racing game round-up march 2021

Today was the first practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix. This means that F1 season is starting up again (I mean, I guess racing season itself is too, if you ignore the IMSA Endurance races and the Mazda Cup). With that in mind, I thought it would be the perfect time to bring back that thing I do where I play some racing games and then say if they’re good or not. Maybe even make it a monthly thing. The season being over should also explain why I haven’t been doing this for a while.

Initial Drift Online

Before I begin this, quick shout out to my friend, Miffy The Gaming Goddess, for showing me this game.

Initial Drift Online is an open-world street racing game that is currently in Steam Early Access. The elevator pitch for this would probably be “Burnout Paradise meets Initial D.” You drive around various parts of Japan known for their street racing culture, racing other players or delivering tofu for cash, which you then use to either upgrade or buy a new car. It’s a bit bare-bones at the moment, but what’s there is fun enough. Admittedly, it did take me a while to get used to the car handling. I’m so used to games that emphasize you using the brake and slowing down on corners, rather than games like this, where you just spin to win through them. Also, some of the adjustments you can make to your car might not actually work yet. So there’s a bit of a learning curve to IDO.

Now I will say that earning money can be a bit tedious; driving back and forth down long, long, long winding roads to deliver tofu isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. But it’s worth it when you have a car that can actually hold its own in a race. I am looking forward to seeing Initial Drift’s progress, and come back to this once there’s some more stuff to do. As it is, I kind of have to keep this write-up short, as there isn’t much else to say. Mostly wanted to plug a nice little indie game I played. It’s fun and it’s cheap. So put on your favorite Eurobeat and take some corners.

Ridge Racer 7

After about two years of pulling out my hair, banging my head on the wall, and not getting anything resembling a straight answer from the internet, I finally got my PS3 modded yesterday! I’ll get around to doing a post on that once I get more than two games on there. Anyways. One of those two games was Ridge Racer 7, because you need a Ridge Racer on your Playstation console, even if you get it about 14 years too late.

For a game that came in 2007, early in the PS3’s life, Ridge Racer still looks really good. I shouldn’t be so shocked, since Namco games always have an amazing art style and a timeless look, but it’s still interesting to see a game developed during a tumultuous period for the PS3 not look like hot garbage. It should go without saying that it sounds good too. I mean, duh, Ridge Racer always has great music. It has some sick EDM, as racing games should, but it also features a couple of songs from this nameless genre that seems to exist mostly in Japanese video games. You know the kind, with the somber piano set to unusual techno beats, sometimes suddenly shifting into a different sound altogether. RR7 does it, Phantasy Star Online does it, Opoona does it, Tekken 7 does it, Blue Reflection (fuck) does it. Whatever it is, I fucking love it.

Ridge Racer 7 owns. This is the kind of racing game you play if you’re only in the mood for “car go fast brrr,” and don’t feel like constantly having to make adjustments and do hard things like look at numbers. I don’t mean that as an insult; sometimes you just want to feel the sensation of going fast in a hurry. When you come to grips with how the cars handle, playing well is so goddamn satisfying. Getting that perfect drift that fills up your boost gauge (this game has a boost gauge now), and leaving the other cars in your dust is so good. A term you could use to describe Ridge Racer 7, or any Ridge Racer for matter, is “effortless style.” Playing well takes time, but it looks so easy when you get it.

i’m thinkin’ about dig-dug

If there’s any game you decide to play after reading this post, please make it Ridge Racer.

Cosmic Race

Now we’re going from an early PS3 game, to an early PS1 game.You may not know about this game, as it never left Japan. A pretty good reason as to why it never left Japan is because Cosmic Race is widely considered one of the worst games on the system. And boy, is it ever! Mostly because it controls like absolute shit, is somehow completely nonsensical despite being a racing game, and is said that a good chunk of the game’s graphics are default assets from the Playstation Development Kit. Actually playing the game feels legitimately unfinished. I don’t mean unfinished in the sense that one or two things feel rushed, but there is still a whole product, like most games. No, I mean unfinished as in, if I released a demo of one of the games I’m working on to Itchio.biz right now, it would be as much of a game as Cosmic Race.

This was as far as I got in Gran Prix mode. The rival car (the only one you have to beat, despite there being like a dozen flying cars in front of you at any given time) goes super fast, and I could never get used to the control scheme of strafing with the d-pad and turning with the face buttons. You won’t get used to it, either.

