The State of PC Gaming: Driving Games

Danny is a gamer. He enjoys consoles and handhelds very much and, to a much lesser extent, mobile gaming. However, of all platforms, PC is his favorite. At a time when the anticipation for the new console generation is dominating the hearts and minds of many a gamer, Danny thinks it would be worth talking about the oldest console of all: The PC. This time, specifically about Driving Games.

It’s dead. That’s about it really. The era of great PC driving games has long past. Within the last 2 or 3 years, the only games with much fanfare in the genre have been the following:

  • Dirt 3
  • Driver: San Francisco
  • F1 Series
  • Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed
  • Need for Speed: The Run
  • Test Drive Unlimited 2
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012)
  • Grid 2

Not exactly the greatest showing of games ever known to man. Although many of these games have been rated quite highly by websites such as IGN and Gamespot, these “ratings” were for the console versions, not the PC ones. When it came to the PC, developers, in order to cut costs no doubt, decided to merely port their console versions to PC. If websites like IGN and Gamespot even bothered to actually review the PC versions, I am of the opinion that their reviewers would definitely be tearing out their hair and stuffing it down their own throats hoping that it would end their miseries by choking to death, feline-style.

Gamespot NFS:MW'12

Blatant lack of an official rating for the PC by Gamespot.

IGN NFS:MW'12

Not content with just no review for the PC version, IGN also attempts to hide the dedicated page in a drop down menu, BELOW Android. Disgraceful.

As you can deduce, if you didn’t know already, the ports are usually pretty poor. Take for example Need for Speed: Most Wanted which was released in 2012, a remake of the 2005 title of the exact same name. For transparency’s sake, I will come out right here and declare that the chances of me being slightly biased is possible as the 2005 version is in fact one of my favorite driving games of all time (behind the Midnight Club games that is, which are unfortunately not on PC), not that it would have made much of a difference if I didn’t have this preference. With the 2012 version, you had much improved graphics and physics over the 2005 version. But merely by having graphics and physics, a good game does not make. Whilst I personally think the game is inherently and horrendously flawed, what makes it all the more worse was the actual porting itself.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted 2012 on PC genuinely feels like all the developer did to change it was get a guy to replace all the symbols of squares, circles, triangles and crosses with keyboard keys that made a mild amount of sense. The controls feel clunky (which doesn’t help, since the more realistic physics send you spinning with mild provocation) as a result of the un-analog-ness of keyboard keys as opposed to triggers and thumbsticks. Of course there’s more, one thing you will notice upon entering the game is the complete lack of a mouse cursor, which although may only be a slight inconvenience to some, is infuriating to others who have to scroll through settings menus without both the scroll wheel and cursor in favor of the far inferior arrow keys.

If only that were the extent of the poor porting. There is also the inability to double bind controls, which just adds to the unplayability at a personal level. By default, NFS:MW’12 has accelerate and breaking controlled by W and S, yet makes you steer with the arrow keys. Any PC gamer worth anything has played countless other games, be it FPS, RPG, RTS or even other driving games, where WASD or arrow keys alone would suffice to move around which just makes the default choice of splitting it up baffling. Out of personal habit, when playing driving games on keyboards, how I play all my PC games (usually with a mouse when the game, you know, acknowledges its existence), I rely on both the A and D keys AND the arrow keys when steering, it’s just a thing I do which makes the lack of double binding that much more frustrating when every other game and its uncle let’s you bind as many keys as you want to make your character stick their thumb up their own rectums. Of course there’s also the always useful option of “Vibration” on/off. Excellent.

Vibration Option in PC NFS:MW'12

Oh hey, my keyboard IS vibrating! No, wait that’s just my body shaking in anger and disbelief.

I could go on and on about the deficiencies of NFS:MW’12 as compared to NFS:MW’05, but many of those gripes won’t be PC related as much as general terrible design of a game that didn’t really need all that much re-imagining from the original to be good. If you really wanted to hear the gripe-o-thon though, look no further than to this forum thread which is all about what made NFS:MW’12 a slop of crocodile dung served on a golden platter.

Similar problems can be found on all the other multi-platform titles. It’s quite clear that these developers just don’t care about PC anymore, but can you blame them? Sales have been abysmal for the PC platform with NFS:MW’12 selling only eighty thousand copies on PC globally which pales in comparison to the three million sold on consoles or even the three hundred and fifty thousand sold on the handheld device everyone likes to pretend doesn’t exist: the PS Vita. This phenomenon can be found on every, single, other game in the above list. All those games are better on console for sure, but is that really why the PC sales were so low? Perhaps developers stopped trying to perfect the PC versions since there seemed to be no interest? Or people grew tired of buying terrible ports? Chicken or the egg?

Hell, why even play on PC for that matter? If the games are better on console why not just play it there? Well self-asked rhetorical questions, that’s because we lose out on the many things that make PC gaming so great! For example, the myriad more keys and buttons available to the average keyboard and mouse user as opposed to the controller user (hell you can even use a controller on PC), which means more inputs, so you know, you can name your in-game singleplayer character “The Stig” as opposed to arbitrary gamer tags, probably created when you were drunk like “fuzzfarts” or “HaXxOrZ569,” in addition to other customizations that just make games that actually allow you to modify and tune your cars that much more accessible on PC. Of course, how can we forget the modding community? Just searching on Youtube (yes I know it’s not a fantastic search engine, but it gives brilliant visual things for you guys to gawp at) “need for speed most wanted mods” and you get hits like this mod that apparently fixes the problem of not having a first-person cockpit view that was such a surprising problem for NFS:MW’12 as well as the myriad of added cars not originally in the game, improved textures as well as the fastest lawnmower to ever grace the planet.

Lawnmower GT

If you watch the actual video, it gets some spiffing rims!

So it’s a real shame, but it doesn’t seem like PC driving games will ever be like they were in the golden days of Midtown Madness 2 and the earlier Need for Speeds, unless you know, developers start taking the Steam DRM dominated PC market more seriously again.

“But Danny!” you are all screaming, “What about the PC exclusives?!?” What, you mean the gems such as Eurotruck Simulator 2? Street Cleaning Simulator? European Bus Simulator? FORKLIFT SIMULATOR?!?! I could go on and on and honestly, the only good things brought to the world by these games are zany Youtube videos and keeping serial killers in their bedrooms cleaning the streets and stacking large boxes in their imaginary, virtual worlds.

Do you agree with Danny’s view on the driving game genre on PC? Do you think he’s full of it? Like, comment below or tweet your pleasure or displeasure at him @dannyvittore or be all old-school and email him at [email protected], he usually replies. Danny plays quite a lot of games, but when he isn’t playing games, he tries to write stuff, go here to find that other stuff

Danny Vittore

I write stuff, a lot of which is about gaming.

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