If you’re a car person, you’ve probably played a lot of racing games in your time. Whether you love Forza, Need for Speed or even the old school Midnight Club games, you might have noticed that some games consistently get things wrong. That being said, lets get started.
The first and most fundamental thing that most racing games get wrong is basic physics. We’re not talking about flying cars, jumping go karts or similar things from arcade racing games, but this even happens on some more serious games. Even the most hardcore racing sims can’t get the physics 100% right, and some games like Need For Speed don’t even try to.
The flaws of these games usually means that high speed turning is often made extremely easy, like if every car in the game has no mass at all, while drafting and aerodynamics often work completely differently to real life. Also, the virtual roads and tracks are always smooth as silk and provide equal amounts of grip, which is never the case in real-life performance driving.
To continue with the basic physics, most car games have no damage indicators, and even if they do, you have to try really, really hard to kill your car. In video games, cars are able to endure much more damage than they would in real life. We’re not only talking about physical scars from bumping and crashing, but mechanical damage as well. Constantly redlining the car in real life will get your engine overheated in no time, and heavy downshifts would kill your transmission easier than you think, not to mention what sending your low-slung cars over crests does to the suspension. In most games, virtual cars tolerate all that and much more, even in the games that pass as simulations. That being said, if you want a great game to simulate damage, check out BeamNG, a fantastic game.
Modifying your cars for optimal performance is now an essential part of racing games, with most of them suffering in that department too. The thing with modifications is that they are limited, and that players often don’t have that much of a freedom to tune their mechanics nor make bodywork alterations. Sometimes, the players are left with limited choices, and fine tuning is mostly unheard of. An average gamer might not need such a wide variety of choices, but the possibility of making car mods more complex would be welcome in future car games. If you want to experience this now however, Car Company Tycoon allows a crazy amount of mods, although you cant actually drive the car once its done.
To make the experience more realistic, open world racing games have NPC traffic scattered around the roads and streets. In games however, the traffic is almost always much lighter than it would have been in real life, with barely any cars on the streets. Its low density is designed to make your driving just a bit more challenging and dynamic, yet still not boring and frustrating. The joy of driving flat out on the public roads should be kept in the virtual world, so we’re actually glad that most video game creators did this. Still, with the exception of maybe grand theft auto 5, traffic is often much more like driving at 5am rather than rush hour!
Many racing games have changing weather, but the fact is that cars act more or less the same regardless of the conditions on the road. Sometimes, rain is there just to make the roads a bit more slippery, but there’s usually not any mention of things like aquaplaning which a common occurrence that greatly affects your real life driving. Forza games have started to add this, which is a welcome addition to our gaming world but we would love to see more conditions such as snow, hail and different tarmac temperatures.
So there you are. 5 things video games get wrong about cars. Which things did I miss? Let me know in the comments.