It is extremely not good. Which, of course, also makes it great for all the wrong reasons. The secret to Cosmic Race is to not actually play the racing mode. This sounds weird, I know, but there is another mode to the game that is almost enjoyable. In it, you fly around looking for three markers as quickly as possible. This is pretty much impossible, as the markers will randomly disappear and reappear, and your guide are two arrows pointing you in completely arbitrary directions. You’ll never finish this mode, either. But what I do like about it is simply floating around in this low-poly world where nothing makes sense. It’s almost kind of scary; it’s like playing a dream. But I love it.

I would liken Cosmic Race to the Playstation equivalent of Death Crimson. Depending on what kind of person you are, this is either a huge recommendation, or a huge condemnation. Check it out.

Well then, that’s three games covered. I think I will return to this some time in the next month, turning it into a feature for the rest of the racing season. Look forward to it!

gran turismo sport

I finally got myself a copy of Gran Turismo Sport a couple days ago. Mostly because it was cheap and I’m seemingly hellbent on playing as many racing games as possible these days. People who followed me back before a database failure deleted every post I made on here from 2008-2013 will remember that I fucking love Gran Turismo 6. It, along with Super Hang-On, is one of those sim type racing games that I loved even before I loved the sport it was based on. GT6 is very much a Pokemon For Adults, in the sense that you collect all these sports cars, race them, then leave them to sit in a box for eternity as you seek to acquire more of them. This is why I didn’t immediately jump on GT Sport, as it significantly cut back on the number of cars in an effort to focus on the actual racing aspect, to the point of having their courses officially sanctioned by the FIA. As I didn’t care enough about the sport side, I looked at it like buying a new Pokemon game, and only getting like 25 creatures to catch in a series that conditions you to find at least 250.

Anyways. I’ve spent the past 2 days pouring over this game. I hate to say it, but I find myself bouncing off of it pretty quick, finding GT6 much more preferable.

GT Sport does a really good job of sucking you in, aside from a really shitty intro that focuses on showing off a bunch of weird looking nerds playing the game instead of cars going fast while a Daiki Kasho jam blasts your eardrums out. But once you actually start the game, you immediately notice how fucking gorgeous the graphics are; and they fucking better be, considering the game is almost 100 gigs in size (sidebar: video games are TOO FUCKING BIG these days!). It’s pretty as hell, the soundtrack is full of the Daiki Kasho classics the series is known for, and the driving feels great. Despite cutting down on the number of cars, I was still able to buy my two favorite Nissan’s: the 300ZX and the 240Z (or at least, a close equivalent in the GReddy Fugu Z), in addition to a number of Mitsubishi Lancers, which are also really cool.

I cannot stress enough how satisfying it is to drive these machines around. And on top of all this, there’s a pretty great livery editor, which let’s me import my own custom textures. Finally, there is a Slimegirl Racing Team.

Yes, I will have a second Slimegirl game finished someday. Making video games is hard, okay?

There’s all this cool shit that looks and plays great. The soundtrack tries to make up for the fact that the PS4 sucks and won’t let you put your own music on the hard drive like you could with the PS3. But then there’s a problem. You don’t notice it at first, but the further you make it in the game, the more pronounced it becomes.

A big thing that GT Sport has is the involvement of Lewis Hamilton. There’s an entire Time Trial DLC where you have to beat his best times, lots of in-game promotion of him, and then a timeline of his life and career up to 2019. Obviously, this in and of itself is fine; the history of sports games is tied to athlete endorsements, Hamilton is on the verge of being the best driver of all time, and he’s apparently a big fan of the series. It only makes sense to bring him on-board.

No, what’s weird about this is that periods of his life are posted in relative terms to events in world history. Some of it is fairly normal, like the release of movies and popular albums. Then it starts to relate his career more and more to a bunch of conservative shit. Trump, Brexit, Space X, tech-bro stuff, the Pope. A few cursory mentions of Obama, Malala Yousafzai, and Usain Bolt, sure, but it’s still mostly old racist white dudes. At no point is any of Hamilton’s activism mentioned. “Black Lives Matter” does not appear a single time. No environmental activism. Nothing. All you know is that Lewis Hamilton won a bunch of races, and Windows 10 came out and revolutionized the world.

Yes, these are all important world events, true. But it does feel uncomfortable relating all of this to the life of a proud Black activist, you know? Why not relate his accomplishments to examples of Black excellence? Maybe mention more than three athletes? Strides made in equal rights? Anything better than “evil man succeeds at thing?”

