Get in the car and drive

Casa Spinneyhead loves driving games. I’ve been meaning to write a group review of them for a while, so here goes.

We haven’t tried the most recent version of Gran Turismo, because we don’t have a PS3, but have played most of the others between us. There’s not a lot to be said about Gran Turismo that hasn’t been said elsewhere. It is the daddy of racing games, but it appeals more to the perfectionist than others in the genre.

GT3‘s cheat of choice was to build the most powerful car possible and use the extra horses to compensate for poor driving. With GT4 we discovered B mode, where you play as the team manager, sitting on the pit wall working out strategies and telling your driver how aggressive to be. Unlike professional drivers, they actually pay attention to you.

For beautiful graphics, realistic cars and handling and masses of tuning options, Gran Turismo is your best bet. The lack of damage, given the way we drive, is a bonus as well.

Project Gotham Racing 2 offers no tuning options, and it does have damage and less realistic handling. Which makes it much more fun, naturally. The aim is to collect Kudos, rather than credits, to progress. You don’t just get points for winning races. They’re awarded for drifts, air and other factors of style. Which suits us fine, because we have a hard time keeping our cars going in a straight line. Night time races, with damage taking out your headlights, are a special kind of challenge. Project Gotham 3 is available for the Xbox 360, but we don’t have one of those either.

Need For Speed: Carbon places great emphasis on drifting as well. There are events dedicated to it and it plays an important role in the pursuit races as a way to block the other drivers. We haven’t progressed very far on the career game, which takes you from neophyte drifter to, I guess, King of the sideways drivers. Customising your car is, of course, an important element in the game, allowing you to build the tuner of your dreams.

Body building is a big part of Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition. Our in house competition is to see how tacky our cars can be. This is our current favourite driver, to the extent that we’ve started all over again.

Rockstar aren’t famed for their socially responsible games. Whilst you can’t run anyone over the way Grand Theft Auto lets you, there’s a lot of scope for property damage. Win money racing through three cities (the Remix adds Tokyo and new cars) and modify your car for speed and style along the way. Routes are peppered with destructible architecture and jumps. Hitting a ramp at full boost can see you spending a long, long time in the air. The household’s favourite ride is the Chrysler 300C. It’s no coincidence that we started seeing so many on Manchester’s roads right after we started playing it.

The Burnout series was addictive from the start, but it wasn’t until number three that it really came through on its promise of being able to take out other racers using buildings and traffic. This makes the racing as addictive as the crashing sections, which were the highlight of the previous versions. Sadly, Burnout: Revenge screwed up a lot of features and is much less playable. There’s no tuning or purchasing of cars in these games, just make your choice based upon weight and speed and get out there and cause carnage.

We tried a Formula One game, but it just didn’t work for us. Another spin off of a real racing series- Colin McRae Rally 2005– was far better. How much better we can’t say, because the game really does take account of damage and we’re far too fond of interacting with the scenery to keep our cars intact. Damage, in multi stage rallies, can only be partially fixed by allocating time to different jobs. If we could learn to stay on the road, this could become an addiction.

There are a few also rans in the search for the perfect driving game. Forza Motorsport didn’t impress. Forza 2 might be an improvement but, again, we don’t have a 360. Ford Racing was poor, its unique- and only- selling point being the ability to drive Henry’s products. NASCAR was even worse. Midtown Madness is fun, but not as much as so many of those listed above. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit seems slow and low quality compared to later versions.


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