Friday, December 31, 2010

Split Second and driving games in general

I really should love driving games. I love cars and I love driving. And with Split Second, I certainly love blowing up the landscape and destroying my enemies. But I've never finished a driving game. I've never even gotten close. Which I would say is "weird" because I seem to have about average twitch, which one might infer would mean that I can finish the average game, or at least get close to finishing the average game. But the truth is that some kinds of video games are niche games and consistently demand more from players until players of average ability are left far, far behind. Driving games, which hale back to simulationist games trying to create a perfect vehicular physics and then to statistically model professional race car drivers . . . which they have now succeeded at pretty adeptly. However, as a result, the people who are "into" driving games are pretty dedicated.

Some of the problem, for me, is the fine motion involved. Modern controllers are fairly delicate but their range of motion is tiny. Theoretically, you can turn the steering of the little video car to various degrees, but for me? When charged with adrenalin, functionally my fine motion is "turning as hard as I can", "accelerating as hard as I can" and "braking as hard as I can". I'm jamming the buttons and hitting the stick. The games, uniformly in my experience, are about fine control and delicate maneuvering -- something I find utterly impossible with the actual PS3 controller. And, of course, is quite a bit different than how I normally drive. Delicate control is pretty second nature in a car because, y'know, otherwise you die.

So, Split Second went from "the best game ever made" into "holy shit, this is hard" in a couple of hours. I've had similar experiences with other driving games. Regardless of the reason, driving games, even arcade driving games, are extremely unforgiving, usually possessing nothing like difficulty settings or adaptive play. The pressure of the game is mere to make your opponents much, much better than you are (and, usually, to have them focus on destroying you while, more or less, leaving each other alone). It makes them, as a group, almost unplayable by anyone but the extremely dedicated.

Or, y'know, maybe people who buy $150 controllers to make the experience more natural and realistic. Maybe playing a game like that with a steering wheel is useful. But for the time being, well, I enjoyed the experience of Split Second insofar as I played it. I would have liked to have been able to play more of it, but the parts I did play were just crazy fun.

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