Then this reactionary attitude spills over into the actual racing. In order to actually take part in the “Sport” part of GT Sport, you have to attend a “Racing Etiquette” class where some instructional videos tell how not to drive like an asshole. No running people off the course, no ramming other cars like it’s Burnout, no unsportsmanlike conduct. That sort of thing. Obviously, nobody who plays this game follows any of these rules. It’s to be expected that a bunch of clownshoes will play dirty in their quest for a podium. That’s not a surprise to me. But then you play the offline campaign, and the fucking AI drivers start pulling shit on you, too. They’ll gladly run you into the dirt. I had to restart a race about four times because the CPU cars were too busy trying to kill each other, which made driving impossible. You don’t get penalized offline, either. Feel free to hit them back. Drive over a curb if you want, who gives a fuck? The online penalties are a joke, too! In real racing, you do an illegal overtake, you have to give up your position and let the other driver pass you. In real racing, you intentionally cause all sorts of safety hazards, you can be suspended for several races, and have points taken off your license. In GT Sport, the most you get is a 2-4 second penalty added to your time at the end, which won’t mean much if the guy you forced into a wall is now in last place.

My attempt at online racing has left me firmly in the middle of the pack, getting 5th or 6th in a 12-person race. Trying to play the right way at least raises my “Sportsmanship” rating, and I was willing to at least accept that. But now I can’t, knowing that the offline game is just as chaotic. The reason I’m calling GT Sport a conservative game is because it puts forward all these rules, expects you to follow them, then proceeds to immediately and blatantly break them in front of you, as Conservatives do. Unlike real racing, there’s no team, there’s no Constructors Championship. Everything is a solo effort. Anything below 3rd place is irrelevant. In other words, all I’m doing is losing and all I have to show for it is a meaningless number going up, with no real points to my name. The game is conservative because trying to follow the rules, showing decorum and respectability and all that shit, will make you a loser. You either look like a loser and complain about unfair it all is as you keep losing, or you start to play dirty like everyone else. That sucks. Racing has politics, yes, but I’m not interested in being the Nancy Pelosi of Motorsport, you know?

It’s a shame. Gran Turismo Sport was a game I was expecting to spend years with (or at least until Sony kills the servers and tells you to buy a PS5, idiot). Maybe I’m approaching this game from the wrong mindset; wanting a regular Gran Turismo, and instead getting this weird yet gorgeous thing that expects you to be an asshole that has to cheat to win. Not a fan. I prefer my skill-based competitive games to be based around skill.

I guess I’ll turn the PS3 back on and load up GT6.

daiki kasho- all my life

r: racing evolution

I’m back to give the people what they want: me talking about racing games! Yeah, I’m as shocked as you that these are as well-liked as they are; I was expecting a bunch of nerds pushing up their glasses and asking me how the latest “Sportsball” went after the first post. Anyways, this game in particular is big enough that it gets its own post, rather than as part of an ADHD-like post where I write a bunch of shit down. Let’s take a look at R: Racing Evolution.

As you no doubt already gathered by the title screen, R: Racing Evolution is a Namco racer. Designed to be a more realistic take on the Ridge Racer series. So no drifting on every turn and making sweet jumps on anything that isn’t a Rally car. Real world sponsors. Real world cars. Honda and Ford replace Assoluto and Age Solo. Think of it as Namco’s take on Gran Turismo. Namco’s take on Gran Turismo, but now asking one very important question:

What if Gran Turismo was horny?

Like, really horny?

Also: what if it was kind of gay and riddled with the kind of lesbian tension people who like Stephen Universe lose their shit over?

Well, that’s R: Racing Evolution.

Okay, so the titties are big and the main characters are primed for their own Archive Of Our Own category. What about the rest of the game? Does it own? Is it sick? The answer to that is yeah, dude.

Like I said, this is a realistic sim, unlike Ridge Racer’s off-the-wall, drift every corner style of driving. The courses can be tough; good lord can the courses be tough. The game doesn’t hold your hand, either: know how to drive going in, or get the fuck out. Hmm, okay, maybe it doesn’t demand that level of perfection out of you, but neither will it take it easy on you.

