Inside the dark recesses of our minds we all have a small, yet perfectly formed, Jeremy Clarkson waiting to manifest itself. Thanks to the current generation of games consoles, we satisfy our mini-Clarksons with millions of polygons on HD TVs, rendering near perfect representations of the world’s sexiest cars. However, racing games have a long and treasured history, stored away in the memory banks of millions of gamer’s.
F-Zero, on the SNES, was my first taste of a racing game and proves you can use the words, fast and furious, in a context that doesn’t include Vin Diesel. Never had 2-D cartoon graphics been so speedy. By including weapons everything got even better, apart from the difficulty, which just got harder, resulting in a cardiovascular flutter at the thought. Paving the way for all futuristic racers, F-Zero surely inspired the folks at Studio Liverpool, to conceive Wipeout. By taking the F-Zero formula and ramping it up to 11, Wipeout defined the genre on PS1 and continues to be the only contender for the best futuristic racing game mantle. More challenging than trying to unravel a Curly Wurly, Wipeout must also win the accolade of ‘game most likely to result in a brain haemorrhage’, unless of course you’ve played Super Bommerman with my brother.
While F-Zero and Wipeout focus on the sense of speed, Mario Kart represents everything fun about racing games. Flying turtle shells, mushrooms, lightning clouds, ghosts and a whole host of other weapons in glorious Mario themed locations, featuring all your favourite characters, even the bad ones. Even though new versions of Mario Kart are released on a regular basis the core mechanic still remains, and has always been, a Bowser of laughs… get it?
Destruction Derby was the first game in which I really started to believe the objects on screen resembled cars, and better still they crumpled and crunched into other cars, somewhat realistically. What wasn’t to love about Destruction Derby? The central ethos involved smashing up as many cars as possible and surviving until the end, simple yet effective. The sequel was even more enjoyable and the developers went on to produce another classic, Driver.
Driver. The first Driver and only the first Driver. Not that I have anything against the later releases, but they never really held up against GTA in the PS2 generation, while the first game was quality in its own right. Driver gave us the Destruction Derbyesque damage and physics, but with more purpose than driving round a track. As undercover cop, Tanner, we got to prove our amazing skills to capture bad guys. Tailing villains through a populated urban landscape, acting as the getaway driver, shaking off police in epic chases or just cruising round town for no reason. Whatever you do, don’t think about getting out of the car, you can’t.
Gran Turismo, the daddy of racers, ruled over all others during the original PlayStation’s era, nothing came as close to bringing realistic driving to the hands of those of us too young to hold valid licenses. Of course GT also taught a generation of people that cars bounce off other cars, oak trees and concrete barriers, surely the game most likely to be the root cause of expensive insurance policies. GT and its sequel were exceptional games, reinforcing the PlayStation’s credentials as a games machine for mature gamers.
With the march of technology, gamers will no doubt witness more realistic cars and physics but the playability and enjoyment levels will forever be relative to such classics from previous generations.