need for Speed: The Run (2011)
-- Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012)

A total of nineteen titles, ranging from traditional street racing, to cops & robbers, to story-based action-adventure titles, the folks at Electronic Arts would seem to have sewn up those parts of the racing sub-genre, and yet here comes Turn 10 eager to carve out its share of the market and, perhaps, gain a little insurance on the other side. Bearing in mind that Forza Horizons by virtue of its connection to the Forza franchise is very like to receive the lion's share of casual racing gamers who would not ordinary play a racing game outside of the Forza franchise anyway, but are even more likely to draw in gamers from other non-traditional series based upon the strength of the demonstrated quality of the main series itself.

While at times the unreality of the main plots and story lines for the games in the Need for Speed series may disconnect you from their realistic game worlds, in the end what it is really about is racing, and that is something you can get behind -- tho getting in front is always better!

What Forza Horizon Means to the Racing Genre

The creation of Horizon is thought to be an official reaction by both Turn 10 and to some degree by Microsoft to the increasingly popular more realistic racing games that have been seen to have encroached upon the traditional dominance of Forza and Gran Turismo in the racing genre. Specifically the following game series have been said to pose a threat to the big two:

-- Burnout (Electronic Arts)
-- Colin McRae/Dirt (Codemasters)
-- Midnight Club (RockStar Games)
-- MotoGP (Climax/THQ)
-- Need for Speed (EA Games)
-- Project Gotham Racing (Bizarre Creations)
-- Test Drive (Atari)

In addition to the above game series' recent individual titles have also been perceived as a threat to the status quo of Forza and Gran Turismo, including:

-- Blur (Activision/Blizzard)
-- Fuel (Asobo/Codemasters)
-- Nail'd (Techland/Deep Silver)
-- Pure (Black Rock Studios)

Presumption is often a solid source for confusion, and what with the long and traditional place of the Forza Motorsport series as a bastion of highly-regimented traditional on-track racing, we might be forgiven for mistaking Forza Horizon for another entry in that traditional field, but once the gloves were taken off and the true nature of the game -- which is Turn 10's opening shot in its invasion of street racing -- completely understood, well then all bets are off!

While it may not be obvious on the surface, another sub-genre in the racing genre is also considered to pose something of a threat to the traditional dominance of Forza/Gran Turismo, and that is the Kart Racing games. The following kart games and kart game series are thought to have had a significant impact upon the genre as a whole:

-- Donkey Kong Barrel Blast (Paon/Nintendo)
-- Mario Kart (Nintendo)
-- ModNation Racers (United Front)
-- NASCAR Kart Racing (EA Sports)
-- Scrap Metal (Slick Entertainment)
-- Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (Sumo Digital/SEGA)

While no one game in the above list has had a major impact in numbers upon the dominance enjoyed by either Forza or Gran Turismo, collectively they have chipped away to the point that as a group they are considered to be a legitimate threat, and not only that, the special focus that each of these games has which is clearly outside of the more traditional professional racing theme also presents something of a problem for Turn 10 and Polyphony Digital because it more than suggests that there is a wide interest in types of racing that clearly fall outside of the realm of the structured track environment for which Forza and Gran Turismo established the standards.

After reviewing the racing scene in video games, and having seen what there was to see of Forza Horizons at E3 2012, we are left with the nagging suspicion that Horizons is simply the beginning of a trend, and when the other show drops will it be Gran Turismo Kart Racing?

An interesting anecdote to this line of thought is the interactive racing events that Sony is promoting under the title of Gran Turismo Academy -- a special program whose primary focus is a type of driving event that is very similar to that offered by iRacing, but of course the GT series is better established and has a much broader following...

Joining forces with automaker and pro-racing sponsor Nissan, Sony once again offers gamers a shot at being a real professional race car driver by playing their game -- Gran Turismo Academy 2012 -- which is a free extension of the most recent game in the series, Gran Turismo 5. As the video above details however, there is more to being a professional driver than simply knowing when to shift gears! Do you have what it takes? Watch the video to find out!