Here is a blast from the past: Rock and Roll Racing for the SNES. It was made by Blizzard before their Warcraft hit. I had fond memories playing it back in the day, however, if you play it today I noticed two things. One, this game feels more like a PC game than a console game (aside from the very bright graphics) due to all the options of being able to turn off the announcer (thank God) and other options. The big thing though is how this game feels more like a RPG than a racing game.
Rock and Roll Racing works in that you are on a series of tracks (Rookie, Veteran, etc.) of about eight tracks that just cycle over and over. Winning gets you more points where you can eventually ‘buy’ your way out into another circuit. The AI is like Super Mario Kart in that there is no rubber band. If you outrace them, you will be far, far ahead of them. But if you buy the upgrades, you are nearly guaranteed to outrace your opponents. Your engine and tires are better so you will be ahead. These upgrades are necessary for greater difficulty tracks. You’ll eventually want to buy the hovercraft or tank to deal with the ice roads at the final track.
Rock and Roll Racing hits those pleasure centers that are related to RPG than racing. I just want to ‘build up’ my car, kick ass, and win. It’s as if Square made a Final Fantasy racing game in a way.
Rock and Roll Racing is moderately expensive for the SNES at around $50. Is it worth it? I don’t think so as a multiplayer game. But there is an addictive quality of taking a little car and just upgrading it. Not sure how many times you can do that until you get bored but then again I still find playthroughs of Final Fantasy IV and VI to be fun every now and then.
With the massive sales of Mario Kart, there is definitely room on the PC for a crazy racer. Did not Activision make a deal with Metallica for a combat vehicle game? As much as I dislike games going 3d (because they don’t fit), racing games are the exception and fit 3d well. A new Rock and Roll Racing for the PC, made by Blizzard, being fully 3d, would be a hit. It would also fit a Free-2-Play model of people buying (or unlocking) new cars and tracks.