Ive Probably put 100000 hours into racing games over the last 10 years. I got really hooked on granturismo and it essentially turned me into a car person. I eventually bought a G27 racing wheel and have been even more of a freak about it since. That wheel though, 10 years of flawless service.
A wheel is a fine investment in improving a lot of games you wouldn’t expect through emulation. The extra level of control you can achieve on N64 racers in particular is kinda shocking. As someone who had a sanfrancisco rush cab at their place of employment through highschool and played it a couple times a week I can tell you that with the right setup (120 degree steering, spring emulation at about 50%) the SFRush games on N64 are basically arcade perfect. I can smell the greasy food and cigar smoke from Glory Days Bar and Grill when I boot it up.
My most recent obsession is Tokyo Extreme Racer Drift 2 or TXRD2 by the amazing (Game Studio) Genki. Its a basically forgotten PS2 racing game excursively about racing and drifting on laser scanned Japanese mountain roads. Granturismo’s traction simulation really breaks down once you get too much wheel spin or too much momentum in the drive train, and this game fixes all of that. It just feels like a car should. By day you do challenge races against other drivers to build you rep and earn money, you can surf the in-game message boards, read email, answer challenges, get sponsors and meet rivals. At night you can race said rivals, take on opponent racing gangs and earn access to new mountains around japan. All the gangs and rivals have back stories and personalities they express through their cars and driving styles.
The reason its forgotten, and the reason it received low scores is because it is the hardest out of the gate racing game I have ever even heard of. Drifting is incredibly difficult because there is no drifting mode the car enters like a ridge racer or even TXRD1. They don’t tell you what cars are good at what. The roads are barely 2 lanes wide if that. Its full physics and cars by their nature are not happy being sideways. You are expected to be an inch off the guard rail and if you stuff it in corner 3 the guy you are racing is probably gone. Better luck tomorrow kid! It feels like they spent 90% of their dev budget perfecting the physics and race courses while the rest of the staff had too much fun writing racer bios and then there were like: “oh shit we need to make a game”.
Its not for most people but it is exactly for me.
My other Obsession is Wangan Midnight for PS3.
This almost isn’t a racing game.
It breaks down like this:
If your car is pushed too hard it will explode, no question. Keep watching your temp gauge while trying to max out your speed.
You have enormous horse power. Just stupid speed.
You are on a highway with full traffic.
Your headlights only illuminate so far unless you hold down the high-beam button.
You must chase someone down through said traffic.
The fastest way to drive is to drive at someone’s bumper to get in their wake and then veer away at the last possible second into another wake. When drafting a car like this you not only accelerate faster its easier on your always-about-to-explode engine.
This game has incredible level design… You might be thinking, you mean the roads right? NO!
The traffic is the level design! Its the same every time, and its color coded! Its like bullets in a shooter!
But there isnt just traffic there are corners and dips and rises. And as you go faster through the traffic pattern you encounter different parts of the traffic pattern at different points in the roadway. So if getting a big boost from drafting a truck is important to hit your speed goal on the straight maybe you slow down in the previous corner so that truck is where you want it. Or maybe you find yourself setting a better time than ever before! Uhoh! Now can you remember the traffic pattern and think about how it will effect the next 4 corners?!!
Think about that while you are going 200mph, dodging traffic and watching your engine health gauge!
Its a perfectly tuned adrenaline machine!
Its in Japanese but you can get by with a little help from the google translate app or some trial and error.