We've all been there. You're loving a game, blasting through the single-player campaign and reaching the end so you jump into the online lobbies with your favourite car only to see a grid full of the same car. Then the lights go out and they disappear from you.
Overpowered cars can hit at any time and are a scourge. While metas aren't limited to racing titles and can ruin FPS and card-based games, here at RacingGames.GG we are more worried about cars than Call of Duty.
Meta cars are game-breaking
It almost doesn't matter what game you're in, there are meta cars everywhere.
Be it the Nissan GT-R in Gran Turismo 7's Gr.4 or the Porsche RSR in previous NFS games and the Koenigsegg Regera now, it just spoils the fun.
And it's not just limited to arcade or sim-cade racing. When the BMW M6 landed in Assetto Corsa Competizione it dominated lobbies and required a huge nerf to bring it back into the pack.
All these cars dominate every circuit they are put on and, at least until some were nerfed, are just unbeatable. And it ruins the intended purpose of the game.
I can already hear you asking "It's fine, just pick the fastest car", but that defies what drives so many car nuts into racing games in the first place. The freedom to pick our favourites!
If you're a Lamborghini fan why should you be forgoing a Gallardo because you just can't compete with it? Even in games like Need for Speed, cars should be well-balanced between classes.
However, in Gran Turismo 7 which deploys a Balance of Performance there is no excuse for having such OP cars. In ranked races it forces players to all pick the same car, which leads to grid after grid after grid of the exact same car and often in the exact same livery. You might as well be playing against the computer.
So many racing games emphasise amazing livery creators and endless tuning options. The huge car lists offer you the chance to fall in love with vehicles that focus on player creativity offline is great. But all that goes out the window when online play forces you into a small little box.
How to solve it
So how can developers solve this? Well, the more simulation-focused developers BoP systems are excellent. You won't find much of a meta in iRacing's GT3 class for example.
The Formula 1 games find a way around this too. Codemasters simply uses an equal performance mode that makes every car identical bar the livery. Of course this only really works because Formula 1 is a relative spec series, unlike many others. But it is an example that many could follow.
You may think the solution is to just closely follow the swings of the meta in each game and follow it accordingly, but for many that isn't possible, and isn't what racing games are all about.
We want to drive our favourite cars and still be in with a shot of winning. That doesn't mean a GTE should keep up with an LMPh, but within each class each car should be properly balanced.
Hopefully it's a problem that can be solved in 2023.