Something that’s pretty cool about R is that there’s more to it than Stock car racing. You get Rally racing, Classic Car (Privateer) racing, Prototype challenges, and even Drag racing. A lot of variety that’s good for taking someone like me, only really familiar with one type of auto sport, and turning me on (lol) to a whole host of other methods of making car go fast vroom vroom. I might want to consider looking up some Rally races on YouTube later. And the reason why that’s cool is that one of the reasons (I’ll get to the other one later) it took me nearly 34 years to appreciate, let alone enjoy, racing was because it looked so boring. All left turns for about a million laps. Between playing this game and sitting down to watch the 2020 Indy 500, I can easily understand why racing on a ring can be exciting to someone the same way watching a race on a varied track with lots of hard turns is for me. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into it: intentionally driving slower than normal, not breaking out of the pack, so as to stay within the slipstream of other cars around you, allowing you to speed right the fuck up as the race gets closer to the end. That’s pretty cool.

That’s the mechanical side. R:RE is a fun ass racer that feels good to play. But what makes it memorable and makes it stand out amongst the other racing games of the era is its story mode. It’s fucking great. The game suddenly goes all “sports manga” on you, and focuses less on realism, and more on the drama on and off the track.

BREAK TIME

 

The main character is an EMT with big titties who gets recruited to a racing team after taking one of their drivers to the hospital via sick racing moves. I’ll spare you all a big synopsis, but know that it involves all of the different racing modes and competing for championships. Along the way, shit gets all fucked up. Like fuck dude, there’s implications that your team is owned by the mob, and that people who try to leave don’t do so alive. But much like the game itself, I will have to drop this plot point after one sentence. Kind of a big problem here: a lot of stuff is not resolved. Whether there was a rush put on the game, or if there were plans to expand on the story in a sequel that never came, I don’t know. But it’s a shame you only get glimpses or the really out-there elements.

The parts of R’s story that stick with you are the in-game radio conversations. It goes above and beyond the standard team radio you hear in real racing. Now, you have the pit crew having full conversations in your ear. You can hear your opponents talk shit about you, or conversely, freak the fuck out as you start to overtake them. Everything feels more competitive, even more personal at times, as a result.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for this sort of thing, but I love it. The whole thing comes across as an extension of what Ridge Racer 4 was trying in its Grand Prix mode.

Actually, hold on. Is it cool if I go way the fuck off-topic and talk about how sick Ridge Racer 4 is for a moment? It’ll all tie back into this piece about R: Resident Evil.

R4 was the first racing game I played for any real length of time. I was in middle school at the time, didn’t care much for cars, but I was a young mark and easily susceptible to hype for upcoming Playstation games. I had a shit time around cars as a kid. Growing up with alcoholics driving you everywhere while drunk. Trying to learn how to drive when you’re older as they scream at you for going 26 in a 25. The closest thing to a racing fan club is the derelict house across the street where White Trash drink cheap beer and get into fist fights. I did not like vehicles. They were loud, they broke all the time, and I went about 18 years never having a single good experience inside of one (before someone makes a joke about virginity and teenage sex, I didn’t fuck in cars. I fucked in strangers bedrooms at parties thrown by rich kids that I knew from school). I mentioned before that I’m still prone to anxiety attacks behind the wheel. Well, now you know why. But Ridge Racer 4, in its infinitely cool, stylish way, showed me that there was another side to cars. That they could be fun, that they could be part of the most interesting sport in the world. I liked the game a lot, but ultimately, I filed it away as “video games are video games, and real life is a shitshow where everyone yells way too much.” And besides, racing is just cheap redneck shit where you load up on Bud Lite, make out with your sister at the track, and get home in time for your klan rally, right? In my mid-30s, I’m regretting all the time I spent ignoring the sport, but you can understand my thought process.

Anyways. While working on my own game development, I’ve been rolling around the idea of a racing game in my head. Influenced by R4’s story mode, I wanted to make something that could appeal to someone in my position: a game about cars for someone who has bad experiences with them. More dialogue during races, rivalries played out during and between races, all types of cool shit like that. Then I played R: Racing Evolution, and realized Namco themselves beat me to the punch 17 years ago.

This is what I wanted out of a racing game, and I got it. A game that could make a non-fan understand why someone would love the sport so much. Something to help you visualize the beauty of the track, and the skill that the drivers navigate it with. Which is why I’m giving my highest possible recommendation for you to play it; it runs really fucking well in Dolphin. The game owns bones. And it has big titties in it, and really, who can hate that?