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The Molding of My Racing Game Addiction
By: Nadeeja Wick
February 26, 2013 - 1:20 CST
A look back, and into the future as well, on how I became and still stay intensely immersed in racing games.
Racing games are my safe haven. Ever since I was a tiny little human being, I've had a strong affection towards vehicles. I've always found relaxation around cars. Whether it be going for a drive, washing my car to make it look sparkly clean, changing the oil, or getting new parts - this list is endless by the way - it always gave me a sense of appreciation and refuge. Only a few will be able to relate, I know this.
When the PlayStation 2 came out I obviously wasn't old enough to participate in legal and payable labor, so I had to wait for a magical event like a birthday or Christmas. When that time came around, I knew just what I wanted: a PlayStation 2 and Gran Turismo.
I've played the game for an endless amount of hours as one of my close friends had been fortunate enough to be bless by the Gods in order to receive this holy treasure. Yes, that's how I saw it. In reality, those "God's" were his parents, but you get the point, right? Anyhow, skipping a few painful months ahead, I got one of my own. The fun had begun for me. I can't recall how old I was at the time, but I still remember my brightened up facial expressions. Completing license challenges, upgrading and unlocking new cars, and getting those shiny gold trophies were a few of the things I was immersed in.
Then came the sacred news of the next-generation, which just happens to be our current generation now. The PlayStation 3 was hitting the shelves and I was worked up all over again.
Moving ahead, I got one. A long while later, Gran Turismo Prologue was out. This was sheer torture. I downloaded the demo, and then I bought the game, which was essentially still a demo of the final release. After about two agonizing years later, Gran Turismo 5, the full damn version, was released. Once again, I got that sucker on release day and played the living hell out of it. By this time, I had a job and I was financially capable of fulfilling all my gaming vices. That's something my dad didn't take too well.
One day after another, my stockpile of racing related things were adding up. My dad wasn't so fond of this as he saw me just foolishly wasting my hard earned money. I bought a racing wheel, Driving Force GT, to start off with. A few weeks into it, I came across the Logitech G25 Racing Wheel. Seeing no other reasonable option than getting it, I made up my mind fairly quick. Besides, I wasn't really happy with the Driving Force GT since I felt very limited by it. After hunting down a good price, I purchased the G25 off of eBay. It cost me nearly $300 after shipping, but to me, it was nothing close to a waste. This wheel had a 6-speed gearbox and a clutch! Come on, that's just heavenly if you ask me. About a week later, a fairly short UPS guy with a stubby beard showed up at my doorstep holding a massive box. I signed the paper and took the shipment. After mercilessly ripping open the package, I hooked it up and got down to business. This wheel was purely magical. However, my setup wasn't proper. After searching through the internet once more, I came across a play-seat. This was the perfect match for my G25. It was the proper compliment and what I had needed. This time around, though, I was hesitant. The thing cost nearly $600 and I was nowhere near capable of affording it. If I'd mentioned this to my dad, he would have done nothing less than simply kill me. So I kept quiet and saved up the moolah.
A few weeks later, I had the cash ready to spill. So, I bought it. This story does have a happy ending as it was the perfect mate for my G25. But wait, freakin' Logitech then released a new version of their wheel: The G27. It supposedly had more force feedback, an improved feel, and even LED shift lights. Of course I bought it. I suckered a fool on Craigslist into buying my old G25 for nearly the price I got it for and acquired the G27. It was well worth it.
So then, that is the story of my racing game career. I only mentioned Gran Turismo, as it is what got me started. I like simulators, and this is the best one in my humble opinion. I own many other racing games such as Need for Speed, Dirt, and so on. However, none of them reach the level Gran Turismo has been able to grasp.
Now this brings me to my main point: The next-generation.
During Sony's event, a bundle of amazing games were revealed. Drive Club grabbed me by the neck as it left me breathless. The developers said they've waited roughly 9 years for the technology to be available in order to make the game they'd always envisioned. And now is the time with the PS4.
