|This pun is so bad, it doesn't|
deserve a caption.
I first saw the use of catch-up in my favourite racing game of all time, Motorhead. It was all very innovative back then, it had a kind of wow factor and the designers were nice enough to give you the option to turn it off. In motorhead it was not as forgiving as you might expect. If you crashed too often, you still finished stone dead last. Yet, if you were able to let your competitors really eat your dust, you were still the racing champion.
Then things got ugly when Electronic Arts got their hands on the catch-up mechanic. I haven't researched the exact time when EA implemented catch-up in their Need for Speed and Burnout series, but it wasn't in NFS 3, yet it was implemented in NFS Hot pursuit 2, Burnout 3 and NFS: most wanted. You can tell by the way the cars react to you, but more on that later.
|Ofcourse, sometimes it IS your fault|
The catch-up mechanic combined with the Skinner box principle made me genuinely afraid to play any racing game after that, especially EA's. That's also the reason why it took me a couple of years to try NFS: most wanted. I saw people having fun with it and I wanted too, but Burnout 3 was still too fresh in my memory. When I finally got the courage to play it, I tried the following test to see how strong catch-up was implemented in the game:
- Find a race you have a hard time winning
- Wait for the start-signal
- Wait 30 to 60 seconds while your opponents race away like hell
- Start racing
- Be the first to cross the finish line.
I succeeded the first time and I didn't even try. Then I tried some other things that let me to these conclusions:
- There should be no need to upgrade your car. If you lose, you are just having a bad day. Somewhere along the line the catch-up is altered by the upgrades to your car. This showed when I had a fast not-upgraded car and a slower tweaked one. The specs favoured the other car, but I won with flying colours with the slow tweaked one.
- Your performance throughout the race doesn't matter until the last part of the last lap. Your opponents are constantly fiddling between racing in front of you and racing behind you. It doesn't matter how skilled you are, if you slightly screw up near the end, you lose. This morphs a race from exciting to merely waiting for the end.
|He might look bad-ass, but it's all in the script|
I felt like I fell for the same trick again and dealt with it the same as last time: I sold NFS: most wanted. The store didn't want it. I gave it to them for free.
Today, I don't really hear people a lot about racing games and to be honest, I can't really find them anymore. There is Need for Speed, Gran-Turismo and some single titles like Blur or Split/Second, but none of them seem to scratch the particular itch for anyone. There is also no racing title the industry wants us to look forward to. In my opinion the racing genre is practically dead. There are more reasons to it ofcourse, but the abuse of catch-up is definitely one of them.
|And you can always play RR4 for her.|