Open-world racers should be the next step in the driving genre

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Next-gen consoles have landed without the usual exclusive racing title.

Both Gran Turismo 7 and Forza Motorsport are nowhere to be seen yet, and while the likes of DIRT 5 and WRC 9 have provided some great racing and taken advantage of the next-gen power, no game has yet landed that is dedicated to next-gen.

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Without a new game to eat up our time we've been revisiting old ones. One that stands out is Forza Horizon 4. Why? Because of the freedom it allows you.

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Open world gaming

Players of RPGs like Skyrim and The Witcher have long been able to enjoy open worlds in their games. Go anywhere, do anything, hit side quests and discover at your own pace.

It's what makes those games so good and keeps people coming back for more. Racing though, has been far less willing to embrace this model.

forza horizon 4 map
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A WIDE WORLD: Sure you can take the roads, but why not go exploring in some fields?

Sure, games like Need For Speed have always had an element of free-wheeling, and if you count Grand Theft Auto (we like to) then there is some open aspect to driving, but it's not much.

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Which is why Forza Horizon 4 has been resonating so strongly with us recently.

It's far from an ideal sim racer, but it's massive world and huge range of cars makes it a lot of fun to go racing on.

Driving to race locations, finding bonus cars in the middle of nowhere, and with day/night cycles, weather, and of course seasons, FH4 pulls you in.

So why is it not an option elsewhere?

What could a true open world racer look like?

Driving to a location and racing around those roads is a Need For Speed staple. So how could a more sim-based game add open world aspects?

One answer would be to do a bit of everything. Drive from your home out to the airport if you want to go track racing with simulation physics and handling.

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NFS: The only series to truly embrace open world is Need For Speed

But if you want to just slide a Subaru around the streets on a gamepad you can do that too. Bringing in the quick off-roading of a DIRT 5 of FH4 or fun-filled street racing of NFS would lessen the feeling of dread that can come from knowing you are going into a hardcore sim that will punish you for any lapse in concentration.

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But if you want to head to the Nurburgring for some sweaty GT3 laps or an endurance race then drive to a plane, load up the sim engine and get to work!

A blend of Forza Horizon 4 and Assetto Corsa doesn't sound that viable, but it's something that could box out the competition but marrying both branches of the racing genre.

Is any of this likely?

Of course not. Building a good arcade racer is incredibly tricky, putting that together with a quality simulation is probably impossible.

project cars 3
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SIMCADE: Games are blending styles more and more

However, there are possibilities out there. Project Cars 3 took the bold step of toning down its sim past to embrace a more arcade style. While controversial, it points to a new willingness of the industry to try and embrace an appeal to all approach.

Simcade racers are one way developers are trying to have broad appeal, and while being able to race effectively on pad and wheel is great, it's still a track-limits, lap-time based experience.

In these times of limited travel, having the added escapism of just being able to go for a drive without the worry about lap times is amazing. Hopefully it is something more racing games add in this generation of consoles.