Eight great ideas the racing game genre stole from first-person shooters
Game development is in a constant state of innovation. Every time a studio learns a new trick or introduces a new gameplay mechanic, it trickles from one game to the next, taking on new forms. Sometimes new genres are born out of these innovations, and sometimes those innovations give a genre a nice refresh.
The racing genre has been particularly guilty of stagnation. After all, how many games can you make about cars driving around tracks? (Quite a bit, it turns out.) But lately racing games have been pulling inspiration from the unlikeliest of places, putting new twists on ideas from first-person shooters.
Don’t believe me? Here are some examples:
1) Scripted Sequences
One of the coolest moments in racing games last year was the opening of Forza Horizon. With only ten slots left in the Horizon festival, the game starts with an epic race to the game’s central hub area. The trick is that it isn’t really a race at all, with oncoming traffic, opponents drifting onto the highway, and helicopters flying overhead. The entire sequence was scripted for maximum impact, but, despite the smoke and mirrors, it was incredible. These concepts got their start in games like Half-Life, and they're pretty much the foundation of every Call of Duty campaign. It's a technique that shouldn’t be overused, but in Forza Horizon, it left a hell of a first impression.
2) Quick Time Events and an Epic plot
Going even deeper into the “racing game with an action plot” conceit, Need for Speed: The Run not only featured a cross country race, but on-foot chases driven by QTEs. An epic plot littered with slow motion action moments and on-screen button prompts? Sounds a lot like Modern Warfare, but it’s actually a racing game. The truth is that these sequences didn’t add anything, and we probably won’t see something like this ever again, but the push for more story-driven racing wasn’t a complete loss.
3) Almost Every Innovation from Call of Duty Multiplayer
Okay, this one is a little ridiculous. The 20-player online real-car-and-neon-lights-Mario-Kart-clone Blur ganked just about every concept from Call of Duty multiplayer you can think of. It had a progression system with unlockables, perks, and a prestige mode. It had playlists and pregame votes for the next track. It even tracked a variety of small accomplishments that gained you XP bonuses toward leveling up. Making the game more like Call of Duty didn’t help its sales figures, but it did make the game one of the most addictive and underrated online racing games ever made. Those 20-player races were as exciting as any COD match, and the progression system kept the game’s small community going way longer than it would have otherwise.
4) Supernatural Powers
From BioShock to Dishonored, first-person shooters don’t have the monopoly on supernatural powers, but they certainly have some of the coolest examples. Either way, the ideas of Driver: San Francisco certainly didn’t come from other racing games. In this must-play sleeper hit, protagonist Tanner can jump into the bodies of other drivers in the world at will. It features one of the most unique supernatural plots ever, and it only gets crazier as it progresses. By the end of the game, you’ll wonder why there hasn’t been a BioShock/Fast & Furious crossover. The result was something wholly unique, and I wouldn’t mind if more racing games introduced superpowers in the future.