The deadly attention to detail they put into the game is mind blowing to say the least. I mean seriously, who has the time to get the stitching of the seat exactly right? Of course, they do. They revealed two cars: The Hennessey Venom GT and Koenigsegg Agera R. Matt Southern of Evolution Studios really did stress how much attention to detail they paid, saying it was "borderline insanity." I agree. They "modeled the direction of each microscopic metallic flake of paint in multiple layers, and emulated the effect of each individual thread in the weave of the carbon fiber so the patterns alters realistically with the lighting angle." That isn't all. They fully modeled the lights themselves using multiple layers of reflectors and lenses that refract the real bulbs underneath. They have gone mad, but that's great news to us car enthusiasts.
Another cool addition to this game is the continued focus on the cars themselves. You, the driver, actually get to experience walking around the car. The demo showed the driver being able to look at the engine, and eventually walk up to the car, get in, and fire it up. All of this was shown in a first-person point of view which makes this experience all the more realistic. I like this bit a lot. I play racing games primarily to race, but I do need a break from time to time. In Gran Turismo 5, that break was spent in the Photo mode where you can pick a car, put it in a beautiful setting, and take some amazing pictures to share with the world. I like the focus of Evolution Studios.
They did also show a bit of actual racing footage, and that was quiet exhilarating. However, it wasn't enough to satisfy my cravings. It was just enough to tease me and keep me on edge, so to speak.
The focus of Drive Club seems to be, apart from the visuals, team play. You are allowed to make a team, partner up and challenge other racers and teams worldwide. So they are really striving for an immersive and deeper multiplayer experience. I'm still confused on what racing genre this game belongs to. Is it supposed to be a simulator or an arcade? Or a mix of both?
If they are aiming at an simulator, they must exercise extreme caution. We know that the Gran Turismo series is the simulaion king of the PlayStation. Many games have tried only to fail. No other game has been able to take Gran Turismo's throne. Instead, they've either switched completely over to arcade style or tried a mixture of both. This is clear in cases such as Need for Speed: Shift or Dirt. I'm not saying those are bad games, but they've got not even a single scratch on the Gran Turismo series.
To make things even more interesting, Gran Turismo 6 is coming our way! Although not officially announced, we all know it's inevitable. Recent reports showed that it will be a PS3 release, but I don't doubt the possibility of it being a next-gen title as well. Nothing else can sell the PS4 more than Gran Turismo 6.
Drive Club looks to be a beautifully designed game with car enthusiasts in mind. Gran Turismo has always been that way. The amount of fine tuning to a car available will drive most people insane. But a select few actually enjoy tweaking the setup, messing with camber and toe angles, adjusting power ratios, compressions, extensions and so on. Drive Club will be a strong competitor in the next-gen racing scene, but I don't think Polyphony Digital will let them win.
The PS4 is a heaven sent machine which has let developers go far beyond the boundaries of play set by the PS3. This gives them a whole new selection of toys to play with. Polyphony Digital is being quiet about Gran Turismo 6, but we all know they have huge plans for it. I will expect nothing less than greatness from them. Their racing games have been a perfect match for past and current generation PlayStation consoles. I'm sure they will continue this trend and carry over to the PS4. I grew up on Gran Turismo. It was my baby formula. Teeth grinding and neck scratching aside, I need my next-generation fix. It can't come soon enough. Polyphony Digital is known for their hesitance, so I just hope they change their ways for the PS4. Drive Club is likely to be a launch title for the PS4, so that will keep me occupied.
The introduction of new consoles always give me a heavy whiff of nostalgia, hence this article and my racing timeline. When the PS3 was announced, I looked back on the current PS2 generation and all of the good memories it created for me. The PS4's reveal is giving me similar feelings. It's like a I'm a kid in Middle School all over again. The wait for the PS4 and all of the insane game titles is agonizing to say the least my friends. But, we will endure it together. There are some great games coming out for the PS3 in the next couple months, so that will send my mind off on a tangent. Soon, though, I will be a proud owner of the PlayStation 4.
Nadeeja Wick is a games reporter for NextGenUpdate.