While thumbing through the latest (extremely thin) issue of PC Zone magazine, their lukewarm review of the latest unremarkable racer to get a multi-format release made for fairly depressing reading:

“In any other year a PC racing-lite enthusiast would be reading this review and being subjected to a list of reasons as to why the latest Need for Speed is far better. But that’s now been thrown high up in the air what with [NFS] ProStreet being an ill-conceived dog egg of a game…so instead of putting forward this year’s NFS as an alternative, just get last year’s.”

To tell the truth, the NFS games seem to have been short of new ideas since someone at EA watched The Fast and the Furious and realised a game loosely based on the film would go down pretty well with ‘da kidz’. To be fair, Need for Speed: Underground was a reasonable lark, injecting the series with a new lease of life, but subsequent games have been pretty short on new ideas, with 2007’s ProStreet removing all traces of illegality by shifting from street racing to (yawn) track-based events.

Whatever happened to all the racing games? I may be lumbered with an ancient PC and a previous generation console, but Test Drive Unlimited apart, there hasn’t really been anything in recent releases to make me sit up and take notice. More depressingly, there seems to have been a genuine shortage of new games in the genre. It could of course be my nostalgia-addled brain playing tricks on me, but it did seem at one stage that new racing games were being released left, right and centre – between 2000 and 2002 we had at least 10,000 rally titles come out on the PC alone.

Now it seems we can’t even rely on EA to churn out a reliably decent NFS game in time for Christmas. Without that, the cupboard seems pretty bare. While sim fans with steering wheels and pedals set up in front of their PC will undoubtedly point to Simbin’s GTR games, the non-hardcore petrolheads are left with very little else.

I guess if there really were lots of racing titles being released ‘in the old days’ then it must be worth trying to dig some of them out now. I’m currently engrossed (ie past the tutorial level) in a strategy game – hence the lack of new content from me recently – but once I’m done I think it’s worth investigating.

If we end up with a racing section full of indistinguishably average rally titles, then I’ll hold my hands up and admit I was wrong. Or delete this entry from the journal.