In a few months, The Crew: Motorfest will be releasing to current- and last-gen consoles, as well as PC. It seems like it’s going to be good, if you enjoy open-world racing games that don’t take themselves too seriously. Which you probably do, because on the non-sim side of the spectrum, that’s kind of all the big publishers make anymore. But what if it wasn’t?
What if, instead, somebody made a racing game where you could build and race your own cars? This isn’t a new idea, but it’s definitely an under-explored one. One that’s never been done proper justice, even in the games that experimented with it.
Take 2000's Sega GT on the Dreamcast. This was Sega’s big bid to cash in on the massive success of Gran Turismo on the original PlayStation. It had loads of cars, enough tracks and certainly looked better than any racer on any other platform. Its only failing was irredeemably horrific driving physics, which kind of negated all the other stuff developer Wow Entertainment had done well. Today, Sega GT is perhaps best known for creepy copyright infringement.
But Sega GT did contain one novel feature: the Carrozzeria. This was the game’s car building mode, where you got to craft a fictional machine from the ground up. You’d choose your desired drivetrain, one of a number of pre-designed bodies, engine placement, type, size and aspiration. It wasn’t the most extensive editor in the world, but it was certainly unique for 2000. Hell, it’d be unique today.
There was no management sim quality to Sega GT’s Carrozzeria. You literally built one car, for you to drive, with the money you had on hand. Today, Automation on PC takes this idea to its zenith, but it’s less of a racing game in the conventional sense and vehicles must be exported to Beam.NG Drive for testing.
I’m imagining an experience that’s more self-contained: equal parts design and racing. Apex made car building part of its narrative. Milestone’s 2003 racer, known better to Europeans as Racing Evoluzione, had you starting up your own car company out of an abandoned garage, and competing in championships to earn more funds for further development.
Unfortunately, you didn’t really get to leave your mark on these vehicles; the player’s involvement was pretty much down to selecting from one of three proposals and competing with the finest offerings from real automakers on the track. At least the latter aspect was actually enjoyable, thanks to responsive handling that bridged the gap between the arcade and sim ends of the spectrum, along with some of the sharpest graphics the original Xbox had to offer. (It sounds like a small thing, but the way this game conveyed motion blur on the road surface was really clever and made everything feel so smooth.)
A game that mixes Sega GT’s creation tools with Apex’s conceit seems like a blast. And even within a single player-focused experience like that, there’d still be room for publishers to bleed us all dry, as they love to do. Additional components like car bodies and engine and suspension types present an endless well for microtransactions. Look, I don’t like the sound of that either, but I’m trying to make this game sound as attractive as possible in the hopes someone with development talent will steal it, instead of starting work on Open-World Island 7.